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Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?

Related threads:
folksongs about death (41)
Songs About Death (59)


John P 21 Dec 01 - 11:19 PM
John P 21 Dec 01 - 11:17 PM
Sorcha 20 Dec 01 - 11:08 PM
M.Ted 20 Dec 01 - 10:53 PM
An 20 Dec 01 - 05:47 PM
gnu 20 Dec 01 - 05:45 PM
Peter T. 20 Dec 01 - 05:26 PM
katlaughing 20 Dec 01 - 02:58 PM
Jacob B 20 Dec 01 - 11:43 AM
GUEST,McGrath 20 Dec 01 - 06:39 AM
GUEST,Bo 20 Dec 01 - 04:32 AM
Leigha 20 Dec 01 - 03:48 AM
GUEST,.gargoyle 19 Dec 01 - 11:27 PM
katlaughing 19 Dec 01 - 11:10 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 19 Dec 01 - 08:43 PM
GUEST,McGrath 19 Dec 01 - 08:17 PM
katlaughing 19 Dec 01 - 08:08 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 19 Dec 01 - 07:15 PM
McGrath of Harlow 19 Dec 01 - 05:01 PM
John MacKenzie 19 Dec 01 - 04:13 PM
An 19 Dec 01 - 03:16 PM
GUEST,Leigha 19 Dec 01 - 02:39 PM
GUEST,Leigha 19 Dec 01 - 02:34 PM
McGrath of Harlow 19 Dec 01 - 02:33 PM
GUEST,Leigha 19 Dec 01 - 02:29 PM
Bert 19 Dec 01 - 10:57 AM
Burke 19 Dec 01 - 10:56 AM
catspaw49 19 Dec 01 - 10:30 AM
Peter T. 19 Dec 01 - 09:53 AM
Art Thieme 19 Dec 01 - 12:44 AM
Knitpick 19 Dec 01 - 12:09 AM
Sorcha 19 Dec 01 - 12:00 AM
M.Ted 18 Dec 01 - 11:40 PM
Micca 18 Dec 01 - 08:34 PM
Snuffy 18 Dec 01 - 08:00 PM
GUEST,Allan S. 18 Dec 01 - 07:19 PM
Peter T. 18 Dec 01 - 03:45 PM
M.Ted 18 Dec 01 - 02:28 PM
GUEST,mgarvey@pacifier.com 17 Dec 01 - 10:51 PM
Ebbie 17 Dec 01 - 10:38 PM
Art Thieme 17 Dec 01 - 10:00 PM
GUEST,McGrath 17 Dec 01 - 09:43 PM
Joe Offer 17 Dec 01 - 09:34 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 17 Dec 01 - 09:06 PM
Mudlark 17 Dec 01 - 08:04 PM
Leigha 17 Dec 01 - 07:51 PM
gnu 17 Dec 01 - 07:00 PM
Burke 17 Dec 01 - 06:58 PM
Clinton Hammond 17 Dec 01 - 06:56 PM
gnu 17 Dec 01 - 06:51 PM
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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: John P
Date: 21 Dec 01 - 11:19 PM

Oops, that second paragraph should start:

Singing about death does call up a specific set of emotions . . .

JP


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: John P
Date: 21 Dec 01 - 11:17 PM

Traditional folk songs are sort of like the newspaper: good news is kind of boring; everyone wants to hear about the death and destruction. For some reason, most of the traditional folk songs we find with really interesting music are about death in one way or another. The jolly, funny songs often have rather dull melodies.

Singing about death doesn't calls us specific set of emotions, as does singing about anything else if I am putting myself into the performance. I have to feel it on some level in order to perform convincingly. But then the next song rolls around and I put myself into the emotions of that one.

We do seem to end up with a lot of these songs. Part of our current list:

The Bad Girl
Bold Young Farmer
Death and the Lady
Hangman
Lady Gay
Matthew Green (a Matty Groves version)
May Song
Molly Bahn
Over the Mountain (a Three Ravens version)
Trois Pelerins
Two Ravens
Three Ravens
Unpleasant Night (an Outlandish Knight version)
Wayfaring Stranger
He Moved Through the Fair
John Barleycorn
Matty Groves

And that doesn't even cover the "young lovers untimely parted" songs . . .

