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What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?

katlaughing 18 Nov 99 - 12:55 AM
Bugsy 18 Nov 99 - 12:59 AM
ddw 18 Nov 99 - 01:15 AM
Jeri 18 Nov 99 - 01:50 AM
Liz the Squeak 18 Nov 99 - 06:01 AM
Liz the Squeak 18 Nov 99 - 06:02 AM
Roger in Baltimore 18 Nov 99 - 07:23 AM
Vixen 18 Nov 99 - 08:22 AM
Bert 18 Nov 99 - 09:51 AM
18 Nov 99 - 09:57 AM
Steve Latimer 18 Nov 99 - 09:59 AM
katlaughing 18 Nov 99 - 09:59 AM
Bert 18 Nov 99 - 10:07 AM
Steve Latimer 18 Nov 99 - 10:09 AM
Frank Hamilton 18 Nov 99 - 10:18 AM
radriano 18 Nov 99 - 11:21 AM
katlaughing 18 Nov 99 - 11:29 AM
catspaw49 18 Nov 99 - 11:51 AM
Rick Fielding 18 Nov 99 - 12:07 PM
Bert 18 Nov 99 - 01:01 PM
catspaw49 18 Nov 99 - 01:05 PM
Fortunato 18 Nov 99 - 01:19 PM
jeffp 18 Nov 99 - 01:34 PM
sophocleese 18 Nov 99 - 02:00 PM
Mudjack 18 Nov 99 - 02:10 PM
Gary T 18 Nov 99 - 03:27 PM
Rana 18 Nov 99 - 04:22 PM
Mbo 18 Nov 99 - 04:41 PM
Bert 18 Nov 99 - 04:47 PM
Jeri 18 Nov 99 - 04:56 PM
Art Thieme 18 Nov 99 - 04:56 PM
Frank Hamilton 18 Nov 99 - 05:13 PM
astupidbodhranplayerwhodoesn'tknowanybetter 18 Nov 99 - 05:50 PM
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JR 18 Nov 99 - 07:00 PM
Sandy Paton 18 Nov 99 - 07:13 PM
Rick Fielding 18 Nov 99 - 07:47 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 18 Nov 99 - 08:21 PM
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Paul G. 18 Nov 99 - 09:15 PM
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katlaughing 18 Nov 99 - 09:33 PM
Barry Finn 18 Nov 99 - 11:32 PM
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dwditty 19 Nov 99 - 05:41 AM
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catspaw49 19 Nov 99 - 07:58 AM
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Jeri 19 Nov 99 - 10:36 AM
Wolfgang 19 Nov 99 - 11:03 AM
Terry Allan Hall 19 Nov 99 - 07:33 PM
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Subject: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: katlaughing
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 12:55 AM

I've noticed a few references over time that are disdainful or even outright nasty about singer/songrwriters and am puzzled by the attitude. I know of several Catters who do so, who are NOT getting anywhere near a living, let alone rich off it, so if it's not that *they* only do it to make a buck, why are some phoakies so down on them?


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Bugsy
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 12:59 AM

F'RINSTANCE???

Cheers

bugsy


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: ddw
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 01:15 AM

Can't speak for everyone, but I think some people are down on S/Ss because they're not sure what's GOOD, so they stick with the OLD on the assumption that if it's survived a long time it must be good. I like and sing a lot of newer songs, so I'm not down on S/Ss per se, but I do get awfully tired of listening to wet-behind-the-ears whining about how bad they felt when grandma died or proudly singing ad nauseum some stupid little ditty about their cats/dogs or the squirrel in the back yard. Truth is, too many of the y oungsters coming up try to be S/Ss without learning the basics to work with, so folk clubs, song circles, etc. have to endure endless hours of BAD music.

But that's just my take....

cheers, david


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Jeri
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 01:50 AM

I don't listen to a lot of pop music. I don't hate it, but I like folk better. A lot of singer/songwriters are doing accoustic pop. I also think there's some resentment in regards to the term "folk" coming to mean anyone with an accoustic guitar. This isn't necessarily the fault of songwriters, but they end up taking the blame for it.

I like songs that mean something to me, and a lot of people who are called "singer/songwriters" write music that only has meaning for them. Some of it's wonderful poetry, some of it is self-indulgent navel gazing.

If we want to get picky, the list of singer/songwriters includes Pete Seeger, Ewan McColl, Woody Guthrie, Jean Ritchie, and lots of other folk heroes, even though they did/do other people's and traditional songs, too. But I've met too many people recently with an attitude of "I've written this amazingly sensitive song about ME and MY life, and I'm going to record it, make a truck load of money, and then you will all worship me." And there are far too many good songwriters we never get to hear because they aren't young or "cool" enough to be a decent commodity. I don't have anything against singer/songwriters - just the selling of them.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 06:01 AM

Most of the ones I knew well, doing the folk circuit years ago, were all egotistical gits, some of whom couldn't actually carry a tune in a bucket, let alone write lyrics that stuck in your head.

A singer/songwriter is a person who only tells you they wrote the song after they have sung it, and then maybe only if you ask them. Sing the song, get a reaction. If it is a favourable one, admit to the song, if it is not received well, then you've chosen the wrong audience to sing it to, or it is just plain crap. Bin there, dun that.

LTS


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 06:02 AM

That's probably why I stick to writing parodies and singing other people's songs... I know when I'm beat.

LTS


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Roger in Baltimore
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 07:23 AM

Kat,

The label singer/songwriter covers a large coterie of performers. There are some excellent, inspiring writers who also happen to sing the songs they write. Some of them are listed above.

