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Sexual identity & trad folk music

Desert Dancer 05 Dec 12 - 02:52 PM
DebC 05 Dec 12 - 03:39 PM
Jeri 05 Dec 12 - 05:27 PM
GloriaJ 06 Dec 12 - 09:25 AM
Desert Dancer 07 Dec 12 - 02:13 PM
GUEST,Danny Vogel 30 Apr 17 - 04:33 PM
Leadfingers 30 Apr 17 - 05:33 PM
Jeri 30 Apr 17 - 06:10 PM
Jack Campin 30 Apr 17 - 06:50 PM
Mo the caller 01 May 17 - 04:42 AM
Mrrzy 01 May 17 - 07:46 AM
GUEST,Some bloke 01 May 17 - 09:03 AM
Big Al Whittle 01 May 17 - 09:17 AM
Jeri 01 May 17 - 09:51 AM
GUEST,Some bloke 01 May 17 - 02:06 PM
oldhippie 01 May 17 - 05:30 PM
Mo the caller 05 May 17 - 03:25 AM
Mo the caller 05 May 17 - 03:28 AM
GUEST,LynnH 05 May 17 - 01:28 PM
Joe_F 05 May 17 - 03:59 PM
GUEST,LynnH 06 May 17 - 04:43 AM
GUEST 06 May 17 - 02:04 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 07 May 17 - 12:59 PM
Jackaroodave 07 May 17 - 02:22 PM
Jackaroodave 07 May 17 - 02:38 PM
GUEST,LynnH 07 May 17 - 03:15 PM
GUEST,Some bloke 07 May 17 - 03:58 PM
The Sandman 07 May 17 - 05:15 PM
The Sandman 07 May 17 - 05:23 PM
The Sandman 07 May 17 - 05:29 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 07 May 17 - 11:07 PM
Jackaroodave 08 May 17 - 01:34 AM
GUEST,Dick Miles guest 08 May 17 - 02:00 AM
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Subject: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 05 Dec 12 - 02:52 PM

A preface:

Two years ago there was a thread on the subject of sexual identity, specifically to discuss prejudice against folk performers' transsexuality and gender transition in the UK. The thread took a little time to get running productively. Many of the initial responses to the thread were that any discussion was inappropriate because it intruded into the privacy of performers -- responses in sympathy with those being discussed, but attempting to close down discussion.

With this post, however, a wonderful thread got going because someone (posting anonymously) spoke honestly of her own experience of transition.

In the work for LGBT rights in recent years it has become clear that visibility is a generally a good thing: the more often that we can understand each other as individual human beings the better we get at overcoming fears or hate and accepting the diversity of humanity. It is human to assume "others are thinking the way I am" and "others are experiencing life as I am". The processes of confronting difference ("confronting" in the sense of facing with open eyes, ears, and hearts) and finding true sympathy and commonality is a challenge, but of great value, I believe.

In that vein:

Here is some interesting reading from No Depression, an online magazine/forum on roots music:

Devon Léger, of Hearth Music (a roots-Americana-world music promotion agency in the US Pacific Northwest), has written an article that he says is the first in a series on the topic of sexual identity and traditional music and performance of traditional music, Gay Traditions: Talking with Stepdancer and Trad Singer Nic Gareiss

He says,
I wanted to know more about how Nic [Gareiss] navigates the world of traditional songs, in which same sex love is so rarely mentioned, and how he feels he fits into the tradition as it is today. As one of the best step dancers in the world, I also wanted to know what he'd uncovered in his research on sexuality and traditional dancing. To further the discussion, I also talked to singer, dancer, and concertina player Brian Ó hAirt of the Irish-American group Bua, who brought a very different perspective from Nic's.

To reiterate, Nic and Brian, two young men who are active in the performance of Irish traditional music and dance, have different thoughts about how to view and perform the tradition given the lens of their homosexuality. They also speak about their interaction with audiences and tradition-bearers they have learned from. Both are based in the Pacific Northwest, and I think I can safely say that Portland and Seattle are hotbeds of folk music and progressive politics. But, both men have traveled around the U.S. and in Ireland (and probably elsewhere) in their performance and study of music and dance, and interacted with people in a variety of communities and contexts.

The first comment there, from songwriter Kim Ruehl, adds a bit on the topic from the southeast US.

I'm not copying or excerpting the text here so that I don't impose my own filters on the text -- I hope you'll read it all.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: DebC
Date: 05 Dec 12 - 03:39 PM

Thanks for this, Becky. Great article.

