Mudcat Café message #2344049 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #111039   Message #2344049
Posted By: Dan Schatz
18-May-08 - 10:48 PM
Thread Name: Obit: Dick Rodgers, FSGW Institution (May 2008)
Subject: RE: Obit: Dick Rodgers, FSGW Institution (May 2008
I had recalled a letter Dick wrote to Sing Out! back in the 90s. Sure enough, there it was, Vol. 35, # 2, in 1990. In his rejection of the term "Folk Nazi" bandied about at that time for the purists amongst us, I think Dick has written his own epitaph.

Below is the letter in its entirety.


Silver Spring, MD

I totally reject the term "Folk Nazi." Curmudgeon? Yes, accepted. I'm also the Chief Grump of the FSGW's political process (my fellow founding fathers, Hickerson, Wallace and Eberhart, have abandoned that aspect). I attend some board meetings to blast the wheel-reinventors, and to let those currently entrusted with power know they're being watched.

Contemporary performers do seem to lack historical connection and perspective. We aging folkies had Jack Elliot, Jean Redpath and, yes, the Clancy Brothers among the boomers to ease us into traditionalism along with good performance skills - Michael Cooney is an outstanding product of that "easement" and has become a true philosopher of folksong performance; he hits the head of every nail! Alas, I sense a fading of the breed.

The teeth grinder of the folk boom was the young thing (a few _were_ sweet) who approached the microphone to say, "I don't know anything about this song." Although I never shouted it in a coffeehouse, I did editorialize (Washington Folk Strums, '64-'67) that they damned well _ought_ to know something about a song before singing it. (I seem to remember Baez doing that; maybe it wasn't her).

Today's teeth grinders for me are the ones who don't know traditional songs in traditional versions, or even Burl Ives' versions! I can understand how some of them might believe that ballad singing began with Steeleye Span, but I don't have to tolerate it. Furthermore, they can research so much more easily than we could in the late fifties and early sixties, I find their sloth incredible.

I find very few new Ian Robbs and Michael Cooneys out there. There are some fine young instrumentalists (Mick Moloney has a gift for finding them) but I have reservations (or suspicions) about their commitments other than fingers-for-hire.

It's a bit difficult for me to be concerned about today's performers exploiting "folk music" - Judy Collins broke my heart twenty years ago.

- Dick Rodgers