There is another group often described as young people singing their diary. The content of much of their writing is from personal experience. That is not so bad if the song is able to expand it to a general experience. This is where many fall short. The songs sound like the writer believes you are desparately interested in their everyday life.

U. Utah Phillips (the golden voice of the great Southwest) described these songs in this manner: The generic words say: "I am a poor boy (pain, pain, pain), travelling this wide world (pain, pain, pain), facing the world on my own (agony, agony, agony), just me and my guitar (pain, pain, pain), and I want to get laid."

The recent folk boom has led to more quantity than quality. The unfortunate fact is that talent does not necessarily insure success and, also, is not required for success. Success as a performer requires other business and planning skills that many performers do not possess or develop.

The end result is some true "no talents" amongst the crew and they are invariably the singer/songwriters not the interpreters of the "old" music.

Roger in Baltimore


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Vixen
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 08:22 AM

Dear Kat--

Wow! You asked the question in a way that didn't get everybody riled into the "what is folk?" issue! Well Done! I've gotten some answers to the questions I've had about s/s in this thread. It helps to know what specifically I should look out for. Tim and I have been using the "audience response" criterion, which seems to be the one folks advocate here. I figure if the crowd is singing along by the second chorus, the song is ok. VicTim makes "traditional, contemporary, and original music," in order not to mislead anyone. The Mudcat threads on the topic have played a very large role in developing this definition!

V


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Bert
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 09:51 AM

You must admit that they are a bloody miserable crowd.

Come on S/Sers, you ARE allowed to write happy or silly or frivolous or even plain bawdy songs 'occasionally'. There isn't a law against it, it won't kill you and your listeners will actually LIKE them.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From:
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 09:57 AM

I have some pretty strong opinions on the general dismissal of Singer/Songwriters as my sister is one. This being the case she often appears on bills with others. I think my sister is very good, but then again, I would.

Some of the others I've seen drive me crazy and I must say that it is primarily the females. They seem to be the ones most prone to singing their diaries, and quite frankly, I'm not all that interested in hearing this accompanied by the same 2 or three chords in the same tempo. (Didn't may dad used to say the same thing about Rock and Roll?)

But there are some very nice exceptions. Susan appeared on a bill with a fellow named Scott Wicken the other night. A quick visit to his Website prepared me for the worst, a singer/songwriter AND a spoken word performer. I had visions of Bongo drums, incense and finger snapping. How completety wrong you can be. His music and lyrics were extremely well crafted, he was a very good and diverse player and had a fine voice. Poetry usually sends me scrambling to the men's room, but the one he did was witty, fast paced and had excellent meter. Susan also played a festival a few years back and Norm Hacking was on the bill. I had never heard him prior to this and was very impressed.

I guess what I'm saying is that we shouldn't paint them all with the same brush. Let's keep our ears open, we may find something worth listening to.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 09:59 AM

Sorry, the post above was mine.

Steve


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: katlaughing
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 09:59 AM

Thanks, everyone. That does explain a lot. Vixen thanks for explaining VicTim's take on things and thanks to you, Roger, too.

Having been a bit isolated in the *classical* world while promoting my brother's works, I'd never heard such things. When we produced concerts with his songs included, I just expected people to love them, which they did. He wrote them to hopefully make a living from, which he hasn't for a lot of reasons, including, imho, like Roger said, needing more than just talent; there has to be some business acumen, too, and in our case, there needed to be more cash flow to produce things.

Since coming to the Cat, as I've explained elsewhere, I've learned a lot about the "folk" process and the free give and take of things. Now, I am going to put my foot in it. While I understand all of that, I still do not find fault with someone wanting to make a good living off of their music/songwriting, etc. as long as it is not the crap that many of you speak of. There, I feel better.:-)

Thanks, as always, Mudcatters, you are a great bunch!

kat


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Bert
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 10:07 AM

You only have to turn on the radio to know that a S/Ser doesn't have to be good to make a living out of it. All that is needed is a good manager and a good agent or two.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 10:09 AM

Amen Bert, Amen. That's probably why I rarely turn on my radio these days.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 10:18 AM

I believe that Singer/Songwriter is a record company term. The music business (record companies) found out some time ago that they could make more money opening ancillary publishing houses and receiving royalties without having to pay other publishers who owned populzr songs. If the artist did in-house songs and put the material into their firm, recording companies could make enough money to keep them afloat. This spawned the Singer/Songwriter.

I believe that there is not really a Singer/Songwriter but a good song. The artist may or may not sing them. I don't care who wrote them, personally. If a song is good, it will live on (have legs) regardless of who wrote it. Todays writers are not much different than writers of yesterday in that there are many forgettable songs from the past as well as there are today. The image of the Singer/Songwriter is an outgrowth of the music business and it started in the sixties and seventies with the likes of Joni Mitchell, Dylan, Carly Simon, James Taylor and others. Some of their work will endure. My favorite songwriters could be called Singer/Songwriters by the music industry because they sang the songs they wrote professionally. Tom Lehrer, Woody Guthrie, Irving Berlin, Tom Paxton, Jean Ritchie, Jimmy Driftwood, Bob Miller, and all before Dylan was on the scene.

There is nothing wrong with Singer/Songwriters as an image or genre. But within it includes the writign of songs that will endure and those that won't.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: radriano
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 11:21 AM

Ever heard the joke: What's the difference between a singer/songwriter and a puppy? Answer: The puppy eventually stops whining.

My take on the singer/songwriter issue is that it is not a simple black and white situation. Obviously there are excellent singer/songwriters out there but some of them are so wrapped up in themselves that it makes them uncomfortable to listen to. Some of them try hard to be unique but end up uniquely boring.

