Mudcat Café message #4004808 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #166474   Message #4004808
Posted By: Jim Carroll
17-Aug-19 - 03:28 AM
Thread Name: BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2019
Subject: RE: BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2019
Sorry - did cross post
'Ordinary person' is not a term I particularly like, but is seems it's the one we're stuck with till a better one comes along.
I avoid the term 'working person' because that leads ot accusations of a political agenda (strangely enough, I can think of no greater 'political agenda' than setting out to claim that 'working people have never composed their own folk songs which described their own lives, but had to go out and buy them.

The vast body of what we have referred to as 'folk songs' came largely from the rural working people, land labourers, small farmers, rural village dwellers, village tradesmen, occupants of workhouses....
Added to this were the sea songs which describes the lives of sailors; soldiers....
A little work was done on collecting songs from mill workers and miners.
All these seem to me that main source of our folk songs

In my opinion, 'the people' not only sang the songs but, when you examine the content of them, they almost certainly made the bulk of them (rather than, as now is being claimed) purchasing them
There is masses of as yet unexamined evidence to make this a great probability - 'the folk' certain had the ability to have made the songs

People sang all sorts of songs, pop songs, hymns, music-hall pieces - some of the Welsh Miners formed societies and sang Verdi and Gilbert and Sullivan - it would be nonsense to claim everything the 'folk' sang was 'folk' but that seems to be the latest academic fad (though I have yet to see Hank Williams songs with Roud numbers, I wonder why, some of our Traveller friends had dozens of them).

Of course, it isn't just who sang the songs that makes them 'folk', it's what happened to them - the anonymity, the adopting of the songs as 'ours' wherever they took root, the changing and adapting to fit different areas, circumstances and conditions - the singers we met laid claim to the folk songs they sang as 'ours' - Norfolk, West Clare, the Travellers...
THere is also how the singers visualised the songs they sang, identifying not just with the plots, but giving thee characters identities - Walter Pardon did this with nearly all his songs
One Traveller singer told us that singing a song was "like sitting in the pictures"

All this produced a identifiably unique body of song that drew people like us into the clubs decades ago - we enjoyed singing and listening to them, some singers made new songs usinf the old forms - because they worked.
Some of us took it further and lifted the corner to see if there was anything underneath
Pat, I and others came to the conclusion that they were an essential but much neglected part of our history - an oral record, largely unrecorded, of what happened to working people and how they reacted to it and felt about it.

From a purely personal point of view, my family fled Ireland after the famine - their lives and experiences were massively reflected in song
My father's family were merchant seamen - reflected in the songs (my uncle once entertained a roomful of people at Sidmouth by singing shanties he'd learned from my grandfather)
My dad became a navvy - reflected in the small handful of songs on working on the road....
He also became involved in Irish politics around the time Ireland was fighting for independence - reflected in hundreds of songs

What makes our folk songs stand apart from all other forms is their uniqueness, in form, in content and in function
For me, all of this is worth drawing attention to, even if I can no longer enjoy listening to the songs in the once numerous clubs
Jim Carroll