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Lyr Req: Altered folk songs

GUEST,Natasha 17 Jan 11 - 05:38 PM
Bill D 17 Jan 11 - 06:36 PM
GUEST,mg 17 Jan 11 - 06:43 PM
Joe Offer 17 Jan 11 - 06:56 PM
EBarnacle 17 Jan 11 - 11:49 PM
GUEST 18 Jan 11 - 04:49 AM
Marje 18 Jan 11 - 05:38 AM
Brian Peters 18 Jan 11 - 06:53 AM
Valmai Goodyear 18 Jan 11 - 07:04 AM
Valmai Goodyear 18 Jan 11 - 07:26 AM
MGM·Lion 18 Jan 11 - 08:22 AM
Richard Bridge 18 Jan 11 - 08:33 AM
Brian Peters 18 Jan 11 - 08:35 AM
Noreen 18 Jan 11 - 09:04 AM
Valmai Goodyear 18 Jan 11 - 09:05 AM
Bert 18 Jan 11 - 09:19 AM
nutty 18 Jan 11 - 10:52 AM
Sailor Ron 18 Jan 11 - 11:46 AM
CupOfTea 18 Jan 11 - 12:51 PM
Bill D 18 Jan 11 - 12:57 PM
Brian Peters 18 Jan 11 - 02:04 PM
Steve Gardham 18 Jan 11 - 02:28 PM
Steve Gardham 18 Jan 11 - 03:03 PM
Jim Carroll 18 Jan 11 - 03:05 PM
Steve Gardham 18 Jan 11 - 06:56 PM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 18 Jan 11 - 07:16 PM
Bert 19 Jan 11 - 01:40 AM
Jim Carroll 19 Jan 11 - 04:07 AM
Valmai Goodyear 19 Jan 11 - 01:19 PM
Jim Dixon 19 Jan 11 - 04:28 PM
Jim Dixon 19 Jan 11 - 04:42 PM
Joe Offer 19 Jan 11 - 05:22 PM
Valmai Goodyear 20 Jan 11 - 05:18 AM
Mo the caller 20 Jan 11 - 06:17 AM
Jack Blandiver 20 Jan 11 - 08:17 AM
Taconicus 20 Jan 11 - 09:27 AM
Valmai Goodyear 21 Jan 11 - 05:14 AM
NatashaJohanson 21 Jan 11 - 05:44 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 21 Jan 11 - 06:21 AM
EBarnacle 21 Jan 11 - 09:15 AM
Jim Carroll 21 Jan 11 - 09:47 AM
RobbieWilson 21 Jan 11 - 11:09 AM
GUEST 21 Jan 11 - 01:11 PM
Jim Dixon 21 Jan 11 - 01:14 PM
framus 21 Jan 11 - 01:45 PM
Jim Carroll 22 Jan 11 - 03:39 AM
Marje 22 Jan 11 - 04:14 AM
Jim Carroll 22 Jan 11 - 05:50 AM
brezhnev 22 Jan 11 - 07:51 AM
Valmai Goodyear 23 Jan 11 - 07:38 AM
Ged Fox 23 Jan 11 - 08:11 AM
Ged Fox 23 Jan 11 - 08:14 AM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 23 Jan 11 - 11:24 AM
Ian Fyvie 23 Jan 11 - 11:35 AM
Stringsinger 23 Jan 11 - 01:35 PM
Steve Gardham 23 Jan 11 - 06:01 PM
Valmai Goodyear 28 Jan 11 - 06:58 AM
Valmai Goodyear 28 Jan 11 - 07:08 AM
Jack Campin 28 Jan 11 - 07:12 AM
Valmai Goodyear 28 Jan 11 - 07:15 AM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 28 Jan 11 - 07:45 AM
Valmai Goodyear 28 Jan 11 - 07:45 AM
Valmai Goodyear 28 Jan 11 - 07:53 AM
GUEST, Tom Bliss 28 Jan 11 - 07:56 AM
Brian Peters 28 Jan 11 - 08:13 AM
Brian Peters 28 Jan 11 - 08:14 AM
GUEST, Tom Bliss 28 Jan 11 - 08:34 AM
Steve Lane 28 Jan 11 - 02:47 PM
MGM·Lion 28 Jan 11 - 11:26 PM
Taconicus 29 Jan 11 - 09:39 AM
Valmai Goodyear 29 Jan 11 - 11:27 AM
Barbara 29 Jan 11 - 01:35 PM
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Subject: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: GUEST,Natasha
Date: 17 Jan 11 - 05:38 PM

Hi there,

For my dissertation I am studying folk songs and how they have been altered by folklorists in accordance with their own/society's values.

I need your help in order to find as many altered songs as possible, which are substantially different from their original text. These changes can be through:

• Change of subject
• Change of meaning
• Removal of sexual content/double entendre
• Removal of bawdy language
• Removal of political content

A classic example is "The Keeper," a bawdy song about a huntsman preying on local women, which was censored by Cecil Sharp in order to make it "suitable" for children to sing. The altered version therefore depicted an actual hunting scene with no sexual connotations.

If you know of any songs similar to this which have numerous variations, or which have been notably changed from their original form, please answer the following question below:

Q. Are you aware of any British folk songs which have been significantly changed, either over time or via the intervention of folklorists?

(Please include the name of the song(s), approximate data of the songs' creation and/or change, the author and the geographical area of origin if known)

Thanks for your help!
Natasha


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Bill D
Date: 17 Jan 11 - 06:36 PM

hmmm...forgive my cynicism, but I thought research usually involved more than just having 'experts' send you all your material to just copy & rearrange.