The reason traditional music is so good is the old folk process. Every song had an author at some point but as it passes from person to person and gets changed here and there the end result is the best of the best, the survival of the fittest, so to speak.

Of course, the other side of the coin is that we envy the singer/songwriter because we wish we could write songs too. And, I suppose, the process of learning to write music means that some of your creations will be less than perfect, if not downright awful.

I also feel that, especially here in the States, there is too much focus on the individual. Everyone wants to be uniquely different and there is sometimes little attention payed to tradition. I see that sometimes in Irish instrumental music, for example. Some Americans who compose Irish music use the wierdest progressions and note movements in an attempt to be different instead of writing within the tradition. I'm not saying that new is bad but there's a range of what works and what doesn't.

Oh, well, enough of my ramblings. I hope I've added something to this discussion.

Regards to all,
radriano


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: katlaughing
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 11:29 AM

You most certainly did add to the discussion. Love the joke and I agree with a lot of what you say. Thanks.

Just a note of calrification re' my bro. He never sang his own songs; I did, as well as other singers. He did and does play his own classical piano works.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: catspaw49
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 11:51 AM

Most of its been said by RiB, Steve, Vix, Frank and radriano....And Steve, what little I've heard from you sister, I just LOVE......its got that "sound." Beautiful voice. And I think that's the thing too. There are "sounds" I like and "sounds" I don't. I think that's where the term "folk-like" fits. It sounds traditional and folky or whatever and is true to the particular "sound" of that genre, be it Irish, Appalachian, Western, or whatever. Fortunately, at least to my ear, the whiners are easy to pick out and I avoid the "navel contemplation" types at all costs.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 12:07 PM

Everyone who emerges from the womb is handed a card reading "you are now a member of the human race and will probably be subjected to some form of harrassment before you croak". If you're lucky enough to be white and affluent enough not to starve, then the harrassment may take the form of sarcastic jibes at where you live, (red-necks, damn Yankees,herring chokers, Okies, Geordies etc.) what you believe (holy Rollers, bleeding hearts, penny pinchers, newage airheads etc.) and if you inhabit the (debatably) broad world of folk music, you're open to "folk Nazi, three chord wonder, no talent bum, academic elitist etc. Ever since folk festivals and clubs decided to try and make money rather than celebrate tradition, singer-songwriters have been getting it in spades. The term "omphaloscopists" was coined by a friend of mine to describe navel-gazing self-absorbed songwriters. Just as my lifestyle and behaviour in many areas makes me a perfect target for zingers, when hordes of 20 year old musical poets flood the open stages with epics describing their hard times and love lives...well,..sometimes it looks like they've got targets painted on their guitars.
I KNOW it's not nice to put folks down (even with humour) but those who claim NEVER to do it, probably are just as guilty..they just don't notice they're doing it.
Rick (who's slung out a few slings and arrows in his day..and been on the receiving end!)


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Bert
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 01:01 PM

I may be a Limey, a Singer/Songwriter, a three chord wonder and a forgetful old fart but dont ever call me an "omphaloscopist"

Bert


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: catspaw49
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 01:05 PM

Aw geez Rick...I'm sorry man. Its obvious you were handed an entire DECK, being so many things and all of them coming with a bullseye. Very tragic. Might be a song in it........

Not a folk song of course, but, well.......

Spaw


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Fortunato
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 01:19 PM

Well the truth is,IMHO, 'round our way if they could sing and play well enough to garner an audience then they'd be a performer who does original material. If they could write songs memorable enough to be performed by others then they'd be a songwriter. A singer/songwriter is usually someone who isn't either. now I KNOW that's black and white and leaves out the middle but that's the reason I cringe and go elsewhere when I hear "singer/songwriter.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: jeffp
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 01:34 PM

Fortunato, that's a beautiful distinction between the terms. I think that's the way I've viewed it without actually having put it into words.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: sophocleese
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 02:00 PM

I have a friend who said once that many good rock bands have foundered on the need to write their own material. There is some truth in that. There are good, even excellent, musicians who aren't great songwriters, and know it, but the market urge for novelty can leave them behind in favour of somebody who makes up in nerve what they lack in talent. Is that too cruel? Another friend also pointed out that although many singer/songwriters like to think that they are expanding the boundaries of song form they mostly fall into very similar patterns. I would go on from that and suggest, devil's advocate like, that the more knowledgable ones who can see the patterns are the ones who then change the patterns and create new forms. For every good songwriter there are hundreds of mediocre to lousy ones who are mimicking the good stuff. If it gives them pleasure that's fine, I'll just pay little attention until something catches my interest.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Mudjack
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 02:10 PM

Thank you Frank....A good song will withstand the test of time.
I really like S/S's but their songs do wear me down fast and I tire easy at the emotional inner feelings they are always expressing.
But, still have to respect the artistic talent of anyone who can express anything with words and music.
Mudjack


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Gary T
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 03:27 PM

I think some of the problems mentioned come from a distorted perspective of the song. We all have personal criteria for what songs we want to sing, and choose accordingly. I believe some singer/sonwriters short-circuit their normal criteria when it's a song they wrote themselves. In other words, if someone else had written a poor song, they would instantly know to let it die a natural death. But when they write one themselves, it may not be possible to "see with the same eyes" one normally uses to evaluate songs. "Oh would a gift the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us." (Or something like that--Robert Burns, I believe.)


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Rana
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 04:22 PM

There's good singer-songwriters, indifferent singer song-writers, bad singer-songwriters. Likewise, there's good folksingers, bad folksingers, boring folksingers. But then one person's meat (veggie?) is another person's poison. There have been some "folk" singers I've seen that most of the audience have loved but I've been bored stiff. There are singer-songwriters I really like that others won't give the time of day. Then again, there are SSWs who seem to also carry the "folk" label, while others don't - Is Stan Rogers a folkie or a singer-songwriter?

