The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #110621   Message #2333797
Posted By: Nerd
05-May-08 - 11:12 PM
Thread Name: Bertsongs? (songs of A. L. 'Bert' Lloyd)
Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
As Phil points out, Lloyd wasn't trying to get you to listen to his sources, because he never told you truthfully who his sources were. In many cases, the sources he cited were salt-of-the-earth laboring men, who didn't exist outside his imagination. The real sources were professional poets like Anderson, Campbell, Houseman and Hughes--but he never cited them. Lloyd was taking middle-class poetry, assigning it working-class origins, giving the names of nonexistent source singers as his authority that it came from tradition, and using it all to make arguments about the proletarian origins of traditional song.

As for wld's point about American folksingers, scholars generally don't care much what people do on stage in front of audiences--except for scholars of performance, who look at a whole different set of practices. Folksong scholars don't take American folksingers to task for telling tall tales because we don't care what they do in performance. For the same reason, we don't criticize Martin Carthy if he rewrites a song without telling anyone (though he usually tells). And we wouldn't care if Lloyd did it either.

But Lloyd wrote books purporting to be serious histories or studies of vernacular song, like The Singing Englishman and Come All Ye Bold Miners. Because of this, scholars DO care, and we eventually began to check out his sources--once things began to seem fishy. This is only right. Books purporting to be non-fiction ought to contain the facts, and if they contain speculation and invention, it ought to be marked as such.

Finally, Lloyd wasn't, in my opinion, just trying to make a powerful connection with an audience; at least not in some cases. If that was all he was doing, a ploughboy would have worked as well as a collier, and a serving-maid as well as a factory-maid. He changed those details to lend credence to the concept of "industrial folksong," which was still a fairly new idea. It was an attempt to lend credence to a historical theory--and once you begin lying to support your theory, you invite people to believe the theory wasn't viable in the first place (if it had been, you wouldn't have had to lie). This is why it's a scholarly sin to falsify evidence in this manner--it may temporarily bolster your position, but it almost inevitably falls apart and makes you and your theory look foolish in the process.