John Peekstok


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Sorcha
Date: 20 Dec 01 - 11:08 PM

Peter, "brings the dead back into the room......"
That reduces me to tears, dear Peter, because it is so true. So many songs bring back my lost ones......


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: M.Ted
Date: 20 Dec 01 - 10:53 PM

The dramatic tension in that song is incredible--it deserves much better that a "gleeful reading, for laughs"--


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Subject: ADD: Lord Thomas^^^
From: An
Date: 20 Dec 01 - 05:47 PM

McGrath, in answer to your question, this is the version I know:

Lord Thomas

Lord Thomas arose, early one morning
And he dressed himself in blue
Saying, "Mother I'm getting married today
And I want some advice from you."
"The brown girl has house and land
Fair Elenor, she has none.
Therefore I charge you with my blessing
Bring the brown girl home."

He rode until he came to Fair Elenor door
He tingled at the ring
And there was none so ready than she herself
To rise and let him in
"What's the matter - what's the matter, Lord Thomas?" she cried
"What is the matter with you?"
"I've come to invite you to my wedding
Isn't that good news for you."

"Oh mother should I go to Lord Thomas's wedding?
Or shall I terry at home?"
"Daughter I charge you with my blessing -
You better terry at home."
So she dressed herself all in her best
And most of her dresses was green
And every village that she came through
They took her to be some queen

She rode until she came to Lord Thomas's gate
She tingled at the ring
And there was none more ready than he himself,
To rise and let her in
He took her by the lily-white hand
And lead her into the hall – and seated her there
At the head of the table,
Among the gentlemen all

Is this your bride, sits by your side?
I'm sure she's wonderfully brown
You could have married the fairest lady
That ever the sun shone on
The brown girl, she had a knife
It was both long and sharp
She pierced it into Fair Elenors side
And into, and into her heart

"What's the matter – what's the matter", Fair Elenor cried
What is the matter with you?
Can't you see that I'm pierced to the heart?
My heart's blood's a-trickeling through."
So he took the brown girl by the hand
And lead her outside the hall
There with his sword he cut off her head
And bashed it against the wall

Crying: "Here's the end to three young lovers
God send their souls to rest
Bury the brown girl at my feet –
Fair Elenor at my breast"^^^


I first learnt it as a story told by my father and although it was cruel, we accepted it the way we accepted the cruelness of fairy tales, I suppose. I later discovered it as a song on one of my dads lp's of the Goya Guitar Festival , sung by Cynthia Gooding
Line Breaks <br> added. This is Child Ballad #73. This version is different from the several versions are already in the Digital Tradition, but I don't think I'll submit this one to the database.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: gnu
Date: 20 Dec 01 - 05:45 PM

Ebbie... while I can take a compliment, I can't take yours. Actually, the resaon I was thinking of "What do you end your gig with?" is because "The Parting Glass" is the tune we always end with. We've been told it's a downer and that we should go out with a rowdy tune.... you know... leave them laughing... leave them banging their glasses on the tables. Uh Uh !!! ... trademark.

But, I do agree that it's nice to equate, on some level, our tenure here as our gig. I just wish I had a chance to practice more before the real session. Then again, that's what makes it interesting, eh wha ?


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Peter T.
Date: 20 Dec 01 - 05:26 PM

Leigha, one thing worth adding is songs that are not about death, but that are songs that were precious to the dead. In the right context, singing them or playing them brings the dead back into the room, because one can imagine them listening or smiling or whatever. I have been at funerals (one recently) where the most chilling, or saddest or most beautiful or powerful moment was when a favourite song of the departed was played.

yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: katlaughing
Date: 20 Dec 01 - 02:58 PM

McGrath, just curious, why the GUEST moniker?