Debra


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: Jeri
Date: 05 Dec 12 - 05:27 PM

I read part of the article, and will try to finish it, but it seemed mostly like common sense and trying to figure out the way the world works. I confess I got distracted by the wonderful music, including the dancing, the smiles on the musicians' faces and the joy. Maybe that's the ideal, anyway--the music comes first and a person's sexuality is, although important to the individual, incidental to the music and those who listen.


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: GloriaJ
Date: 06 Dec 12 - 09:25 AM

I cant think of any truly traditional songs in the British folksong canon that really give an LGBT perspective.The "cross-dressing" songs,like The Handsome Cabin Boy etc are,it seems to me, going into taboo areas for the entertainment of the listener - shock value,even.The Tailor's Britches is the only song I can recall without working too hard on it,about male-female cross-dressing - and he is obviously an object of ridicule in the song.Even though I love trad song and storytelling,one criticism one might make of it is the utterly conventional conservative moral outlook on social life - traditional storytelling is even worse, for all its fairies and ghosts.Its stuck somewhere between 1837 and the 1950s.The songs on the subject of LGBT identity are being written today e.g. by O'Hooley and Tildow, and, dare I say it, my own "Canal Street" about the Manchester village. Whether they will survive or not is another matter,- even I've got tired of singing "Canal Street".
I liked the interview, and the music's good - although I'm not sure we need any more versions of Nic Jones classics,surely Martin Simpson has covered them all at least twice already.
Gay identity is not always apparent in a performer, but if you're transgender,like me - it's a big part of the performance.I must say,over here, I've found the folk world ,on the whole remarkably accepting.


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 07 Dec 12 - 02:13 PM

I find myself more in sympathy with Brian's stance than Nic's, but I can't fault Nic for trying to find something more to identify with. In the spectrum of approaches to trad folk music, I don't find it to be beyond acceptable for my tastes.

GloriaJ, I agree on the Nic Jones song front, mostly, but as I move into codgerhood I have to remind myself that it's all new to some folks. ;-)

By the way, I had the chance to experience Brian and the group, Bua, in a house concert this year in Tucson. He really is a wonderful performer (as is evident by the recordings at the article).

I'll try to keep track and catch the next article(s) in this series and post the links here.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: GUEST,Danny Vogel
Date: 30 Apr 17 - 04:33 PM

I'm a little late to the party but I've considered this before too. I mostly work in phases and have not yet hit my "queer identity through trad. song and ballad" phase, but consider Willy of Winsbury (Child 100).   The father/king's attraction to Willie was a mitigating factor in his approval. He was going to hang Willie until he found out what a babe he was!


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: Leadfingers
Date: 30 Apr 17 - 05:33 PM

Bear in mind that homosexual acts were illegal in UK until 1967 , and even 'The Nobles' were liable to prosecution ! Lord Byron for example


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: Jeri
Date: 30 Apr 17 - 06:10 PM

There's also Short Jacket & White Trousers, with the lines:
One night as she lay drowsing, she was ready for her bed,
Our captain heaved a sigh and said, "I wish you was a maid.
Your cherry cheeks and ruby lips they have beguiled me
And I've often wished with all my heart you could my sweetheart be."

"But hold your tongue, dear Captain, you know such talk's in vain,
For if our shipmates should come to hear they would make sport and game.
But when that we do go ashore some pretty girls we'll find
For to ramble along with us bold lads, seeing as you're that way inclined."

It's impossible to say if this person or the one Danny referred to in Willie o' Winsbury were saying that they understood those guy's appreciation by the opposite sex, or they were stating THEY felt that way, but that was the whole point. And in "Short Jacket", you can get bogged down in semantics. The beguiling happened when the captain believed the person was male.


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: Jack Campin
Date: 30 Apr 17 - 06:50 PM

Bear in mind that homosexual acts were illegal in UK until 1967

There are lots of songs about poaching and piracy, which were even more illegal. The problem with songs about unstraight sexuality was that they violated commonly held mores. Legality didn't come into it - the law simply reflected general public opinion.

But you don't have to go all that far to find cultures where it's different:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Femminiello

The southern Italians found ways of tolerating - in fact celebrating - modes of being that the British couldn't handle.


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: Mo the caller
Date: 01 May 17 - 04:42 AM

"Legality didn't come into it - the law simply reflected general public opinion."
But the change in the law has led as well as reflected changing public opinion. It is easy to dismiss something if is illegal - no need to think hard about it, you (they) can't do that. Once it is legal then you CAN do it without danger from the law (but must decide how open to be), and as it becomes more open it becomes more normal in the mind of people who are happy in conventional roles themselves.