But, I suppose some will call ME petty and provide lots of answers.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 17 Jan 11 - 06:43 PM

Well, I have no objection to giving my opinion on almost anything. To me the most unnecesary, foolish and inept changes are when they change from male to female or back again. Usually horribly clumsy and if you know the original very irksome. Lots of examples of this. mg


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Joe Offer
Date: 17 Jan 11 - 06:56 PM

Now, Bill, I would think that Mudcat would be a wonderful place to get leads on such things. Of course, the person writing the dissertation would then follow up with serious research and documentation. I mean, she's not asking us to write the dissertation, is she?

I spent the last half-hour looking for bawdy versions of "The Keeper," and had no luck. Can somebody point me in the right direction?

-Joe-


Here's the Roud Index Search, but Roud doesn't have a "PG-13" to point out which songs are bawdy....


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: EBarnacle
Date: 17 Jan 11 - 11:49 PM

During the auction, Jennifer sent me a copy of Bawdy British Folk Songs by McCarthy. The version of The Keeper in there is the same tame version we all learned in grade school. I can see how it could be allegorical but, unless you know the back story, there is no semblance of bawdiness there.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 04:49 AM

Hi, yes sorry it must look a bit strange asking on here but I was recommended to post a thread by someone, and I've found through looking through numerous books that the best people to ask about folk are the folk themselves! Though I hasten to add that I definately will not be simply cutting and pasting, this is just to be a pointer to more in depth research.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Marje
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 05:38 AM

I think it's an excellent way to broaden your research. A lot of what goes on in the transmission and evolution of songs is simply not documented, but many people here will be able to give some current or recent examples that you can then follow up.

Incidentally, Natasha, it'd be worth registering on Mudcat rather than staying as a "Guest". It gives you more credibility, and also it enables you to exchange personal messages with other individuals on the forum. It's easy to do, and doesn't result in spam or other nuisances.

Now I'll start thinking of some songs that have altered... actually it's harder to think of any that haven't, but I'll try to think about the important and persistent changes. It's an interesting project, good luck!

Marje


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Brian Peters
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 06:53 AM

Many old ballads either evolved or were recast by unknown hands, and lost overtly sexual and supernatural elements, e.g. Child #2 (Elfin Knight / Cambric Shirt), which is a great example of a piece that evolved ultimately into a nonsense song. Ballads often exist in dozens of variant forms, sometimes with substantial textual differences, but beware of talking about 'the original version' since in many cases that's not tracable. 'The earliest known version' is safer.

If you look at Vance Randolph's "Roll Me In Your Arms" collection of bawdy songs from the Ozarks, you'll find all manner of rude stuff - but are those songs parodies of 'clean' versions, or bawdy originals that are generally known to us in cleaned-up forms?

For analysis of what the collectors got up to, a good starting point is a Google search for 'Cecil Sharp + bowdlerized' or 'Baring-Gould + bowdlerized', which will turn up all kinds of results, including dozens from Mudcat that you don't necessarily find on an internal search. You might want to look at sea shanties as well. But a lot of that kind of alteration was inevitable for songs intended for publication.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 07:04 AM

I can vouch for the OP. She's a friend of my daughter at Leeds University and is a serious researcher. Please don't discourage a young enthusiast. Suggesting things for her to read and listen to is very vaulable. Apart from that, how is she to get hold of living material that's evolving without speaking to the people who sing and play it?

Thanks for the helpful replies.

Valmai (Lewes)

P.S. Another quite large area of change, I think, is where the supernatural element was removed from British songs travelling to America because it offended religious sensibilities.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 07:26 AM

A thought: has anyone filmed or recorded Leo Baker singing 'Get hold of this, get hold of that' which started life as 'When There Isn't A Girl About'? It's a good example of a fairly innocent song from the early 20th. century being changed into cheerful smut during the middle of the century - the reverse of bowdlerization.

Valmai (Lewes)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 08:22 AM

Highly to be recommended in connection with the topic of this thread, and of your research, are James Reeves' introductions to his editions of the manuscripts of Cecil Sharp and Baring-Gould, The Idiom Of The People and The Everlasting Circle.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 08:33 AM

Probably worth having a look at the way shanties got cleaned up both sexually and politically.

But the trouble is knowing what actually happened!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Brian Peters
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 08:35 AM

"Another quite large area of change, I think, is where the supernatural element was removed from British songs travelling to America because it offended religious sensibilities"

We discussed that at length here, Valmai. My own view is that supernatural elements disappeared in Britain as well, and that this was to do with the growth in rational belief as much as religious proscription. Ghosts and the Devil do turn up in North American ballads, and many of the really hairy witch ballads like Willie's Lady and Allison Gross, or the faerie ones like Tam Lin are known only from rare and old Scots versions. The Demon Lover lost its demon in Scotland as well as America.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Noreen
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 09:04 AM

Bill, I'm surprised- I thought you'd be all for encouraging an enthusiastic young lady in her study of traditional song.

Perhaps you'll come back without the curmudgeonly hat on... :)

Hi again Natasha, don't be put off- as you can see, there is a wealth of information here already for you to follow up.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 09:05 AM

Thanks, Brian - pure gold.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Bert
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 09:19 AM

There's "The Lincolnshire Poacher" which was quite likely bawdy itself originally but then it morphed to "The Chandler's Wife" which was then cleaned up AGAIN to "The Thing"


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: nutty
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 10:52 AM

Joe
I think this may be what you are looking for. I found it in the Bodleian.