The bottom line is that it all depends on ones taste.

Rana


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Mbo
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 04:41 PM

I would probably consider myself a singer/songwriter. After all, I sing, and I write songs. I'm probably not a singer/songwriter in the commercial sense of the word. I don't write intentionally write music with commercial appeal--I write songs for myself. I'm writing as many as possible now, just stovkpiling them (I've got over 50) for that day in the future when I can get together with some people, and arrange them for a traditional band. Right now, my songs are mostly all chords and lyrics, but one day when I have time I'm going to create the fills, intros, bridges, and codas that I love so much, to the pieces. In the meantime, I sing traditional & contemporary Celtic, as well as popular music that appeals to me. As a result of this, my music has been influenced by commercially appealing music (Beatles, ELO, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Bad Examples, Jim Croce, America...) and so my music ends up being personal as well as appealing to the public. My friend, who is a traditional clairsach player from Scotland, says I have a good mind for writing catchy songs. I know I've written something good if I find it catchy, but usually have no care if anyone else does. I don't know...BTW I don't sing whiny songs about my personal life either. Almost all my music is either a love song, a war song, or a historical lament. So now!

--Mbo


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Bert
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 04:47 PM

I used to try to write songs that "weren't" whiny, but since Aine has been collecting "Whiny titty babies" I'm thinking about changing my style.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Jeri
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 04:56 PM

I'd say Stan Rogers was a singer songwriter in the folk tradition. He wrote and performed a lot of songs that people not only wanted to listen to, but sing. You're right that it's all a matter of taste. At the bottom of it all, there are songwriters who write songs I like, those who write songs I don't, and some who write both. And whether I like a song or not may just depend on what mood I'm in that day. True story - Michael Cooney once closed a festival with Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." The lyrics are here, (But honestly, they aren't the way I remember them. I remember a verse with something about chord progression. Ach-maybe I have the wrong song entirely.) Anyhow, I remember thinking how someone had been very clever at writing silly convoluted lyrics that sounded so much like Cohen's style. I eventually learned the truth, and I like the song a lot, even if it's the perfect example of what I often don't like. Go figure...


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 04:56 PM

Many of you are, undoubtedly, quite glad that I, for a slew of reasons, motivations and incentives, none of which I wish to disclose here or elsewhere, would rather not post in this good thread. That said, see ya all later somewhere else.

Love,

Art


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 05:13 PM

Mudjack, do you think as I do that the S/S has become a kind of cliche? An image rather than a viable musical or lyrical act? Perhaps the label should be thrown aside.

Some of the key elements of songwriting that I look for are: 1. Fresh images 2. A cohesive story line 3. Specific descriptions rather than generalized emotions with sophmoric exhortations and philsophical platitudes 4. A sense of style 5. A focus that doesn't stray from the origianl path of the song 6. Elements of good lyric writing such as the use of intelligent rhyme schemes, contrast (from verse to chorus) singable lyrics that don't sound forced or harsh unless intended for that purpose 7. A natural wedding between the lyric and the melody 8. An interesting tune..it doesn't have to be complicated.............And the thing I don't like in a song is one that tries to insult my intelligence by teaching me how to behave, believe or to feel or call me or any other person names. I also don't like egocentric songs that exalt the emotions of the songwriter who talks about themselves and what they think and believe as if it's the most important event that ever took place.

I think there are some great songwriters out there today. Many of them can sing their own songs well. In some cases, though, others who are great performers and not songwriters can sing them better.

Frank


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: astupidbodhranplayerwhodoesn'tknowanybetter
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 05:50 PM

I think there are some great S/SWs out there who are S/SWs by choice, and there are some failed rock&rollers who picked up an acoustic guitar, and headed off to the local coffee shop. There are some who can make you remember places from their childhood, and make their experinces real to you. But not many. Loved the puppy joke! I guess if I had to put a definitive answer on "what's wrong with S/SWs", it would be that as a genre they've made it possible to attend a folk music event without hearing any actual folk music. Also, the label "folk music" has picked up such a stigma, that many will never get to experience some wonderful music, because they've heard "Puff the Magic Dragon" and they didn't like it. Sort of like what "Danny Boy" did to the label "Irish Music" but on a larger scale.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From:
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 06:36 PM

we have always had singer/songwriters....if we are going to have songs, we NEED someone to make songs. However, 100, 200, 300 years ago, they didn't have press agents, MP3s, demo CDs, TV programs, etc. They had to sing them, let them be RE-sung by others who liked them, and the good ones...and a 'few' of the bad ones were remembered and passed on. Almost NO one made a living writing & singing the songs that now make up a large part of the database.

Now, however, there are $$$$ to be made, or at least a bit of ego to be stroked by turning out volume and turning it over to the publicity machines! And why shouldn't theY? There is NO law against writing and singing songs you like...I only object to what they call it...*smile*...

I DO hope that the good songwriters get heard, whether or not they conform to my 'tastes'...and that the BAD ones learn as gently as possible that they perhaps don't have the muse.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: JR
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 07:00 PM

IMO theres nothing wrong with s/sw's. If a song happens you just really have to write it down, & how ya gonna know if it's any good till you sing it for a few folks. There will be a bunch of folks that don't like em, but that's just their opinion, and I refuse to give over my my enjoyment of music to someone else's opinion.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 07:13 PM

I'm going to join Art on the sidelines of this one. Omphaloscopy may be a contagious condition.