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: Mrrzy
Date: 01 May 17 - 07:46 AM

I'm surprised I missed the initial thread, thanks for reposting, and for the article.

I get a lot of fish-eyes *from people who already knew me* when I remind them I have no gender any more, or that I have both, whichever the audience is comfortable with. That allows for one-on-one conversations that generally go well.

I don't get a lot of anything from strangers when I say that, even though to the eye, I appear to belong clearly to one side of the aisle.

I live in central VA, in a liberal pimple in a conservative county.

I am bloody lucky to have come out here, now. My sympathies with all others in other places and times. Turing? I wept, at the movie, even though I'd known the story.


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: GUEST,Some bloke
Date: 01 May 17 - 09:03 AM

Many themes that were at odds with the controlling of communities that churches liked to hold were treated in code or double meaning in traditional song.

Gender per se as opposed to sexuality has always been the first hurdle for progressive troubadours in the past. When introducing songs, I tend to note how so many songs that are to be sung by a woman are prefaced by the narrative of a man, usually by him stumbling across her whilst out walking and "this is her tale."

In the written word, love and adoration were commonly used words to describe feelings for people of the same gender even when sexual attraction or even platonic "life partner" wasn't implied. Shakespeare's sonnets were largely written to say nice things to rich young men in order to have them sponsor his plays yet reading them at face value and knowing they were aimed at male aristocracy would lead you to think he chatted them up!

Always dangerous to read too much into interpretation of song but as I read my trusty Penguin I see many lines that set reality against the rise of homophobia a few years later with Victorian morality. Previously before Victorian oppression and after puritanical influence after the English civil war, we seem to have been more enlightened even if non conformist lifestyles were referred to in code.

A fascinating subject. Start with songs of women pretending to be men and take it from there!


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 01 May 17 - 09:17 AM

'simply public morality'

difficult assess - the public weren't really consulted.
My mother believed that Dickens was hinting at a gay/paedophile relationship when Steerforth called David Copperfield, 'Daisy'.

So difficult to know what was going on back in history.


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: Jeri
Date: 01 May 17 - 09:51 AM

Which is why, in Anglo-American and perhaps other English speaking people, the possible queerness is going to be of a "nudge-nudge, wink-wink" style. It's going to be deniable. It's going to be "oh, THAT song? I was just imagining how I'd feel if I were a woman" or "yes, I DID sing that love song about a man, but it was because it's a great song and there weren't any women singing it." Might be true, might not be, and it doesn't matter to the song.


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: GUEST,Some bloke
Date: 01 May 17 - 02:06 PM

Nudge nudge wink wink became enshrined in The UK. Or at least to foreigners who judge us through the fantasy prism of Benny Hill, Carry On and Ealing comedies.

Double entendres, euphemism and occasionally blatant porn feature in traditional song as far back as you like. Funnily enough, we haven't actually changed much in our outlook. The more rigid the moral fibre of the time, the more the need to subvert it.

Hey Al, loved the Bristol Stool Chart! You beat me to it...


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: oldhippie
Date: 01 May 17 - 05:30 PM

Then there is Mark Graham's song "Rufus & Beverly" (in the DT).


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: Mo the caller
Date: 05 May 17 - 03:25 AM

While browsing Mudcat for another thread I found this song talking about a confused sexual identity . I suspect the last verse has been added and that it started as a lighthearted ditty about a pet.


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: Mo the caller
Date: 05 May 17 - 03:28 AM

Or was it a coded song about hate crimes against those who were not what they seemed to be, all the while?


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: GUEST,LynnH
Date: 05 May 17 - 01:28 PM

I've never thought of 'I had a hippopotamus'(Bannerman & Hayes) as a song about 'confused sexual identity but no doubt there will always be those who need to search for hidden sexual meanings...............Perhaps this explains why the song was so popular on Childrens Favourites with Uncle Mac in the 1950s!
Interestingly, the text on the linked thread has a couple of verses which weren't on the 78 I once had: 'My house now lacks the glamour.....' and the very last verse, which is basically a repeat of an earlier verse.


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: Joe_F
Date: 05 May 17 - 03:59 PM

I can think of a couple of verses that celebrate polymorphous perversity:

Tom came home at his journey's end
To find his wife in bed with a friend.
The night was cold and the blankets thin.
"I'll sleep in the middle" says Tom Bolynn.
(Probably added by Oscar Brand)

Great joy they reap from tupping sheep
In sundry bogs and ditches,
Nor care a damn if it's a ram --
Those hardy sons of bitches!
("The Pioneers")


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: GUEST,LynnH
Date: 06 May 17 - 04:43 AM

It occurs to me that there are some songs which seem to be somewhat ambiguous. By that I mean that whilst the story may be about a man or a woman, the gender of the storyteller is more implied than explicit. I vaguely recall a version of 'The Gardener' as sung by Tim Hart and Maddy Prior where this was the case. One could also consider 'Peggy Gordon' or 'The Week before Easter' to be, with a 21st century reading, ambivalent.