The Frolicsome Keeper


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Sailor Ron
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 11:46 AM

Another group of 'folk songs' that were cleaned up for publication are servicemen's songs, take for instance 'Madomoselle from Armientire'[sorry about the spelling but you know the song I mean]and
'Bless them all'.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: CupOfTea
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 12:51 PM

Another area of "sanitation" that I've seen a fair bit of in recent years is taking the Christianity out of Gospel songs. This is in the US - no clue if the same is true in the UK & elsewhere.

There's a great repertoire of Gospel that gets sung in the Old Time Music/ Bluegrass/ Folk/ Blues continuum and in those groups you'll find a fair smattering of Jews, Unitarians and others who just aren't comfortable with some of the "blood of the Lamb" and specific reference to Jesus parts of songs that are just wonderful to sing.

Editorializing:
I've mixed feelings about those sorts of changes. I sing them as a Christian, and keep trying to ease the "folk/oldtime" gospel into (high Episcopal) church services when I can. Yet I see, understand, and respect that others do not hold the same belief.

When the words are changed because someone feels the power of the words expressing a belief they do not hold, and are doing it as a respectful difference of opinion, I see no foul.

However, when I hear Gospel hymns/songs with what to me are sacred references mocked or warped in disdainful ways, I get livid. When it appears to be making the Christianity "universally PC" I get quite irked. There's an example in a much maligned blue book that sets my teeth on edge - there are chapters of "gospel" "spirituals" and yet they saw fit to take a phrase about praying out of a song in another category.


Joanne in Cleveland who will sing "Angel Band anywhere with anyone.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Bill D
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 12:57 PM

"Perhaps you'll come back without the curmudgeonly hat on... :)"

Ok.. with a fuller explanation, I'll relent... :>)

I'll think on it a bit...(had a cold all week, and mind is running slow)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Brian Peters
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 02:04 PM

Nice broadside link, nutty.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 02:28 PM

Yes, shame on you, Bill.

'altered by folklorists in accordance with their own/society's values'

There is a strong tradition/necessity in this going back centuries, at least to Bishop Percy's time if not further back. You could start with Percy's 'Reliques' as this seems to have been one of the most influential.

His motives like most of his followers were led by thinking he could improve on the material. (Literary people of his own time thought that his bowdlerisation was an improvement, and some do even today.)

Later bowdlers like Scott and his gang used the excuse that they couldn't publish fragments. Many of the collectors/poets/editors of Scott's era had wealthy patrons and the likes of Scott & co altered ballads to put their patrons' families/ancestors in a better light or localised them to the area where their patrons lived.

The collectors of the late 19th/early 20th century, as has already been stated had to alter songs to suit the fashions acceptable to their intended buyers.

Even as late as the 1960s Frank Purslow was filling out oral texts from broadsides and joining fragments together to make a whole song.

It's difficult to criticise any of this as needs must. If Frank hadn't cobbled together the southern version of The Tailor's Britches we wouldn't have such a superb popular song!

The big crime comes when they publish a song/ballad that they claim is verbatim from oral tradition and patently this is a lie.

If you want some of the best examples, compare Baring Gould's 'Songs of the West' with the manuscripts, or Ethel Kidson's 'English Peasant Songs' with the songs they're based on.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 03:03 PM

Natasha,
A really good starting point would be Percy's 'Edward' and then compare it with versions from oral tradition in England and also Scotland.

If you are at Leeds then you are in a good place for getting hold of material. I would investigate what is in the Brotherton in terms of what work was done during Tony Green's days as part of the Folk Life course. There may be something in there that relates to what you are doing.

Although there is very little material left in Leeds applying to Kidson his whole family were from Leeds. Most of it ended up in the Mitchell Library, Glasgow. I think John Francmanis who did research into Kidson's work still lives in Leeds and Vic Gammon would have his contact details. If you want to be really adventurous you could look at how much bowdlerisation Kidson himself got upto in 'Traditional Tunes'. Virgin territory! On the face of it he simply left out anything inappropriate for 1891 not having any qualms about publishing fragments.

There is interesting information in the EFDSS journals regarding Sharp's attitude to bawdy material. Apparently he wasn't particularly squeamish about it.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 03:05 PM

"Many of the collectors/poets/editors of Scott's era had wealthy patrons and the likes of Scott & co altered ballads to put their patrons' families/ancestors in a better light..."
Is there anywhere we could read up this information Steve?
I have always understood that many of the colleectors, particularly in the Victorian era, were forced to edit material in order to get it published - not to say that some didn't deliberately 'improve' their songs, just that the motive you have attributed to the collectors seems a little too definitive to me.
The piece of blatent censorship that always rankles with me is that of E J Moeran when he announced of 'The Girl of Lowestoft' - or 'The Hole in the Wall'; "The words are indecent and not of interest or value, so they have not been noted".
As far as I know, the song has not survived elsewhere.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 06:56 PM

I think just about all of the books on Scott over the last century mention the patronage of Buccleuch and how Buccleuch's ancestors always are seen in the best light in his published versions. And of course Scott himself actually eventually regretted the editorial amendments he made. Peter Buchan had similar patronage from the local Laird in Aberdeenshire (His title escapes me at the moment) and somehow Peter's versions often are relocated to places in Aberdeenshire. When I can place my hands on some of the books I'll post them for you.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 18 Jan 11 - 07:16 PM

Dink's song was quite interesting. Initially collected by Lomax from a womam called Dink, washing clothes and living in a tent on the banks of the Brazos River.

