Posts Tagged ‘folk’

Music of the day

Posted: 22 August 2018 in Uncategorized
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[ht: db]

mike4nov

Special mention

huck2nov 186721_600

Fred Hellerman was best known as a singer, guitarist, and songwriter with the folk group the Weavers from the late 1940s to the mid-60s. During and after the group’s existence, however, he also maintained a varied career behind the scenes in the music industry that included working as an arranger, session musician, and producer. In addition to writing songs for other performers, he also contributed music to motion pictures and the theater.

During the Red Scare, when the Weavers were barred from television, Hellerman was forced to record under the pseudonym Bob Hill.

The usual assumption is that the Weavers started their recording career with Gordon Jenkins at Decca Records, adapting their folk sound into an early-50s popular style but this song, from disc one of Goodnight Irene:The Weavers, 1949-1953, dispels this notion, going back to the quartet’s true recording debut, for Charter Records in 1949.

Last night, in a concert with BĂ©la Fleck, Abigail Washburn dedicated “Come All You Coal Miners,” by Sarah Ogan Gunning, to the people of Flint, Michigan.

Ronnie Gilbert RIP

Posted: 7 June 2015 in Uncategorized
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Ronnie Gilbert,

whose crystalline, bold contralto provided distaff ballast for the Weavers, the seminal quartet that helped propel folk music to wide popularity and establish its power as an agent of social change, died on Saturday in Mill Valley, Calif. She was 88.

Jean Ritchie, who brought hundreds of traditional songs from her native Appalachia to a wide audience and wrote additional songs, especially about the disasters of coal mining—”and in the process helped ignite the folk song revival of the mid-twentieth century—died on Monday at her home in Berea, Kentucky.

Here are the lyrics to her “Black Waters”:

I come from the mountains, Kentucky’s my home,
Where the wild deer and black bear so lately did roam;
By cool rushing waterfalls the wildflowers dream,
And through every green valley there runs a clear stream.
Now there’s scenes of destruction on every hand
And only black waters run down through my land.

CHORUS
Sad scenes of destruction on every hand,
Black waters, black waters, run down through my land.

O the quail, she’s a pretty bird, she sings a sweet tongue;
In the roots of tall timbers she nests with her young.
But the hillside explodes with the dynamite’s roar,
And the voices of the small birds will sound there no more;
And the hillsides come a—sliding so awful and grand,
And the flooding black waters rise over my land.

CHORUS
Sad scenes of destruction on every hand;
Black waters, black waters run down through the land.

In the rising of the springtime we planted our corn,
In the ending of the springtime we buried a son,
In summer come a nice man, said, “Everything’s fine—
My employer just requires a way to his mine”—
Then they threw down my mountain and covered my corn,
And the grave on the hillside’s a mile deeper down,
And the man stands and talks with his hat in his hand
As the poisonous water spreads over my land.

CHORUS
Sad scenes of destruction on every hand;
Black waters, black waters run down through the land.

Well, I ain’t got no money and not much of a home;
I own my own land, but my land’ s not my own.
But if I had ten million – somewheres thereabouts—
I would buy Perry County and I’d run ’em all out!
Set down on the bank with my bait in my can,
And just watch the clear waters run down through my land!

CHORUS
Well, wouldn’t that be like the old Promised Land?
Black waters, black waters no more in my land!

“West Virginia Mine Disaster” was another of her original songs, performed here by Betsy Rutherford:

And here are the lyrics:

Say, did you see him walking? it was early this morning
He passed by your house on his way to the coal
He was tall, he was slender, and his blue eyes so tender
His occupation was miner, West Virginia his home

It was just about noon, I was feeding the children
Ben Moseley come running for to give us the news
Number eight is all flooded, many men are in danger
And we don’t know their number, but we fear they’re all doomed

So I picked up the baby and I left all the others
For to comfort each other and pray for our own
There’s Timmy, fourteen, and there’s John not much younger
Soon their own time will be coming to go down the black hole

Now if I had the money to do more than just feed them
I’d give them good learning, the best could be found
And when they grew up they’d be checkers and weighers
And not spend their life drilling in the dark underground

And it’s what will I tell to my three little children?
And what will I tell his dear mother at home?
And it’s what will I tell to my poor heart that’s dying?
My heart that’s surely dying since my darling is gone

Say, did you see him walking? it was early this morning
He passed by your house on his way to the coal
He was tall, he was slender, and his blue eyes so tender
His occupation was miner, West Virginia his home

 

This [ht: sm] just in:

San Luis Obispo County supervisor candidate Lynn Compton (R) is holding a “hobo stew” fundraiser, the Cal Coast News reports.

