The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #13068   Message #113794
Posted By: Rick Fielding
13-Sep-99 - 01:00 AM
Thread Name: Threads on the meaning of Folk
Subject: RE: Threads on the meaning of Folk
Being of sound mind (and questionable body) I really wanted to stay out of this since there are so few of us who actually care about rather narrow definitions of folk music, and it's the same folks sayin' the same things over and over again. For what it's worth, my definitions haven't changed much over the years. Folk songs were sung first and written down later. Folk singers were the people who sung 'em before the advent of records and radio. Balladeer and Troubadour seem to me to be more accurate terms to describe most folks who sing those songs today, but how many average people would use either term even once in their lifetime? They've heard the term "folksinger", know it means "not as loud as a rocker",so they call the music "folk music". When someone jumps into mudcat with this (hardly surprising) outlook, they might get taken to task (I've done it..albeit gently) or not, depending on who they encounter first. I DO find a surface approach to the music I love greatly annoying, just as I find the folks at a ball game who shoot their mouths off without knowing beans about the history, the statistics and the stategy equally annoying.

These days you have a huge number of people who were influenced by lyrical (basically) solo singer-guitarists from the late 50s to the mid-70s. Perhaps the most influental ones were Dylan, John Prine, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Neil Young, and James Taylor. Each one of these performers has earned millions of dollars for their work, and I doubt would ever take up valued concert space to encourage their followers to explore the history of the music before starting to write their own songs. Why should they? I doubt their ambition was to teach. More probably it was to express themself musically, period. I really don't expect ANY current singer-songwriters under 30 to care a whit about the past. When it appears that someone does, I'm surprised and gratified. What I DO expect however, is skill, originality, and minimal "attitude". I don't hear too much of that. (especially the second) Every major "Folk" Festival these days counts on performers of original music with "attitude" to bring the average citizen in off the street.

Sandy mentioned a dictionary that was long out of date. I've got a set of Encyclopaedia Americana, that I bought used about 30 years ago. I still read it for enjoyment, but like the music I love, it's hoplessly out of date. Once, on a resume, I wrote (under my name) "Purveyor of Unpopular Songs". Heather insisted I remove it immediately, reminding me that people rarely get my idea of humour. Hmmmmm, she thought it was a joke?