In the 1960's the catchy chorus was used as the basis of a song by numerous flash acoustic guitarists and the narrators sex was frequently changed.

It was a golden time for acoustic guitarists - many of the greatest folk style players emerged at that point. they harnessed the power of a folksong into another more fashionable form.

Really in a way - you need look no further than Bob Dylan - who used franklin, Lord randall, Nottanum Town and others- to make existentialist and political statements. Another reshaping of folksong for contemporary values. Tom Paxton used The Limerick rake for The High Sherriff of Hazard.

That's what an artist does. Re-shape and re-ignite the power within the song. this business of being a curator of tradition and not changing anything - well it has its adherents - lets leave it at that. I don't want to kick that hornet's nest over.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Bert
Date: 19 Jan 11 - 01:40 AM

Then there's my very own Silicone cindy


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Jan 11 - 04:07 AM

"...all of the books on Scott over the last century..."
Sorry Steve; have read the introductions (where they exist) to most of the ballad collections, also the few accounts of the work of collectors that I could lay my hands on, incuding Scott's own Journal, and could find no hard-and-fast 'motives' for their having carried out the edititing that they did (or were claimed to have done) other than that they were 'prisoners of their own particular period'.
The bravest stab at examining the work and inspiration of the collectors seems to be (haven't had time to read it fully yet) E David Gregory's newishly published 'The Late Victorian Folksong Revival', and that falls short due to lack of contemporary information.
One of the great gaps in our knowedge of folk-songs is, of course any input by the singers/songmakers themselves; nobody seemed to be too interested in what they did/thought, and now it is too late.
We do have fairly modern examples of singers and collectors editing songs in order not to offend their audiences and readers.
I must have listened to MacColl singing 'Browned Off' a hundred times before I heard the verse:

"The medical inspection, it is a bleedin' farce,
They grope around your bollocks and they finger up your arse,
For even a private's privates enjoy no privacy,
You sacrifice all that to save democracy."

Not a folk song of course, but an example of one being censored for the sake of 'the ould decency'.
Source singers have been known to cut their songs so as not to give offence - it took us several efforts to record the last verse of the Co. Clare version of John Barleycorn which tells of the drunkard "pissing me against the wall", because of the singer's habit of deliberately mumbling the last line.
Elderly Clare singer Tom Lenihan always cut out a 'sexist' verse of one of his most beautiful songs, 'Cailín Deas Crúit na mBó' (Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow) when he sang it for us, for fear of giving offence to Pat.

An old maid is like an old almanac,
Quite useless when once out of date.
If her ware isn't sold in the morning
At noon it must fall to low rate.
Oh, the fragrence of May is all over
The rose leaves its beauty, you know.
All bloom is consumed in October,
Sweet cailín deas crúit na mbó.

Sorry for being a bit long-winded, but I am still convinced that folk song is very much a foreign country with strange customs that we don't fully understand, and probably never will.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 19 Jan 11 - 01:19 PM

Refresh


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 19 Jan 11 - 04:28 PM

I see nothing wrong with asking for suggestions.

I remember hearing of a very old song that contained the line:

"Christ, that my love were in my arms, and I in my bed again."

which was changed to

"Oh that my love were in my arms, or I in my bed again."

You can look up the details.

The song is so old, the spelling might be different.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 19 Jan 11 - 04:42 PM

"Notes and Queries" is probably a good place to look.

I mean the publication, not the column in The Guardian.

I remember reading where a certain antiquarian said, "The song as a whole is too vulgar to print here, but the chorus goes…"—or words to that effect.

You might do well to search for the word "vulgar" or whatever other pejorative synonyms the Victorians used to imply that something was unsuitable for print.

Especially if one scholar said a song was "too vulgar to print" but another scholar printed it, that might be a clue that the printed version had been cleaned up.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Jan 11 - 05:22 PM

Turns out we had a thread on Cecil Sharp's bowdlerization of "The Keeper."

I'm sure there are a lot of songs that have had religious elements removed - Parting Glass used to end, "Good luck and God be with you all." Now it's "joy be with you all," and I'm not complaining.

Natasha, I think the Randolph-Legman book titled Roll Me In Your Arms might be a big help to you. As I understand it, Vance Randolph published most of the songs he collected in his four-volume Ozark Folksongs, but apparently he withheld many he thought to be too bawdy. You'll find an index and a lot more information on Randolph-Legman in this thread. I suppose you're already familiar with this work, along with Cray's Erotic Muse and Legman's Horn Book.

Oh, one other thing - I wonder if "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" (pro-war) and "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye" (anti-war) would fall within the purview of your dissertation.

Good luck.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 20 Jan 11 - 05:18 AM

Jim, I think the song you are thinking of is O Westron Wind, When Wilt Thou Blow; that one goes back to Tudor times.

