The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #108772   Message #2278421
Posted By: PoppaGator
03-Mar-08 - 01:57 PM
Thread Name: Pete Seeger's Power of Song-PBS, Feb 27
Subject: RE: Pete Seeger's Power of Song-PBS, Feb 27

Just to clarify: I don't think there is anything inferior about being a "singer-songwriter" ~ quite the contrary!

I do believe that some of our fellow Mudcatters share, and aggressively preach, the opinion that performance of one's own compositions disqualifies an artist from the exalted title of "folk artist." I most definitely disagree with this position, and was trying to undermine it by pointing out that the arguments put forward by this "purist" faction would, absurdly enough, exclude the great Pete Seeger from consideration as part of "folk music."

I guess I wasn't obvious enough to avoid being misunderstood.

I think you're probably onto something in contrasting singers who include both traditional and original songs in their repertoire versus those who traffic exclusively in their own compositions. That probably can serve to separate the true folkies from the pop pretenders in most cases, if not all of 'em.

But I think it's much more problematic to try classifying songwriters as either folk or non-folk based upon whether their songwriting is "in the tradition," a distinction that will always remain quite firmly in the eye of the beholder.

Also, the never-ending Mudcat "what-is-folk" controversy does seem to highlight differences between the two sides of the Atlantic. In the US, the "Folk Tradition" that many us feel a part of includes many elements, not only the Appalachian mountain tradition and the Delta blues tradition, but also the labor-organizer tradition, the peace-and-freedom-movement tradition, the beatnik-poet/bohemian tradition, and other relatively recent cultural phenomena. For many of our British cousins, "the tradition" includes only material retrieved from the pre-induustrial era.