The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #46310 Message #3882755
Posted By: GUEST,Guest
17-Oct-17 - 09:31 AM
Thread Name: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
Subject: RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues
Way back in this thread the Folkways LP 'The Unfortunate Rake' was cited as a source of information on this song.
My own thoughts on this are now as follows: why would people assume that the liner notes on an LP are accurate and helpful?
Specifically, having obsessively researched this, I am certain that the Unfortunate Rake Song Lloyd sings on this LP is a composite invented by Lloyd himself. He sang this song both as St James' Hospital and as The Unfortunate Rake. Regarding the lyrics: these are identical except that in one version he uses a last verse of a song called My Jewel My Joy, which as far as I can see has no proved connection whatsoever. The idea that it has such a connection was first put forward by somebody called Phillips Barry in the early 20th century, and then people like Goldstein and Lloyd repeated what Barry had said in a chain reaction without examining the claim critically.
The liner notes imply that Lloyd is singing the words from an old 19th century broadside, but he is not. He has taken the verse about mercury from a broadside almost verbatim. In fact this verse crops up in several broadsides.
What you will not find in any UK broadside is the words 'St James' Hospital'. If they had bothered to read the A L Lloyd article cited on the liner they would have found out that Lloyd got these words from the Appalachians via Cecil Sharp. Lloyd then jumped to the conclusion (or pretended to) that the lady in the Appalachians was singing 'the original' and slipped the words into his own version.
The words 'St James Hospital' were imported into England at the start of the 2Oth century by Cecil Sharp, though that particular song was not published until some years after his death when Maud Karpeles finally issued the two volume collection of English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians. The St James Hospital song is in volume two, just to make life difficult.
Following this, an article in the English Folk Song Society magazine which included two English songs collected in the field used the title 'St James Hospital', and did so confusingly, leading people to suppose that the songs quoted had this title, though neither of them used it. From memory I think one was about Bath Hospital, which is in Somerset near where the singer lived.
I do now know whether Goldstein really thought Lloyd was singing lyrics taken straight from an old broadside/broadsheet, but Lloyd was doing no such thing.
Another intellectual sleight of hand/piece of sloppy thinking (not sure which description would be correct) on Lloyd's part is to claim that the tune he liked (and now we are back with My Jewel My Joy) had been found to be sung in the USA. The tune he quotes (in a Sing Magazine article quoted in the liner notes) is not the same as My Jewel My Joy.
So basically Lloyd has chosen a tune nobody has any credible reason to believe was ever used for St James Hospital, and he has created a hybrid song to suit himself, and because of the mistakes/lack of reference checking/peer review on the liner notes, thousands of people falsely believe he was singing an old English version, when the lyrics came from the Appalachians, from a song with different words, and there is no doubt that Lloyd himself knew this very well.
Just to cap it all off, he accuses the Appalachian lady of having a flawed memory (which is not based on Sharp's account which you can find online).
The same LP asserts that St James Infirmary was a medieval leprosy hospital basically shut down when Henry VIII helped himself to the wealth of the monasteries and invented the Church of England. Even if Lloyd had misled Goldstein, I think Goldstein deserves to take the blame for this tenuous claim.
I assume that Goldstein, who had a degree in business, and was, after all, in the business of selling 'authentic looking' folk tunes played on guitars by 20th century characters, was not overly careful about historical accuracy: it would perhaps be the look of the thing, and whether people wanting more of this 'authentic' music would buy more on his label was higher up his agenda.
Sorry to write at length: hope this gives enthusiasts some lines of research.