Joe, When Johnny Comes Marching Home is a curious one. I think the tune is a minor version of Mademoiselle from Armentiers, which also spawned the extremely rude Three German Officers Crossed The Line ... which in turn is a parody of a sentimental song in German ... perhaps we'd better leave the tune variants alone or the whole project will get unbearably complicated.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Mo the caller
Date: 20 Jan 11 - 06:17 AM

Versions of the song 'No John' were collected by Cecil Sharp and he published a version suitable for use in schools.
In 'The Idiom of the People' you can find the words he actually collected.
The story remains of a lady who says no but changes her mind when further questions are asked (while following the instruction to always say no), but in the school version she has no husband, garter or bedroom (that we hear about), and it all ends in wedding bells not adultery.
No doubt there is a thread about it. Putting 'no john' into the search box at the top left hand side of the home page gives 3 songs in the DT and scores of threads some of which may be relevant.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 20 Jan 11 - 08:17 AM

I like some of Cecil Charp's censuring - Gently Me Johnny comes to mind, which by being less explicit becomes more powerfully erotic in its tender playfulness.

I altered one the other day by way of free-styling in performance. The song is Ca' The Horse Me Marra which I believe Bet Lloyd included somewhere, but I got of my mate Clive Powell who set it to what sees like its natural melody. It contains the line He hews the coals deep me lads, and drives the boards wide, which became drives the bords wild in my rendering - bords being the lasses of the Tyne. I thought I was being clever, but I received a thump from the wife afterwards...


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Taconicus
Date: 20 Jan 11 - 09:27 AM

Perhaps more interesting would be a study of songs that have not altered over time. Except I don't think you'll find any.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 21 Jan 11 - 05:14 AM

Have a look at the thread called Four White Horses??. The trouble here is that no-one's giving printed references, which I imagine you'd need for a dissertation, but it's an interesting set of children's variations on what was probably a shanty to begin with.

For information about children's songs and games, see the book by Iona & Peter Opie: The Singing Game. It's subtitled 'The Musical Playground: Global Tradition and Change in Children's Songs and Games'.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: NatashaJohanson
Date: 21 Jan 11 - 05:44 AM

Wow thanks everyone, brilliant help! I am going to attempt to delve into the archives of Cecil Sharp House if I can, to find some of the broadsides and compare them to editions found in folk collectors' work. Is there anywhere online where these broadsides can be found?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 21 Jan 11 - 06:21 AM

A few anyway - here's a coupole to be going on with:

Axon Ballad Collection

Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: EBarnacle
Date: 21 Jan 11 - 09:15 AM

One source not mentioned yet is the Stan Hugill collection. His wife and family have not, as far as I know, published his ribald material. He originally gave a couple dozen to Legman but Legman never published the work. Sarafina barely touches on it.

If you can establish your bona fides with the family it is possible they will cooperate with you.

I would really like to see this material unsupressed.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Jan 11 - 09:47 AM

"delve into the archives of Cecil Sharp House if I can, to find some of the broadsides and compare them to editions found in folk collectors' work"
Not sure what conclusions you will be able to draw from this; there is no tangible evidence that folksongs started life as broadsides, but plenty that it was the other way round
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: RobbieWilson
Date: 21 Jan 11 - 11:09 AM

Natasha, there are also many interesting threads here in Mudcat which might well provide you with starting points. Two which I remember intrigued me are "Froggie went a courting" which started off life as, if my memory seves me, a sixteenth century Scottish, political satire and Lord Randall, which morphed into many songs most notably "Where have you been all the day Billy Boy"

While many, if not most of the versions of the frog's wedding have become just another beatrix potter tpe kid's animal story you don't have to look far for the original xenophobic warning. When Leadbelly concludes with "There'll be no tadpoles all covered in fur" you can hear the old gossips say " I'm telling you no good will come of it." The song has crossed the ocean and been used in diverse cultures for the same old message.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Jan 11 - 01:11 PM

Jim 'there is no tangible evidence that folksongs started life as broadsides, but plenty that it was the other way round'.

At the risk of hijacking someone else's thread and to return the compliment, what evidence would that be then, Jim? I can at least show you the earliest manifestation of the vast majority of folksongs is actually on a printed piece of street literature. How you can present any evidence that precedes this beats me.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 21 Jan 11 - 01:14 PM

Valmai correctly identified the song I was thinking of.

The original form, which is easy to find in anthologies nowadays, is:

Westron wynde, when wyll thow blow,
the smalle rayne downe can Rayne
Chryst yf my love were in my armys
and I yn my bed a gayne.

It was published in that form, and with musical notation, in Ancient Songs: from the Time of King Henry the Third, to the Revolution edited by Joseph Ritson (London: J. Johnson, 1790), page lv.

However, when the same song appeared in Popular Music of the Olden Time by William Chappell (London: Cramer, Beale & Chappell, 1859), page 58, it was changed to:

Westron wynde when wyll thou blow?
The smalle rain downe 'doth' rayne;
'Oh!' if my love were in my armys,
'Or' I in my bed agayne.

Note that he uses single quotes (inverted commas) as a subtle admission that he had changed something.

But maybe this doesn't fit within the scope of your thesis, since these scholars had not collected the song in the wild, so to speak, but had found it in an old manuscript from the era of Henry VIII.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: framus
Date: 21 Jan 11 - 01:45 PM

I know from personal experience that a Hamish Imlac (not ancient, but tomorrow's folk) song, The Orange Juice Song*, was widely adapted to fit into a Norn' Ireland context back in the 60/70s.
We included local place names such as the Starlight Ballroom the Falls and the line "Sandbags over the Peace Line" was definitely used in a slightly lewd context.
This from Grace Neill's, inter alia, a long time ago.

