The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #13115   Message #107561
Posted By: Sandy Paton
22-Aug-99 - 08:20 PM
Thread Name: What was Lee Hays really like...? (1914-1981)
Subject: RE: What was Lee Hays really like...?
I really agree with you, Frank. Whenever you put folk music on a commercial stage, the element of show business is unavoidable. I remember the producer of the huge Newport Festivals of the 60s observing that the trad folk were fine for the workshops, but when you have a stage and 15,000 people for an audience, "it's show business, baby!" No doubt he was right. Folk music lived for centuries in people's living rooms and kitchens, in their barns and in their fields while they were working. Sharp told about an informant who couldn't recall how a song went. The fellow said, "If I were out there with the plow, I'd think of it right away!" Of course there was also a more social music made for dancing and entertaining in juke joints and rural barns, or wherever there was room for such activity, but here I'm speaking primarily of the song/ballad tradition. Put it on a stage and something happens to it, a subtle and not unpleasant alteration based on function. That's why the newer crop of folklorists have begun to investigate the "functional" aspect of our music. A song sung to entertain an audience isn't apt to be sung in the same way it would be sung to put a child to sleep. Gibson knew what he was doing, and he did it damned well. My disillusionment was based on the discovery that so much of that impassioned delivery was cerebral. Sorry if "dishonesty" was implied by my reference to show biz. It's just a different ballgame with a different set of rules.