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Jacob B
Date: 20 Dec 01 - 11:43 AM

I wish I'd found this thread earlier.

At the age of fifty, I find myself treasuring songs that defy death - the lusty sing along songs that say, "We're going to die, so let's have fun facing the fact." Songs like "Bloody Well Dead", "Who Dies", "You Can't Take It With You When You Go", and "The Good In Living".

The concept of "whistling in the graveyard" definitely applies

Jacob


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: GUEST,McGrath
Date: 20 Dec 01 - 06:39 AM

As they say, look what the cat dragged in. Or whom. "Gor blieme" is a novel way of spelling it. Gor Blimey is a clearer way of indicating how it's pronounced.

Incidentally The DT words of Father's Grave are marginally different - J & H Kennedy are supposed to be the authors, though that's not given in the DT. Maybe a thread to find out about them would be worth while sometime.

I hadn't come across Handful of Songs, so I chased it down just now in the Forum, and found the words - now I'm curious for the tune. Nice song.


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: GUEST,Bo
Date: 20 Dec 01 - 04:32 AM

The single real tear jerker for me is FLOWERS OF THE FOREST, the scottish dirge.

Sung as a dirge with love for the people in sorrow it is heart wrenching dynamite. There is no other song in my repertoire with mental 'handle with caution' signs.

Something in it unlocks everything I thinks thats why I love and appreciate it.

Bo


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Leigha
Date: 20 Dec 01 - 03:48 AM

Dear All,
I'm writing up my paper right now and rereading some of the fascinating things that you all have written, and I just wanted to say
YOU ARE AMAZING, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!
In the past 48 hours, I have been witness to one of the most amazing outpourings of honesty, intelligence, and eloquence that I have ever experienced.
If this project of mine is any good, it will only be because your comments, suggestions, and questions have made it that way.
I appreciate your help so much!
Peace, Leigh


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Subject: Lyr Add: THEY'RE DIGGING UP DAD'S REMAINS
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 11:27 PM

As the LaughingCat would say "Nice Thread" "Pretty Thought" "You are so welcome here!" And a barrle-full of plethorial, trivial, vacuous Cat-Crap!

Glad the thread stuck around long enough till I was back in town to lend some substance.

Most appropriate for the New York crowd. Thank God we can laugh again!

THEY'RE DIGGIN UP DAD'S REMAINS

They're digging up dad's remains to build a sewer;
They're doing the job regardless of expense;
They're diggin up dad's remains to make way for ten inch drains
To satisfy some rich man's residence, 'gor blieme'.

Now father in his lifetime wasn't a quitter, a quitter;
And I don't suppose he'll be a quitter now;
Cause he'll dress up in a sheet and he'll haunt the shithouse seat
And only let toffs go when he allows, 'gor blieme'.

Now won't there be some horrible constipation;
Oh, won't the loos bound toffs oh rack and rave;
But it serves them bloody well right;
For having the perishing nerve to muck about with a workman's grave!


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: katlaughing
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 11:10 PM

McGrath, it worked out pretty well for awhile, but the setup was kind of unfulfilling. Most of the people stayed in their rooms and I played out in a large living area. The acoustics were great, so they could hear me and the staff loved it, but I quit after a time, partly because it was difficult for me to go out during the heat of the day without air conditioning in my car and partly because there was so little actual contact with the people I wanted to help. It did help me to figure out that I want to pursue helping people, one-on-one through transition and to study that discipline, "music thanatology," some more. I posted the tunes I played on another thread. I'll dig it up. Since I didn't sing while playing, some of them may not have known the words, but I played a pretty broad mix of popular/light/sad/serious songs.