@Gloria: Surely the "conservative moral outlook on social matters" is a product of the times when the songs and stories were created and a 21st. century view of them is, of necessity, distorting.
The Chevalier d'Eon may have lived something like the half of his/her life as a woman but, although he/she died in Britain he/she was at most a bit of scandal for the aristocracy whilst 'the common people' knew nothing of the story. And why all this he/she? I used to have a biography of the Chevalier and, from what I recall, the gender identity was never particularly clear - 'normal' hetero man? Transvestite? Transsexual? All of these at different times according to the situation, the mission.


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: GUEST
Date: 06 May 17 - 02:04 PM

I know it isn't folk, but Kashka from Baghdad by Kate Bush (!978) is a very interesting song.
Because I deleted a bunch of posts after this one:
This is a music thread. If you'd rather have a flame war about something else, please start a thread in BS. Thank you - mod.


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 07 May 17 - 12:59 PM

Sexual identity & trad folk music & traditional reproductive dysfunction & traditional families & traditional spinning.....

Just a thought.....

GfS


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: Jackaroodave
Date: 07 May 17 - 02:22 PM

The lesbian and bisexual blues singers of the early 20th century form an important part of the tradition. Perhaps the bravest, certainly the "outest," was Gladys Bentley , who performed in elegant men's clothing and had a very complex marital history.

Tragically, she was later hounded by the House Un-American Activities Committee (!) and other self-appointed guardians, wound up taking hormone treatments, and studied for the ministry before her early death. Here is a really unusual clip of her, unfortunately not in her tux and top hat, with Groucho Marx on his quiz show, You Bet Your Life . It's also unfortunate that she doesn't provide any of her unique vocal stylings, except at the end. A gallant pioneer and a major talent who should be better known.

(It may seem like Groucho is sending her up, but he is in character, treating her exactly the same as he treated all his guests, and Gladys gives as good as she gets.)


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: Jackaroodave
Date: 07 May 17 - 02:38 PM

Here's how Gladys looked and sounded in her prime


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: GUEST,LynnH
Date: 07 May 17 - 03:15 PM

It's interesting to note that in his song collection 'The Life of a Man' Ken Stubbs gives a version of 'The Female Drummer' which he'd collected from a woman. He remarks that quite a few of the women he collected songs from knew versions or snatches of the song but that only one man knew any of the song. He also says that it was a great favourite of the women.
There is perhaps also the question of how some songs taking, or apparently taking a woman's position came about. 'Lord Franklin' was probably the work of a Seven Dials hack using the public sympathy for Lady Franklin, but what about 'The Recruited Collier' or 'No courage in him', to say nothing of 'Maids when you're young never wed an old man'!? A testo-powered male fantasy?


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: GUEST,Some bloke
Date: 07 May 17 - 03:58 PM

There are many songs from the Napoleonic wars that begin to give the woman perspective. Troubadours were being paid to write jingoistic nonsense about the need to get a girl pregnant before going off to the wars, giving him something to stay alive for. I prefer the ones that tell the government and church to get stuffed.

Many songs give the female perspective, from recruited collier to White Cockade via Our Captain and many others. They were racy and almost pure sedition in their time. Yet even then, the form seemed to be a man introducing the song before allowing the woman to give a perspective.

There's no belief in man
Not my own brother
So girls if you can love
Love one another.


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 May 17 - 05:15 PM

"There is perhaps also the question of how some songs taking, or apparently taking a woman's position came about. 'Lord Franklin' was probably the work of a Seven Dials hack using the public sympathy for Lady Franklin, but what about 'The Recruited Collier'"
The Recruited Collier was collected by A L Lloyd and was only collected from one person, some scholars doubt its authenticity as a traditional song.
Lord Franklin has been recorded by artists of the calibre of Martin Carthy and Pentangle, presumably Martin does not regard it as the work of a seven dials hack, I personally think it is a reasonably written song.
It was homeward bound one night on the deep
Swinging in my hammock I fell asleep
I dreamed a dream and I thought it true
Concerning Franklin and his gallant crew

With one hundred seamen he sailed away
To the frozen ocean in the month of May
To seek a passage around the pole
Where we poor seamen do sometimes go

