The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #93859   Message #1821690
Posted By: GUEST,Randbone
29-Aug-06 - 10:44 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: A modern folk song of your choice
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: A modern folk song of your choice
I enjoyed the thoughts of Art Thieme, a folksinger from Chicago, on what constitutes this thing we call a "folk song". I've pasted his own words here,


The main job of a folksinger, I've always felt, is to explore the past. After skimming the scum of the present off the top of the historical pond, folksingers mine the depths for artifacts that were lost – some long ago and some more recently. They find, clean up, polish and sometimes enhance the overlooked found pieces of music and/or poetry so they can be shown to people here and now in a way that allows those modern people to feel some of the emotions experienced by those that lived, loved, worked, fought and then died in that whole other time and place.

The extent to which the one calling themselves a folksinger does that, determines whether that person is, or is not, a folksinger.

Modern singer-songwriters stand here and now and look at today's personal dramatic situations and traumas. They also look, artistically and insightfully, into the future for their inspiration, and then they speculate about how what we are doing might enhance or detract from those days to come. Some of today's songwriters will become legends --- famous and infamous --- rich or poor. But most, from where I sit, will not become folksingers.

Only when their presented music is a result of looking and studying about how people of the past turned their lives into art that chronicled that life, can the songs they uncovered be real folksongs. It is all about the timeline! In the future, what is made now may become a folksong.---Then someone from that future, someone who understands the rules (yes, the rules) finds the appropriate artifacts that you or I might've thought little of ---and maybe tossed by the wayside. That gem. when re-examined, could exhibit real, possibly ironic meaning for the folks of that new reality.—   If it is presented in a way that shows the connection between what is said in the lyric, maybe between the lines, older folklore artifacts can be instantly updated. --- A line like, "Here is a song from the last depression" --- automatically makes an old song as possibly a way to see current hard times---or wars—or disasters – from the Johnstown flood to 9/11. Then, when that person who knows what to look for brings it forth, it is and ought to be called an actual folksong---and that individual is an actual   folksinger.

I jumped out of bed tonight because these thoughts that have always seemed true to me for a long time were keeping me awake. I needed to phrase them in a way that wasn't full of angry emotion because I was responding to some vitriolic troll on some Internet forum. ---- Maybe now I can get some sleep.

Yes, I've spent years trying to say this the right way. I do hope it means something true to you. But this is what it comes down to---in a nutshell---to me. It is just the way I see it—and some of why I see it that way---for what it's worth.. I mean no offense to anyone.   I always considered myself a folksinger about 60% of the time—maybe a little more I hope. If Barry Bonds, with or without steroids, had batted as well, he would've hit 600. Not too bad! -----------------Art Thieme

©2005 Art Thieme

You can e-mail Art at, he'd love to hear from you.