Jerry, I couldn't help but love that song, esp. the way Art sings it and knowing that he is no longer able to perform, so that, in a way, is his legacy, that and all of the other songs and gems he so kindly shares with us. It is a beautiful song. OH!! Duh! Light just went off in my little peabrain...you are THAT Jerry!!! Sorry, until I came to Mudcat, I was all old cowpoke, some popular folk, and classical. I've learned a lot, esp. due to Art taking me under his wing, but I am still terrible with names and connections! Now that I have realised, please allow me to say that I really DO love your song. It is so beautiful and the friends and family I have sung it for agree. Thanks so much!

kat


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 08:43 PM

There's another thread in itself. Singing songs about death to people who are in health care centers or hospices. It's a subject that does not have to be avoided, but the perspective that you bring in introducing the song and singing it are different than in a coffee house setting. Instead of being a morbid experience, I more often find it uplifting. There was a woman in the last gathering my group played for who told me how much she loved our singing, and would be sure to come to hear us again, if she was still "here" the next time we came.

Glad you like Handful of Songs,Katlaughing... it's a song that gets people talking about what they are going to leave with those they love..

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: GUEST,McGrath
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 08:17 PM

I remember kat you were playing the dulcimer in a hospice. I wondered how that worked out, and what sort of tunes you found yourself playing.


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: katlaughing
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 08:08 PM

Don't forget Little Joe the Wrangler, Billy Venero, and When the Work's All Done This Fall. All tragic, all ending in death. We were raised on them and as young children begged dad to sing them over and over.

I love Handful of Songs, a lot because I first heard it on Art Thieme's CD, "The Older I Get, the Better I Was." And, many others which Art included on that CD. (I highly recommend it!)

I think part of the reason I love to sing these songs, including "O Death" is because they open up a part of my heart, deep down, and stir up very strong emotions. My mother's generation, at least the children of Victorian age parents in the west of Colorado, didn't talk about death, except in hushed tones. The only time I remember her or her family singing any death songs was at funerals, with the exception of my dad singing the old cowboy songs. Her only living sibling, my aunt, now 92 years old, is struggling against death, mightily, and will still not allow it to be discussed within her hearing.

All of which brings me to say, the songs everyone has mentioned are meaningful to me because they do not repress what is a natural part of life. They remind me that there once was a time when folks died at home, surrounded by their loved ones and often "sung" on into the next realm of existence, a much healthier, in my opinion, way of dealing with death than has been done in the recent past and even today, although with the advent of hospices we are seeing some change back to that caring and nurturing through transition.

Very interesting subject and thread, Leigh. Thanks for coming here and I look forward to reading your paper.

kat


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 07:15 PM

I first heard Lord Thomas and Fair Ellender by Dave Van Ronk, back in the early 60's. He did that song, Silver Dagger and other murder ballads with great glee, and for laughs. That's one way that people deal with death... like a joke. While they're still alive. There's a certain amount of "whistling in the graveyard going on.."

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 05:01 PM

This one, An, I imagine.

I think with a song like that it's important that the way it's sung is understated. It should be a case of the song being passed on, as a record, not a dramatic performance relishing the events. The same way it would have to be if it was about something that had happened yesterday.


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 04:13 PM

The worms crawled in and the worms crawled out,
They played pinochle on her snout.

The lady to the priest she said,
Shall I be the same when I am dead?
The priest he answered aye!

All good cheerful stuff what!
Failte....Jock


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: An
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 03:16 PM

I taught a song called Lord Thomas in my singing classes in the autumn, and it ends with one girl killing another and then lord Thomas killing the second girl and finally himself. Some singers seemed to enjoy singing about bashing her head against the wall ( singing the word bashed with great gusto) and others told me they found it too violent. I think it is harder to cope with songs about death when the songs themselves invite empathy with the person dying. In this case, three people actually die, but it seems that especially the girl whose head was bashed, provoked aversion to the song from some members of the singing group. I wouldn't teach the song if I knew that one of the group members had a recent experience with death or violence. I was grateful to Art , whose first message kind of explained why I find I am so much more inspired to write songs when I'm in trouble than when things go well. Isn't it hard to write a sincere happy song...