AKA Hairy Mary.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 03:39 AM

"At the risk of hijacking someone else's thread and to return the compliment, what evidence would that be then, Jim? I can at least show you the earliest manifestation of the vast majority of folksongs is actually on a printed piece of street literature"
We've beeen here before Guest.
There is no evidence whatever that printed versions, no matter how early, were not in existence before appearing on broadsides. What evidence can you produce that the songs you have are the "earliest manisestations"?
The broadside trade was still in existance in Ireland up to the 1950s and the practice was to take existing songs and sell them on the streets in rural Ireland - there is no evidence of one of those songs being written by the printer or seller. We interviewed one of the last of these sellers at length and he told us as much - "why go to the trouble, there were plenty of songs around?"
Added to which, how likely is it that there existed a 'school' of composers, writing in an identifyable style, with a full grasp of the vernacular, slang, trade terms, folklore,.... and all that went in to the making of our folksongs, who still managed to remain 'anon'?
This isn't to say that some of our folksongs didn't originate on the broadside presses, they probably did, but we have no idea which, nor do we know what proportion, so to draw any hard and fast conclusions would be a waste of time in my opinion.
It has always been the practice of communities, certainly the ones we have collected in, to express their lives and experiences in song form (the non-literate Travellers are still doing it). It is far more likely that it was this practice that gave rise to our folk song repertoire rather than a broadside trade remote from these communities.
As I said, if you have evidence otherwise.....
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Marje
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 04:14 AM

I suppose the wisest thing is to regard the printed broadsides as a snapshot of a song, showing how it was sung at a particular time, rather than being a definitive or original version. The same applies, really, to the versions of songs collected orally from "source" singers, who are in most cases not the original "source" at all, but song carriers who demonstrate one version of a song as it was heard in one place at one time. This doesn't in any way invalidate these versions of songs, but it should be remembered that their true origins and history may never be known.

To find more modern versions of songs that may have been abbreviated, simplified or bowdlerised, it's worth checking out some of the popular song books of the middle of the 20th century, e.g. Daily Express Community Song Book or National Youth Song Book, or the Mozart Allen-published paperback collections with titles such as Scotland Calling. In the latter, for instance, there is a three-verse version of what they call "The Queen's Maries" (aka Four Marys or Mary Hamilton), which is about her impending death but makes no allusion to the killing of the illegitimate baby, possibly fathered by the King, which appears in longer versions of the song. Another Scots song that is regularly (and in the same book) seen in a cleaned-up version is John Anderson My Jo, which is very explicitly sexual in at least one of Burns' versions.

Although sexual content was often removed in songs of that period, political correctness was yet to make its mark, and it was apparently quite OK to sing about "niggers" or the joys of wife-beating until relatively recently. You will note that I'm not alluding coyly to the "N-word" - this may offend some people but I can't see how you can write about censorship and bowdlerisation without using the words that are the subject of the processes.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 05:50 AM

Marge:
"suppose the wisest thing is to regard the printed broadsides as a snapshot of a song, showing how it was sung at a particular time,"
Ballad scholar David Buchan went as far as to suggest that, within the ballad singing tradition there were no set texts but just plots and a number of commonplaces and conventions.
He proposed that a ballad singer took these and re-composed the song each time he or she sang it.
I don't believe he made his case completely, but it's an inriguing thought.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: brezhnev
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 07:51 AM

natasha, you could look at this thread on the blackleg miner


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 23 Jan 11 - 07:38 AM

I've just found an interesting quote on the 'Anne & Gordeanna Ballad Workshop' page on Facebook. It's quoted by Ronnie Clark:

'The quote is from Margaret Laidlaw (1730-1813), the mother of James Hogg (aka The Ettrick Shepherd, also responsible for "Jacobite Relics" et alia).
When Sir Walter Scott was gathering material for The Border Minstrelsy, Margaret Laidlaw was one of his sources. After The Minstrelsy was published, she was quoted as having said to Scott -
"There war never ane o' my songs prentit till ye prentit them yersel', an' ye hae spolit them awthegither. They were made for singin' an' no' for reading; but ye hae broken the charm noo, an' they'll never be sung mair. An' the worst thing o' a', they're nouther richt spellt nor richt settin' doon." (End quote)

This shows a source singer feeling that a collector had altered her songs as he wrote them down. 'Nor richt settin' doon' means that she thought he'd written them down wrong, as well as that the act of writing them down broke their spell.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Ged Fox
Date: 23 Jan 11 - 08:11 AM

Nothing to do with bowdlerising, but fitting the OP in some respects:
the change from the C16th patriotic song "In eighty-eight ere I was born" to the C17th anti-heroic "Sir John Suckling's campaign."

The latter is consistent with the mid-C17th debunking of the high-flown Elizabethan sentiment, cf Suckling's "Why so pale and wan fond lover."


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Ged Fox
Date: 23 Jan 11 - 08:14 AM

Duh - "In eighty eight.." was, presumably early C17, unless it was written by a child - but the argument still holds.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 23 Jan 11 - 11:24 AM

'Marge:
"suppose the wisest thing is to regard the printed broadsides as a snapshot of a song, showing how it was sung at a particular time,"
Ballad scholar David Buchan went as far as to suggest that, within the ballad singing tradition there were no set texts but just plots and a number of commonplaces and conventions.
He proposed that a ballad singer took these and re-composed the song each time he or she sang it.
I don't believe he made his case completely, but it's an inriguing thought.
Jim Carroll'

Well I think it is the case. The New Deserter folksong was altered from Prince Rupert to Prince Albert, and presumably fell out of use when we stopped the practice of flogging deserters. If you wanted to grab an audiences attention - surely you would be writing about stuff that was happening nowadays. History relegates or demands the re-arranging of the form.