Sandy (folk fogey)


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 07:47 PM

Sandy and Art, you've always been two of my favourite singer-songwriters. Now which one of you wrote "Eve Of Destruction"? and which one wrote "In the Year 2525"?
Rick (with stir-stick)


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 08:21 PM

1 - I am NOT a singer OR a songwriter.
2 - I know a few of the "folk" singers who also write songs. AND sing their own material.

That being said, these people usually ARE of the type who KNOW and sing the traditional songs. They are also people who have been brought up ON the Folk Music Tradition. Learning the songs from earlier performers (whether at their knees or on recording is immaterial).
For instance, would they complain about people like Ewan McColl, Stan Rogers, Archie Fisher, Tom Lewis or Dougie MacLean? These people are all among those who have their reperitoire of traditional songs, as well as new material they wrote themselves.

In a case of two of the singer/songwriters I encounter in the Halifax area, they write great songs, don't get the recognition they deserve, yet sing and write them any way!

The singer/songwriter of today will be, if they are good, the anonymous and forgotten writer of the folk song of a hundred years from now. I think we NEED to be able to hear these people.
I understand that some of these people write dreck, but EVERYONE knows Sturgeon's Law!


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 08:24 PM

Sorry about getting confused there in that message. I kept saying "people", not getting enough specific about which was which. Hope you can read though it and make sense of it all.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Paul G.
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 09:15 PM

Yikes...

I'm a singer. I'm a songwriter. Max and Bert have played me on Mudcat Radio and the response has been pretty good. I like some of the popular "contemorary folk" singer/songwriters (Dar Williams, David Wilcox, Richard Shindell, Lucy Kaplansky) for their energy and inventiveness. I love much of the traditional "old folk" and feel particularly connected to Celtic tunes. Bottom line for me is that I like what I like and I write what the muse blesses me with. What I refuse to do is reject ANY music because of a genre label...I'll reject some stuff because its just bad (bad rock, bad classical, bad country, bad hip hop, bad folk, bad singer/songwriters). And I'll be the first to admit there are a lot of bad SSW's...those trying to emulate their favorite pseudo acoustic rock teen star of the month on open mic nights and the diary whiners who play the no-pay gigs at Barnes and Noble. I just don't listen to what I don't like, but I don't condemn it either. God, that was a ramble....

Paul G.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Mbo
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 09:17 PM

Right on, Paul! My thoughts exactly!

--Mbo


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 09:21 PM

C'mon, Rick. You should remember that I'm the guy who wrote "Sumer is icumen in." (And I can't even spell it!) I'd have written about Eve, too, but Adam was jealous back then.

Fogier than ever.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: katlaughing
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 09:33 PM

More clarification: my bro's songs are NOT about him, which is a wonder! They are mostly love songs and a couple of ballad-like ones. Really quite beautiful.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 18 Nov 99 - 11:32 PM

Funny, I went to Passim's 2 nights ago to see an old friend that does the recording there. 54 S/S signed up, some were just ok some just awful, most were fairly young , maybe the average around 20-25.Alot of what I heard was "this is for anyone whose had to make a tough choice, got their heart broken, wanted to get laid & couldn't make it happen in a women's prison with a fist full of pardons". A few seemed to be on their way to being pretty good but I think on the whole most were more important than the song. I felt that their experience was supposed to be unique & that it's their job to make you understand where they're coming from so that you can see that unbefore, unseen similar trait in one's own self. Puke! Now on the other there have been a couple of traveling performing S/S as well as some locals come to our local singers session ( Kat Egalston (sp?), Debra Cowen & Maggie Crystal are a few) & they were just great. They did traditional as well as their own stuff & knocked the socks off those listening. I can't begin to guess what makes the difference, being close to the type of music you write/sing, maybe their maturity maybe as alot of S/S get on they either find they've got it & keep going or they haven't got & drop it. In the end I find that for myself there are few that I'd consider to be a good few cuts above the rest. It's ironic, over 30 yrs ago I gave up writing poetry & was told I was pretty good (by my mother, does that count) & I recently had to join a 12 step program because I fell off the wagon picked that pen back up & now my kids wouldn't let me come home till I went to a meeting of my peirs (the other reason I went to Passim's) & spout my tale of woe. I have the luck to sing with 2 other guys that I consider to be great songwriters but you'd find that they sing other people's songs or the old songs far more often than they'd sing their own. Barry, who if any of you ever catch navel gazing feel free to shoot on sight.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: katlaughing
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 12:21 AM

Well, gawddam, Barry! Smart kids ya got there, when are ya gonna share wid da resta us? Love your turns of phrase!


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Brendy
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 04:16 AM

Two pathologists were in a mortuary in a hospital one day.
On the slab lay a naked man.
The first pathologist is examining the body "...light contusions to the left side of...." etc., when all of a sudden he sees this plug shoved up yer man's arse.
Said pathologist (that's good training for the fingers. pathologist, pathologist, path...), ah what the heck, where was I.
Yes, said pathologist (did ye like that), pulls said plug out of said arse.
"On the road again.... I'm so glad I'm on the road again....."
The second he puts the plug into yer man's bum again, the music stops.
C'mere, says yer man and listen to this.
Enter pathologist number two. Stage right. See him over there?
"Wha'" Plug, hand, bum, pull, ".....on the road again.....I'm so glad I'm on the roadd agai...."
"So what," says pathologist number two, "any asshole can sing country"

Love Ya...
Brendy, in one of his strange moods


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: dwditty
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 05:41 AM

I have nothing against S/Ss, I just don't want to hear them. As someone once stated in a thread about the Indigo Girls, "It sounds like they're singing their diaries." Usually the topic just doesn't grab me. Couple this with the fact the the seemingly random words are sung to seemingly random notes accompanied by seemingly random chords, and you get a song that is totally forgettable.