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: GUEST,Leigha
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 02:39 PM

Also, Art Thieme's first post reminded me of a great book I'm reading called "A Space on the Side of the Road: Cultural Poetics in an 'Other' America", by Kathleen Stewart. It's an admittedly academic book, but it's set in the Southwest West Virginia coal-mining region and gives some really good looks at ways of life that resist assimilation into the mainstream American capitalist machinery. You might want to have a look.
Peace,
Leigh


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: GUEST,Leigha
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 02:34 PM


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 02:33 PM

On the other hand there aren't too many songs about birth - I think there was a thread about that one time, andn it couldn't come up with anywhere near as many, or many at all in fact. Take away the Christmas ones and even fewer.

I checked with the Digital Tradition keywords list - death came in with 353 songs. Way ahead of all the others, with the solitary exception of "sailor" at 382. (And birth was 3).

Mind, I'm sure that if Art really put his mind to it, he could top that score.


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: GUEST,Leigha
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 02:29 PM

For all of you who have expressed interest, I'm an anthropology major at Columbia University. I'm interested in this specific topic for several reasons. First, I'm from Southwest Virginia, my dad is from Norton, and his family is from Kentucky. I went to many a folk show when I was growing up. So I've always been somewhat close to folk song tradition, though never directly involved in it. I play a viola made by Arthur Conner of Copper Hill, VA, and somehow, it seems to want to play fiddle music rather than the Brahms that I used to try to put it though.... :) At any rate, my investigation here is part of a class called Text, Magic, and Performance, taught by a professor who, coincidentally enough, is also from SW VA. We have talked about the strange voicings in the lyrics of "Oh Death", which lots of my cosmopolitan class was familiar w/ due to the infamous KKK scene in "Oh Brother". And when I started listening to some of my favorite folk songs about death again, I realized that there were some pretty strange things going on it the lyrics -- possession by death itself, visions, directives to the living that allow the dead to "speak" through the singer. But all of these things are meaningless if they can't be placed in the context of performance. So I'm interested in the way singers themselves perceive the process of performance, and the overwhelming response I'm getting here is that these songs of death are seen as another inevitable part of singing about life. These songs seem to help the living conceptualize and understand their own deaths, usually w/o pageantry or fluff. Nevertheless, certain songs do seem to be described as especially haunting or troublesome. (Didn't we all get chills when Stanley sung "Oh Death"? Doesn't that happen rather often?) I wonder what it is about certain songs that does this. The lyrics? The tune? The performer? All three? Anyway, I want to THANK ALL OF YOU SO MUCH for your incredible insight and enthusiasm!!! You've really helped me think through this problem. I am, of course, not finished yet, and I'll listen to any further discussion w/ rapt attention! I'll be sure to let you all know when the (admittedly inadequate) paper is ready, and I could send it to you as an attachment over email if you like. Back to writing! Graciously, Leigh


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Bert
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 10:57 AM

I don't sing many songs about death. While London Sleeps is probably the one I sing most. I've written a couple though, Plastic Flower Seeds and Kiss for the Road which I sing a lot.

I had a gig shortly after Sept. 11th. and didn't sing Plastic Flower Seeds then because I felt it inappropriate as everyone was still in shock. I sing it again now though - life (and death) goes on.

Thanks for your song list Art, I need to go through that a few times, there are so many songs there that I don't sing, but should.


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Burke
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 10:56 AM

From the e-mail address it looks like Leigh is at Columbia.

Leigh, I hope you've found the Sacred Harp singing in Manhattan. I know they had their monthly meeting just about a week after 9/11 & can really tell you what it meant for them.


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: catspaw49
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 10:30 AM

I'm enjoying this one.....and especially Art's contributions. The first post wwas one of the best I've ever read in regards to the psychology of death and humor and the odd interrelationship.

So much of the folk tradition is heavily built upon songs of loss, be it death or otherwise, that it becomes kinda' hard to think what there is if we took that away. Even some fine love songs involve death and loss as well as some of your finer ones in the humorous category. Thinking about it, there are seriously few where death/loss are not somehow involved.