If you did a murder ballad - say about the fred West case or the recent Joanna Yeates case - while the relatives still mourn, while the world is still reeling from the shock - then perhaps you would not recreate what an earlier generation did, but take it to another place. A more modern place. who knows?

Ewan MaCcoll tried to do something with his songs about Derek Bentley. maybe even dylan with his Hatties carrol song. Ewan got a good kicking from the newspapers - who accused him of bad taste at the time, but perhaps that indicates he was on the right track. Hanging an innocent man is not in good taste, it leaves a bad taste.

I suppose in Ireland, in the recent troubles they tried to reinvigorate the old finger pointing style of the great rebel ballads. And I think they have had some success.

In conclusion, if you see a young man or woman trying to rewrite the old Vietnam songs to take in Afghanistan and Iraq, I would ask older folksingers to be patient and not accuse them of navel gazing. they may be getting it wrong, but they are wrestling with the form, and i think that puts them on the side of the angels.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Ian Fyvie
Date: 23 Jan 11 - 11:35 AM

There's a book called something like "Bawdy Ballads" which I have 'somewhere' (just looked - can't find it!).
.
Being compiled by Roy Bailey (or someone of equal standing) it is well researched and will probably cover the sorts of variations sought.

Ian Fyvie


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Stringsinger
Date: 23 Jan 11 - 01:35 PM

Natasha, all of them are altered. That's what makes them folk songs.

First printed edition of a song does not mean that's the first way it was sung.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 23 Jan 11 - 06:01 PM

Stringsinger,
Please read the OP before commenting.

Of course the first printed edition of a song does not mean that's the first way it was sung, but when you have studied the relationship between popular song, street literature and oral tradition in minute detail for 40+ years you are allowed to hold the opinion that the vast majority of these first printings were the first manifestations of them. Of course many of them had their first appearance on a stage somewhere. Try and prove otherwise.

Jim,
Apologies for posting as GUEST a few days ago. I'm sure you knew it was me. I did try to own up but my message vanished, like many others.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 28 Jan 11 - 06:58 AM

Natasha, you may need to open Mudcat in two or three windows simultaneously to cross-check some of these refererences.

Here's a splendid example of a song evolving into lots of different forms, discussed on Mudcat with a good many useful references: Origins: Shepherd Lad.
The thread includes the sanitised version printed in Baring Gould & Sharp's Folk Songs for Schools and notes that it's 'an insipid departure from Child ballad 112'.

Some related threads are referenced at the top of the Shepherd Lad thread. They don't include a further variation of the song, which uses the same tune and a similar chorus, but is now about whaling: The Eclipse. This gave rise in its turn to an American version which I can't recall - I will try to find it.

Valmai (Lewes)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 28 Jan 11 - 07:08 AM

Here's another thread discussing the mutation of the English sea-song Spanish Ladies into the whaling song Talcahuano Girls. The thread mentions about ten versions from Nelson's day and a Newfoundland version as well, but doesn't quote it in full.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Jack Campin
Date: 28 Jan 11 - 07:12 AM

I know from personal experience that a Hamish Imlac (not ancient, but tomorrow's folk) song, The Orange Juice Song*, was widely adapted to fit into a Norn' Ireland context back in the 60/70s.

It was written by Carl Macdougall. Imlach's contribution was to make it into a drunken macho anthem complete with ape grunts, in line with what a lot of male revival singers and groups of the time were doing (most famously the Clancy Brothers). There wasn't much change in the text (I think he left a verse or two out) but a substantial change in meaning.

"The Wild Rover" got an even more drastic transformation with even less textual change. Moralistic temperance song to drinking anthem.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 28 Jan 11 - 07:15 AM

Here the Child ballad The Cruel Mother becomes the playground song Weela Waila.

As I learned it in my primary school days the cruel mother was 'Old Mother Lee'. If she was an 'old mother' she might have been a baby farmer
rather than the actual mother of the child.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 28 Jan 11 - 07:45 AM

I don't like to picture hamish Imlach as a grunting ape. i never knew the guy, but i thought he was one of the neatest guitar pickers i ever saw. Somewhere in the chubby guy with a devil may care demeanour lurked someone who cared deeply about his guitar playing. You don't get that good by not caring.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 28 Jan 11 - 07:45 AM

This is a smashing example of the oral tradition improving a rather stuffy and clumsy original: Shepherd of the Downs, now sung by the Copper Family of Sussex, can be traced back to 'The Tea-Table Miscellany' published in Edinburgh in 1723, and a broadside version from between 1741 and 1762.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 28 Jan 11 - 07:53 AM

The Copper family of Sussex also sing a song called Christmas Song or The Trees Are All Bare.
The discussion in that thread brings up the original, 'Winter', by Thomas Brerewood, published 1783, and again the version which has been weathered by the tradition is better, to modern ears at least. 'Peasant inactive' sounds like a grammatical term.

The Sussex source singer George Townsend also had a version of this song. It is on the CD 'Come Hand To Me The Glass'. I can lend you a copy, Natasha.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: GUEST, Tom Bliss
Date: 28 Jan 11 - 07:56 AM

Natasha, perhaps I can add a thought which might be useful in terms of setting some context for the concept of alterations to traditional songs (something I've done and do a lot - I'm currently writing a whole musical made entirely of trad songs re-written, in fact).