Other than that, ther is just no groove.

DWditty


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Stewie
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 07:23 AM

I did not intend to contribute to this thread, but I am impelled by the throwaway idiocy of the last posting. I am not a singer, nor a songwriter, nor a musician, but I am a record collector of long standing and a lover of good music. In my collection, I have dozens and dozens of albums by fine songwriters who sing their own material and who have given me endless pleasure. In addition to the Stan Rogers, Archie Fishers, Gordon Boks and others mentioned above, these include John Gorka, Richard Shindell, Leonard Cohen, John Prine, Nanci Griffith, Fred Neil, Billy Joe Shaver, Terry Allen, Butch Hancock, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Kate Wolf, Jim Ringer, James McMurtry, David Massengill, John Tams, Tom Russell, Ian Tyson, Mark Germino, Bob Neuwirth, Dick Feller, Mary McCaslin, Tom Rush, James Talley, Steve Young, Steve Earle, Jesse Winchester, Phil Ochs, Claire Lynch etc etc. As Frank said above, what matters is the quality of the music.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: catspaw49
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 07:58 AM

Dear Grandpa Fogey,

I was OK with my basically benign post on this thread until Brother Fielding brought up "Omphaloscopy." At that point I began having some concern. When you brought up the possibility of contagion, I began to worry excessively. Even worse, I began to fear that treatment might somehow involve an asssortment of of probes and hoses and lying butts-out on an uncomfortable table, much like a lower G.I. Having experienced two of those on the same day, I would like to withdraw my initial post. Thank you for bringing these facts to my attention.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Bert
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 10:22 AM

I have to agree with the complaint of 'abodhranplayer' who says.
"they've made it possible to attend a folk music event without hearing any actual folk music."

It's very annoying to attend a folk concert and find it's only a couple of Dylanclones singing their own, very forgettable songs.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Jeri
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 10:36 AM

Barry, you write wonderful songs, with nary a navel in sight. (Barry is likely to sing one of his compositions with no explanation of where it came from. And, at least in the case of Ida Lewis - they can sound darned traditional.

One thing that burns my butt (along with a flame about 3 feet high) is a 20-something giving a musical account of the hard times they've seen, the trouble they've known as viewed by someone who has been granted insight above and beyond that of mere mortals. Other than 'preachy songs,' this never bothered me when I was 20-something. Even now, these songs wouldn't be so bad if the songwriters wrote about their experiences rather than their feelings. There's room in my heart for songs by anyone about interesting people and events.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Wolfgang
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 11:03 AM

Not easy to guess what makes the difference between a S/S I enjoy to listen to and a S/S I run away from. In my experience, a good S/S is able to (and mostly does) write about experiences and feelings of others, that have been told to him/her that s/he has read about and not only about personal feelings. The basic ability is being able to listen and to feel with someone else. In a pair of words it's the difference between passion and compassion.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Terry Allan Hall
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 07:33 PM

If there were no singer/songwriters, y'all'd have to find something else to do with your lives...I mean, songs have to be WRITTEN to be SUNG!

Think about it!


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Terry Allan Hall
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 07:36 PM

Substitute "composed" or "created" for "written" in above observation, just for the songs not physically written per se...off to tonight's gig....ciao!


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: katlaughing
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 08:28 PM

Jeri, thanks for the link to Barry's song; made me cry! What wonderful lyrics and what a story. Bravo, Barry!


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Joan
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 10:53 PM

Been following this thread, but hesitated to put in my two cents--since sometimes I'm a singer-songwriter and thought I'd lurk and see what people said. I've been singing the "old songs" since I was a kid, but I'm also a writer, and Words R Me. Occasionally I have something I want to say and my homemade songs are adjuncts to the traditional and schmaltzy songs I love. Some of the songs I made are now like the toothpaste that got out of the tube, and others sing them and are welcome to them. Neat. They're NOT omphaloscopic (which I label bellybutton songs), I don't think--yet what I write has to be based on my experiences and perceptions since I don't have anybody else's to base them on. On the other hand, there ought to be a bit of judgement here, as to how personal to make the song, and can our particular story be couched in ways that would apply to us all. Besides the musical, there's the literary aspect, and songs that make you yawn or blush probably have pretty bad writing in them. You'd put a novel down in a hurry if it made you bored or embarrassed. Whew...guess I ran off at the fingers!


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 10:56 PM

Look, if your gonna use my term "diarysingers" which is admittedly cruel and caustic, although not conceived in malice, just a part of my weird sense of humour, start using Sandy Paton's WONDERFUL term for writers you like: "SONGMAKER". It means someone who pulls a bit from here, a bit from there, uses a tradition that they've become at one with, and creates something wonderful. By the way, everyone here IS tongue in cheek aren't they? Every standard used in rating art is STRICTLY subjective. I mean , the Patons are two of the finest folks I've met in the known universe, and they think Dylan and Cohen write drivel. Gotta play Bobby's "Blind Willie McTell" for Sandy. It makes me cry, it's so fucking good.

By the way, it was Sue Goldberg who coined "omphaloscopist", and she had a smile on her face at the time! It's fun to make up words. About three years ago when I was getting thoroughly bored with Irish-hybrids I started introducing songs on the radio show as being Afro-Celtoid, Mari-Celtoid, Mexi-Celtoid, and Carib-eltoid. It caught on in Toronto. Nobody knew I was kidding. My fave though is "CaribAfroMexiMariCeltoid". Naturally that's a band with conjunto accordion, Cape Breton fiddler, thumb piano playing O'Carolan tunes to a reggae beat. Just hope they don't add a didjeridoo!
Rick


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: catspaw49
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 11:02 PM

OOO, WOW...COOL.....Rick, do they have a CD? Does Sandy carry it do you think? Why is there no Tiple player though?