LEIGH, I hope you're getting what you wanted here and I'm curious now about your studies. Is this part of an individual course, or part of a course of study? Also wondering where you are and how it comes they have this as part of the curriculum......It's very encouraging to see! If you wouldn't mind, I think probably more than a few of us are curious.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Peter T.
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 09:53 AM

That's right Art, flog it to...

yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 12:44 AM

Song titles you want? Here are some of mine. Tons o' death !

Amelia Ehrhart
Banks Of The Ohio
Barbara Allen
Bayou Sara
Betty & Dupree Blues
Billy The Kid
Billy Vanero
Bitter Withy
Black Fly Song
Blinded By Turds
The Boll Weevil
Susie Cleland
By The Hush
Captain Kidd
Casey Jones
Cecil Gone In The Time Of Storm
Cherokee Queen
The Cock Fight
I Come And Stand At Every Door
Earl Brand (The Red River Shore)
East Texas Red
Electric Chair Blues
Fatal Glass Of Beeer
Lord Thomas and Fair Ellen
Fife-E-O
The Fox
Frankie and Johnny
Frog Went A-Courtin'

Lets skip to the "S" & "T" Talking Atom Blues
Tennessee Stud
Titanic
Tom Joad
Trail To Mexico
The Two Sisters
groups:

Sam Bass
Sam Hall
See That My Grave Is Kept Clean
The Shanty Boy On The Big Eau Claire
Silver Dagger
Si Me Quires Escribir
Sioux Indians
16 Tons
South Coast
Spanish Is A Loving Tongue
Springfield Mountain
Stacker Lee
Streets Of Loredo

then there's:

Wreck Of Old 97
Hills Of Roane County
Willy Moore
Will Ye No Come Back Again
The Wind and Rain
Wreck of Number 9
The Hanging Of Charlie Birger
Death Of Harry Simms
Harm Hubbard Was Not Guilty
The Hobo's Last Ride
Dobie Bill
Good Old Colony Days
The Great Silky
Greenland Whalers
Griesley Bride
Groundhog
I Hate War And So Does Elanore
Valley Of Jarama
Jesse James
John Hardy
Tanya Harding
John Henry
The Kansas Cyclone
Kilgarah Mountain
The Lady Gay
Littlt Margaret
Long Black Veil
Lord Of The Land
Lost Jimmy Whalen
Louis Collins
Methadrine Blues
The Minstrel Boy
Mister Garfield
Old Sow Took The Measles
Peter Emberley
Pinery Boy
Pokegama Bear
Poor Howard's Dead And Gone
Pretty Boy Floys
Pretty Polly
The Renagade
Reuben James
Round & Round Hitler's Grave

and many others...

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Knitpick
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 12:09 AM

Oh, Death, Oh, Death,
Won't you spare me over for another year?

My name is Death, none can excel,
I open the gates to Heaven or Hell.
I'll close your eyes so you can't see,
That chilly wind is come from me.

Oh, Death ... etc.


One of my favorite songs on the subject.

Bob Clayton


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Sorcha
Date: 19 Dec 01 - 12:00 AM

Geee--I'm not sure what to say here. First of all, I don't sing in public. I ONLY sing when I am absolutely sure I am alone. Then, yes, I usually sing about death, one way or another. Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Can the Circle Be Unbroken, Oh When Shall I See Jesus.

My thought is that I do this to try to make myself feel better--sort of like singing the Blues. When you sing/play the blues you just got to start feeling better.

Perhaps, also, to begin to get myself used to the idea that I really am going to die---and start getting over the fear of it. Not fear of dying exactly, just fear in general---fear of pain, fear of not being here, fear of not knowing, fear of leaving a mess behind for someone else to clean up........

I did have the pianist play Can the Circle be Unbroken and Wayfaring Stranger at my mom's funeral......and DID NOT allow The Old Rugged Cross, In the Garden, etc!

If they play any of that crap (sorry) at my funeral, I WILL rise up and haunt for 100 years!!!