“The Compton campaign is planning an Oct. 5 fundraiser at the Oceano train depot in which attendees are invited to come dressed in hobo attire and eat soup dubbed hobo stew.”

 

[here’s a link to Hazel Dickens’s performance of the Dylan song]

 

For pretty much anyone of my generation Pete Seeger was identified with a long, rich tradition of American protest music—of labor, civil rights, antiwar, and so on. I was fortunate to hear him play and sing on numerous occasions, including a small concert with his family and friends in Connecticut.

But it is also the case that the music of the Left was eventually reduced to folk music and excluded other important traditions, such as classical music. R. D. Davis, in an article published in the journal Rethinking Marxism back in 1988, considered this to be a problem.*

The form of most folk and almost all jazz/pop music does not (cannot) even reflect industrial social relations as we know them, much less make a comment on them. Classical music, or music organized by a trained composer, art music, is more likely to produce an instructional metaphor (and form) with which to examine the foundations of corporate society.

For Davis, Hanns Eisler and Charles Seeger (Pete’s father) represented two radically different approaches to making music for the Left in the 1930s: “intellectual composition versus the folk tradition.” Both were available, both were viable—but the Left (for reasons Davis explores in his article) rejected the former in favor of the latter.

Still, I experienced a moment of national pride when Seeger was joined by Bruce Springsteen to sing all the verses of “This Land Is Your Land,” the Woody Guthrie classic, at Obama’s first inauguration.

 

*R. D. Davis, “Music from the Left,” Rethinking Marxism 1 (Winter 1988): 7-25.

 

It’s just been announced that Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad” will be released as a duet with the Nightwatchman Tom Morello on Springsteen’s new album.*

The timing couldn’t be better, as I work on the syllabus for my spring 2014 course, “A Tale of Two Depressions,” which I’ll coteach for the second time (here’s a link to the course last spring) with Ben Giamo.

 

*For younger readers, Tom Joad is a character in John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes Of Wrath. Near the end of the story, Tom makes his famous “I’ll be there” speech, which is noted in Springsteen’s lyrics.

Tom Joad: I been thinking about us, too, about our people living like pigs and good rich land layin’ fallow. Or maybe one guy with a million acres and a hundred thousand farmers starvin’. And I been wonderin’ if all our folks got together and yelled…

Ma Joad: Oh, Tommy, they’d drag you out and cut you down just like they done to Casy.

Tom Joad: They’d drag me anyways. Sooner or later they’d get me for one thing if not for another. Until then…

Ma Joad: Tommy, you’re not aimin’ to kill nobody.

Tom Joad: No, Ma, not that. That ain’t it. It’s just, well as long as I’m an outlaw anyways… maybe I can do somethin’… maybe I can just find out somethin’, just scrounge around and maybe find out what it is that’s wrong and see if they ain’t somethin’ that can be done about it. I ain’t thought it out all clear, Ma. I can’t. I don’t know enough.

Ma Joad: How am I gonna know about ya, Tommy? Why they could kill ya and I’d never know. They could hurt ya. How am I gonna know?

Tom Joad: Well, maybe it’s like Casy says. A fellow ain’t got a soul of his own, just little piece of a big soul, the one big soul that belongs to everybody, then…

Ma Joad: Then what, Tom?

Tom Joad: Then it don’t matter. I’ll be all around in the dark – I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look – wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build – I’ll be there, too.

Ma Joad: I don’t understand it, Tom.

Tom Joad: Me, neither, Ma, but – just somethin’ I been thinkin’ about.

Richie Havens RIP

Posted: 22 April 2013 in Uncategorized
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Richie Havens, who sung every song he knew during a three-hour opening set at the Woodstock Festival, died today at the age of 72.