Spaw


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Jeri
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 11:04 PM

Rick, did you call it "Afro-Celtoid" before you'd heard of Afro-Celt Sound Sysem?


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: catspaw49
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 11:04 PM

.......and if Sandy doesn't have carry it, do you think Wally does?

Spaw


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Mr Potateau Head
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 11:17 PM

There really IS a band called "Afro-Celt Soundsystem"?
By the way, it's me (rick) trying to adjust to some new Netscape something or other that Ducksass got installed this afternoon. I don't recognise anything anymore. Damn this technology!
Spuds MacKenzie


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: catspaw49
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 11:29 PM

Glad you told us Turnip Brain.....I was kinda' thinkin' it was Mick.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: lamarca
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 11:31 PM

Wasn't that the "Afro-Celt Sound System's" newest band member, Rick?

Part of the bias against some singer/songwriters in the "folk" world seems to be correlated with how successful they become. If a songwriter becomes a financial success, it indicates TOO many people like them, thus eliminating the attraction of "more esoteric than thou", an affliction which is shared by many in trad. music circles. Thus, a songwriter like Gordon Bok is somehow "better" than Gordon Lightfoot, because too many people know and like Lightfoot and he's made too much money...Gordon Bok is more obscure, and some folkies can feel they're more "special" for knowing and appreciating his music.

For me, there are several different types of S/S's that I like. My favorite songwriters write songs that are patterned after or show a knowledge of traditional song forms, paint a picture or tell a story that's vivid, have an interesting melodic line and are capable of being interpreted or sung by other people. Ewan MacColl, Gordon Bok, Rick Fielding, Bob Zentz, Joan Sprung, Stan Rogers are all examples of writers who can/have done this. However, I can also appreciate songwriters who write very descriptive, literate songs that usually ONLY they can carry off. For example, I like Joni Mitchell's writing quite a lot, but don't often hear other people's covers of her songs that sound "right". She is very successful in songs like "Refuge of the Road" or "A Case of You" in painting very vivid pictures and emotions that other people might call "omphaloscopic" - but I still enjoy listening to her. Jan Harmon wrote in so many wonderful different styles, and painted beautiful pictures with words, but I don't think her songs will ever be mistaken for traditional material. They are still wonderful and precious to me.

I think the problems with "the dreaded singer/songwriters" occur in folk venues, when people writing their own material get gigs in preference to people performing traditional material, so there is a sense that SS's threaten the tradition - a threat that isn't imaginary. The blurring definition of "folk" that includes anyone performing with an acoustic guitar, regardless of whether they have any knowledge of traditional music, will result in a casting a wider net for mediocrity. Every mediocre-to-poor songwriter who gets a gig leaves one less gig for a performer of traditional music. The bias against SS's seems to result from the impression that even the most talented traditional performers can't compete with the sheer numbers of mediocre songwriters...


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: catspaw49
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 11:43 PM

Well Mary, at the risk of tubes and hoses up my keister, I couldn't agree more. But I must say I feel the next bit coming. Kat asked me about this thread before she started it and I told her almost exactly what you said so well. But I also told her it was inevitable that the Folk vs Folk-Like thing would come up and although it hasn't quite made it yet....I think it may be about to knock on the door.

I now withdraw this post also...I hate those lower GI's!

Spaw


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: lamarca
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 11:48 PM

Gee, Spaw - I'm not doin' so bad considering I'm typing on several glasses of Banrock Station (Australia's finest cheap white wine, fondly referred to as "Van Ronk Station" in our house). I've almost managed to yank this back to "What is folk music"...Is it illegal to drive drunk on the Information Superhighway?


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: catspaw49
Date: 19 Nov 99 - 11:52 PM

No Markie it ain't....But you see my computer crashed on me trying to load....HEY...You're just the person to sing "Memory Banks of Mudcat"....I'll refresh it right now so you can check it out...Okay?

Spaw


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: sophocleese
Date: 20 Nov 99 - 12:04 AM

Who cares? I'm doing it! Just watch for potholes.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 20 Nov 99 - 12:05 AM

Mr. Potato Head, I've been looking all over for you


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Gary T
Date: 20 Nov 99 - 12:10 AM

Terry, it's certainly true that songs have to be written to be sung--that's what songwriters do for us. The problem with singer/songwriters is that while a singer will typically pass on a crappy song that someone else wrote, some singer/songwriters will perform a crappy song they wrote themselves, because they don't see how crappy it is. If they didn't sing their own songs, the lousy creations would never see the light of day, because no one else would sing them on a bet. Not to say that all s/sw's sing third-rate stuff, but apparently enough of them do to fuel this thread.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Boxcar Waillie
Date: 20 Nov 99 - 12:14 AM

Some wonderful points Mary (and thank you for the inclusion). Personally I would see the twa Gordons as absolute masters of songmaking. The fact that Mr. Lightfoot scores those Streisand, Elvis, Marty Robbins and PP and M royalties obviously makes his bank account swell, but I can assure you, not his head. Granted I certainly CAN be a folk snob (on a bad day) but even Multi-millionaires like Paul Simon, Bobby, and Cat Stevens (oops, he's probably given it all away) have written magnificently in folkish styles. Nope, it's the folks with much attitude and little experience that I find tedious. BUT here's the part that makes any (and certainly my) argument just plain meaningless: friends of mine who've known them say Dylan and Simon had astonishing gall and aggressiveness in their youth. So would I have felt they were not worth the trouble then? I didn't. I thought they were both exceptionally talented...so I guess I'm just full of hot air on this one. I'm now going to coin my own little buzz thing: S.S.S. (SELECTED singer songwriters!..who, when I'm feeling grumpy..I'll dump on!
Tammy Lin


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: catspaw49
Date: 20 Nov 99 - 12:44 AM

Are you going to see a shrink about this identity crisis or just start hangin' with garg?