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: M.Ted
Date: 18 Dec 01 - 11:40 PM

Allan,

Are you saying that death isn't common anymore? Anyway, for many people, even in the US, the average age isn't too much better than forty, but it doesn't mean that many people don't live to be older. it just means that many are cut down in the prime, by, well, check out the songs--


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Micca
Date: 18 Dec 01 - 08:34 PM

theres a song that I have been learning,( I sang on Paltalk last Thursday) called," And when I die" the first verse goes
I'm not scared of dyin' and I don't really care
If it's peace you find in dyin', well, then let the time be near;
If it's peace you find in dying, when dyin' time is here,
Just bundle up my coffin, cause it's cold way down there.
Refrain
And when I die, and when I'm dead, dead and gone,
There'll be one child born and a world to carry on,
There'll be one child born to carry on.


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Snuffy
Date: 18 Dec 01 - 08:00 PM

All His Other Wives Came In


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: GUEST,Allan S.
Date: 18 Dec 01 - 07:19 PM

Omie wise, Little darling pall of mine, The Fatal weding,The FFV Dont forget when most of these were written the average life span was about 40 years. Death from childbirth. A man may have had 3 or 4 wifes. So you see death was a common occurance and accepted. The concept of a Heaven was very comforting. A strong religious faith made comming into and leaving this earth much easier... Good luck on your project Allan


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Peter T.
Date: 18 Dec 01 - 03:45 PM

"Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie" -- the version with seven verses -- is about the bleakest, coldest song I know.

yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: M.Ted
Date: 18 Dec 01 - 02:28 PM

The more morbid a song, the more I like it(not the only songs I like, but they have a special place in my heart) and I think the audiences I have sung for tend to feel that way too--after all, is not our culture at large, addicted to stories of sad, tortured lives and tawdry, pathetic, deaths? Jon-Benet Ramsey and Chandra Levy could be the subjects of Child Ballads--

I don't perform anymore, but I am sure that, in the wake of 9/11, audiences are still hungry for something real, and evocative of the pain that they feel--it is better the subject is indirect, that is, another building on fire, somewhere far away, or another daddy that isn't coming home--

I am partial to things like, "The Unquiet Grave" "Little Bessie"(a child is dying of the fever, and the angels are calling her name) and all the young man dying of a horrible disease songs, and of course the standards, like "Barbara Allen", "The Banks of the Ohio", "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?", and of course, the surprise hit of 2001, "O, Death!"


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: GUEST,mgarvey@pacifier.com
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 10:51 PM

I probably said this in a previous thread but I vote for let me fish off cape st. mary's.. and there's no place on this earth I'll belong when I'm gone...also bury me beneath the willow...Nellie was a lady...Old Black Joe (I can't understand why that is frowned upon)...Oh boys carry me on...Grimsby Town..mg


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Ebbie
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 10:38 PM

I love gnu's mind processes: "What do you end your gig with?" he asks, then on to the correct title: "What song do you want at your funeral?" It's nice to think about our tenure here as our gig! And perhaps it's very close to the truth.

Ebbie


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 10:00 PM

Leigh,

At least 75 or 80% of my repertoire---the songs I took seriously and loved--were all, either directly or obliquely, about death and other heavy stuff.
This is probably too simplified, but here's my feelings about that:

Many of the basic truths about LIFE are to be found in tragedy. Comedy is said to be "COMIC RELIEF"-----and if it is relief from something, then that something is the basic tragedy inherant in life.

FOLKSONGS have all of it--up, down, sad and happy. But it was the tragedy that drew me in when I found those songs in Chicago's bistros and folk bars. It was the beatnik 1950s. There was NOTHING LIKE IT in all of pop music. All Perry Como and Sinatra sang about was, as Pete Seeger used to say before he aparently decided that all songs are folksongs, "Tin pan alley and pop is nothing but moon, June, croon and spoon." That means love songs and sex !! ------------Here's the rub:

The "MUSIC INDUSTRY" was striving to sell it's stuff to EVERYONE----not just folks on the Western ranges or in the lumbercamps or in the Southern Appalachian Mountains or whatever. That just wouldn't do. Why? Because those were very limited markets. Only recently, since the world has "shrunk", has World Music found a world-wide constituancy outside it's place of origin. Love songs and sexual inuendo-- I enjoy some/many of those songs. But the theme of love is universal--and can be easily sold to everyone. Why go for the little markets? It was thought better to leave those to the smaller and specialized business folks and record companies.