There is a theory which views the tradition as an essentially destructive system, albeit one heavily influenced by periodic acts of reconstruction.

We use the analogy of a river, and of course they do more than flow - they also erode.

People mishear and forget words, flatten out tunes, muddle one song up with another - and generally degrade the original writer's intention - and you can see this clearly when you listen to source recordings, or in fact visit a club and listen to people singing songs you know.

I think most people who ferret about in the archives looking for forgotten songs to present to new audiences today will find (as I'm doing right now as it happens) that a certain amount of editing, restoration, reconstruction, reinvention etc is necessary if the song going to stand up against the rest of the repertoire - and I personally think that there have always been people who did this rebuilding work (it may be one of the main causes of variants in fact).

Some people were and are happy to present a song exactly as found/heard - either because its condition (even if parlous) is part of the story, or because they're just not comfortable with changing things - but most of us will 'correct' any obvious 'errors' that seem to have crept in.

I know you're interested in deliberate alteration for political (small 'p') reasons, but it's worth bearing in mind that the requirement for alteration often comes first - just as one would need to replace the missing leg on an old table and give it a polish before you could sell it as an antique.

And of course when making repairs to a song, one effectively takes on at least the mantle of a songwriter - and in so doing are liable to introduce your own personal value system into the work, possible unconsciously.

Tom (in Leeds, as it happens)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Brian Peters
Date: 28 Jan 11 - 08:13 AM

All very true, but I think we might be losing sight of the things the OP was looking for in the first place, namely:

• Change of subject
• Change of meaning
• Removal of sexual content/double entendre
• Removal of bawdy language
• Removal of political content

'The Wild Rover' has changed from a temperance song to a drinking song without substantial change in the lyric (the song remains consistent in that the subject is going to "play the wild rover no more" in the modern popular version); it's more the manner in which it's usually sung that's given it a different slant.

'Weela Weila' is a vulgarized, 'street' version of the older ballad, but I'm not sure if the changes (e.g. from 'after-life' to 'here-and-now' punishment) really fit with the above criteria, either.

The continuing debate about the precise origins of particular folk songs ('commercial' versus 'bucolic') is less relevant to this discussion than the changes that occurred in those songs during their evolution through various broadside and oral versions, and whether these involved simply 'folk process' or deliberate rewriting.

I must mention again one of my favourite alterations, in the version of Child 68 ('Young Hunting') sung by Frank Proffitt of North Carolina, in which the change of sex from maidservant to manservant allows a sexual element to emerge which is absent in all other known versions. There was also a back story involving necrophilia - but no-one seems to know where these shocking details were added - somewhere in FP's family?

I've already mentioned Child 2 as an example of the loss of sexual and supernatural content over time; similarly, the oldest version (17th C broadside) of Child 1 (Riddles...) includes the lyric "she went to bed to this young knight", whereas by the time the ballad appeared in Gilbert's Christmas Carols 150 years later the formulation had changed to the innocent: "she was resolved to wed with this young knight".

Of course there were many poetic interventions in ballads going right back to Percy - as Steve said - but I'm not sure how many of those involved a change of meaning or removal of sexual content, as opposed to what the culprits believed to be 'improvements'.

Most of A. L. Lloyd's alterations (Guest Natasha, you really should look at the Bertsongs? thread!) seem to have been 'improvements' as well, although he did introduce the supernatural into 'Reynardine', and a subtle but politically expedient change of social status to 'The Handweaver and the Factory Maid'.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Brian Peters
Date: 28 Jan 11 - 08:14 AM

Sorry Tom, cross-posted. You clearly haven't lost sight of the OP's question.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: GUEST, Tom Bliss
Date: 28 Jan 11 - 08:34 AM

Hi Brian - yes, I guess what I'm saying is that sometimes quite major changes are made just to make the song 'good' rather than necessarily to make it 'safe' - but of course the changer's own views can often mean that 'good' is in fact 'safe.' T


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Steve Lane
Date: 28 Jan 11 - 02:47 PM

One thing comes to mind is to review childrens' song books and see how many contain versions of traditional songs.

A specific example comes to mind when I was singing 'The Shearing's Not for You' (per Stephen Sedley's Seeds of Love) and my mother was disgusted as in her Glaswegian school she had learned it as 'Will ye gang to Kelvin Grove my Bonnie laddio' and firmly believed that folkies were just making up rude words to nice songs.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 28 Jan 11 - 11:26 PM

Steve: Did you notice that Stephen Sedley mentions this rewrite by one Thomas Lyle in his note on "The Shearing..." in Seeds Of Love, adding that the tune is generally therefore known as Kelvingrove.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Taconicus
Date: 29 Jan 11 - 09:39 AM

A hundred years from now, musicologists and folklorists will probably credit as one of the biggest reasons for folk song lyrics having been changed as, "the failure of the old Mudcat Internet forum to include an edit feature that would have let posters correct their posts of folk song lyrics once they realized they'd made a mistake in the posting."

;-)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Valmai Goodyear
Date: 29 Jan 11 - 11:27 AM

How about that fine old song to the tune of the Sailor's Hornpipe, 'Do Your Balls Hang Low' being reduced to 'Do Your Ears Hang Low' in scouting circles? It's certainly an example of a song being cleaned up for polite consumption.

Valmai


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Altered folk songs
From: Barbara
Date: 29 Jan 11 - 01:35 PM

Take six :: Take Six home page
library.efdss.org


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