Through cruel hardships they mainly strove
Their ship on mountains of ice was drove
Only the Eskimo with his skin canoe
Was the only one that ever came through

In Baffin's Bay where the whale fish blow
The fate of Franklin no man may know
The fate of Franklin no tongue can tell
Lord Franklin along with his sailors do dwell

And now my burden it gives me pain
For my long lost Franklin I'd cross the main
Ten thousand pounds I would freely give
To say on earth that my Franklin do live


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 May 17 - 05:23 PM

LYNN H, you asked about THE RECRUITED COLLIER. it took me two minutes to find your answer, here it is ,perhaps you could have found it for yourself,enjoy.
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Recruited Collier
From: Malcolm Douglas - PM
Date: 18 Sep 03 - 04:23 PM

The Recruited Collier, and the issue of A. L. Lloyd's rôle in making it into the song we now know, just now came up in another thread. Rather than interrupt further the progress of that discussion, I'll post the following here; wary though I am of reviving old threads in case they attract too much repetition.

In a discussion of Lloyd's editorial practices in the preparation of Come All Ye Bold Miners, Roy Palmer wrote:

"It is clear that Lloyd's editorial approach was not merely to reproduce the material sent to him. Sometimes the changes made were small... but others were far-reaching. On 'Jimmy's Enlisted (or the Recruited Collier)' Lloyd laconically notes: 'Text from J.H. Huxtable, of Workington. A version of this ballad appears in R. Anderson's Ballads in the Cumberland Dialect (1808).' In fact, the original is entitled simply 'Jenny's Complaint', and features not a miner who enlists but a ploughman. A third party, Nicol, talks to Jenny about the wars, and Jemmy (as he is called) merely 'led' (carted) the coals which remind Jenny of him. Lloyd silently (and brilliantly) remade the song. Although one phrase, 'I'se leetin', sits uncomfortably in the new text the adaptation has enjoyed considerable success, to a tune also supplied by Lloyd to replace 'Nancy to the Greenwood Gane', which Anderson prescribed."

Palmer also prints a facsimile of a brief letter from Lloyd which refers to the tune. Lloyd wrote:

"I fitted the tune; but whether I made up the melody or took it from tradition I no longer remember. I think the latter; but if so, what was it the tune of?"

Roy Palmer, A. L. Lloyd and Industrial Song, in Ian Russell, ed., Singer, Song and Scholar, Sheffield Academic Press, 1986, pp.135-7.

I haven't seen the Anderson book; Roy Palmer, of course, has. Whether or not any communication from a J. H. Huxtable survives in Lloyd's papers is unknown; they are held at Goldsmith's College, London, but I don't think they have been fully indexed. Palmer's implication seems to be that the "Huxtable" text was from Anderson's book, but I'm not qualified to comment on that.


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 May 17 - 05:29 PM

Lloyds tune to RECRUITED COLLIER,is very similiar to Sweet Thames Flow Softly, that is not meant to imply anything but is a fact


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 07 May 17 - 11:07 PM

Why bring up a jazz singer when the topic is TRADITIONAL FOLK???.....
or are we having genre preferences too?

GfS


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: Jackaroodave
Date: 08 May 17 - 01:34 AM

I apologize if I too transgressed a boundary. I can see that an appearance on TV with Groucho Marx doesn't seem to fit in with the songs that were discussed in the thread earlier. However, the blues, the genre Gladys Bentley represents, in which gender boundaries were "interrogated," is itself over a hundred years old, and its roots in African American folk music go back much further, some would say to before the African diaspora. If that tradition is not of interest, I am sorry. At any rate, my breach of etiquette didn't cause anyone grief but myself.


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Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: GUEST,Dick Miles guest
Date: 08 May 17 - 02:00 AM

Subject: RE: Sexual identity & trad folk music
From: GUEST,Danny Vogel
Date: 30 Apr 17 - 04:33 PM

I'm a little late to the party but I've considered this before too. I mostly work in phases and have not yet hit my "queer identity through trad. song and ballad" phase, but consider Willy of Winsbury (Child 100).   The father/king's attraction to Willie was a mitigating factor in his approval. He was going to hang Willie until he found out what a babe he was!
debatable, he might have thought.
1 he was good breeding stock, just because one male can note another Males physical beauty, it does not necessarily mean they are sexually attracted, his exact words were
'It is nae wonder,' said the king,
'That my daughter's love ye did win;
Had I been a woman, as I am a man,
My bedfellow ye should hae been."
think about it, having a suitable Heir was important to Royalty


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