If one is looking for insight into real life, one must look on the dark side. "Shit happens", despite being a funny bumpersticker, is a true statement. As a young guy, I was looking to these songs to show me "real life"--the likes of which I'd not experienced personally before.

To temper the dark songs I used to do, I used humorous tales and jokes. It was also a way to make the old songs I had found relevant to modern people---a way to push the songs forward into the spotlight. And I also did funny songs. Don't get me wrong---I love a good joke or folktale that's well told. (When people started introducing me as a comedian at gigs is when I had to tell 'em to quit it; I wanted to be seen as a serious folksinger and songcatcher who, surprisingly, turned out to be pretty funny to a hopefully pleasantly surprised audience.)

I've gone on too long. These are just some of the thoughts that came to me after seeing your good query.

All the best,

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: GUEST,McGrath
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 09:43 PM

You can't beat death. Not when it comes to a song.

As they say, the only two things you can be certtain of in this life - death and taxes.

Songs about death needn't be heavy either. Even sad songs about death needn't bring you down. The only songs I can think of that really depress me are some ostensibly jolly songs.


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 09:34 PM

Jerry, you reminded me of a very inspiring Austin Lounge Lizards song, On the Other Shore [grin]
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 09:06 PM

Brother Rick, if you're reading this... people questioned why I would sing Handful of Songs in nursing homes. It seemed like a silly question in a way. It's not that people there don't realize that they're going to do... they are often quite humorous in the way that they talk about it... someone said to me, "The only way you can get out of this place is in a pine box." Many of the old hymns are very encouraging, that deal with death. People especially love Never Grow Old. Sounds good to them. They also like Angel Band. Any songs that speak of a joyful afterlife and reunion are elevating, not depressing. an example:

"I'm going to see my Mother You know she died so long ago What a blessed, sweet reunion When I meet her on that shore."

From When I Get To Glory

My Mother talks with longing about seeing her Mother, who died when my Mother was eleven.

The one song we don't do is Burying Ground..

"I wonder can you hear, those church bells tolling repeat twice Way over yonder, in the burying ground."

What is hard to realize when you're young and good health is that if you are bedridden and in pain all the time, or so heavily drugged that you can't even stay awake, if you have a strong faith, death can sound like a pretty good deal. Heaven or Intensive Care. Take your pick..

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Mudlark
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 08:04 PM

Dear Leigha...The only audience I've tempered my death laden 17-18th c repetoire for are the folks at the convalescent home...I don't avoid them entirely (haha....would shorten my set too much!) but I do intersperse with up tunes. Not sure how much they "get," as most of these folks are pretty far gone, but my sense is they don't need nonstop dirge music as a pick-me-up. For myself, my favorite songs have always been sad ones, about death, parting and loss....other side of a cheerful nature, I guess.


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Leigha
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 07:51 PM

Thanks for all of your help! Do your audiences react differently when you sing about death? Do you feel differently? (Clinton Hammond's post about this was great) Thanks a million! Leigh


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: gnu
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 07:00 PM

Thanks Burke. I coulda done that but there's not much time left.


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Burke
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 06:58 PM

Here's a link to gnu's Funeral thread.


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 06:56 PM

"please don't bury me..."

Heh!

It's been a long time since I played that one regular... gotta dust it down sometime soon...

thanks fer the reminder!

;-)


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Subject: RE: Help: Singing about Death, How and Why?
From: gnu
Date: 17 Dec 01 - 06:51 PM

Shite !!! I got lucky !!! The thread was "RE: What song do you want at your funeral?".


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