Just curious...........

Spaw


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Burled Ives
Date: 20 Nov 99 - 01:17 AM

Listen Catspaw you smartass, you haven't a clue who I am, cause (until tomorrow) I'm invisible. So if you aren't going to contribute anything negative about singer-songwriters, why don't you just go to bed before you start annoying the Aussies. (they'll be here any minute.) While I'm untraceable, I'm going to take a huge risk here. I own TWO James Taylor albums!
Seriously though, I think Mary's point about folkies wanting a kind of "exclusivity" with their favourite performers (or songwriters) is spot on. I have to admit that when I first discovered folks like Robert Johnson and Bill Broonzy, I liked the fact that no one else at my school had ever heard of them. I NEEDED that exclusivity to feel "different" which was darned important to me at the time. If you were not very good at being "part of the crowd", then starting your "own crowd" (even if it had just one member) was the next best thing. After a year or so, no power on earth would have made me want to join the mainstream 'cause I had "friends on vinyl". My song off the new album "Gin Mill Syncopators" is about that time.
I still have some huge "obscure " songmakers that I love, like Norm Hacking, Bob Coltman, Jerry Rasmussen, Rick Speyer and Joe Hall. But I'm secure enough now to REALLY wish these guys would have hit records and make a million.

Pat "Banjo" Patterson


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 20 Nov 99 - 01:43 PM

How can one judge?
If I am moved by Puff the Magic Dragon I don't care how it became popular or the depth it reached in complexity and creativity. Nor am I concerned what other musical minds would think.
The important thing is, the song touches my heart.

Banjo Bonnie


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: catspaw49
Date: 20 Nov 99 - 02:17 PM

Oh gawd.........I hear knocking.............oy.........

Spaw...& you're right BB (Thanx for the note too)


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: MAG (inactive)
Date: 20 Nov 99 - 07:13 PM

Didn't Broadside Balladeers make a penny or three peddling broadsides and singing in the streets, once upon a time? SOME of those have become trad...

And it wasn't old Mr. anonymous who wrote "If I had a hammer," or "Old devil time."

As far as thw twa Gordons, "Truning toward the Morning" beats out "That's what you get for lovin' me" every time. (But Song for a Winters night is OK.)


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: MAG (inactive)
Date: 20 Nov 99 - 07:19 PM

Oops; as soon as I sent it off, I realized I had Kris running through my head. Sorry. MA


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Frank Hamilton
Date: 20 Nov 99 - 10:11 PM

Jeri, I feel the same way you do about 20 somethings but it humbles me to realize that Joni Mitchell wrote "Clouds" before or during her 20's. Maybe not everyone will agree with me that this is a wonderful song. Can't say I like her todays stuff, though. When Janis Ian wrote "Society's Child" as a teen-ager, I was rather moved by that song. Once in a while seemingly age-less songwriters come along.

I think the problem is that the Singer/Songwriter has been boxed into certain kinds of tunes with reflective lyrics and an antidote for this would be if the S/S would take up another instrument such as jazz piano or accordian. The Berrymans impress me as interesting S/S because they are witty and not given to the usual S/S sound. Maybe an S/S might try accompanying themselves on just an accoustic bass. This is one way to find out if the song holds up. Even an acapella S/S might find a niche. It worked for traditional folk singers.

I think one of the problems with the S/S's today is that the melodies tend to become similar to one another. I would like to hear some songs in different time signatures such as 9/8 or even 12/8. The melodies of today's singersongwriters are up for comparison with the likes of George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmicheal and Berlin. The S/S lyricists are up for comparison to Johnny Mercer, Berlin, Porter, Yip Harburg and the great musical theater writers of the past. Did I forget Stephen Sondheim and Tom Lehrer?

It would be well if S/S's on this side of the pond were to study the songwriting of the Nuevo Cancion in Latin America or the modern songwriting of Africa or India. It would knock the S/S'ers out of the musical box they seem to find themselves in.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 20 Nov 99 - 11:26 PM

Another point wonderfully made Frank. Once in a while someone comes along who transends our arguments. But just once in a while.
Also you mention different influences...That's the main problem as far as I'm concerned. The influences are extremely narrow (singer songwriters who've made it big) and the desire to get one's story out there totally supercedes the desire to dig a little deeper - which takes time and effort.
The vast majority of submissions I get for my radio show are
1. Young women completely influenced by: Ani Di Franco, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Loreena McKinnet, Joni Mitchell, and Emmy Lou Harris.
2. Young (and not so young) men completely influenced by Dylan. Period.
3. Celtic/Rock hybrid bands.

You just get sick of it. It's all good - just not as good as the originals. When I receive an album showing even some knowledge of the folk tradition (which to me indicates an investment) I play the hell out of it on the air. Folk audiences in Toronto knew very little of Art Theime, Jerry Rasmussen, Harvey Andrews, or even The Patons a while ago, and now I get requests for all of those people. I'm hoping it will be the same with Kendall, and some other traditionally based musical "catters" over the next year.

Rick


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 21 Nov 99 - 12:16 AM

Thank you Jeri & Kat for your kind words & Kat I'd share my kids with the rest of ya but they're very fast runners at the sound or mention of folk music, maybe someday. I'm just tickled that, at 10 & 12 they're both taking up instruments (probably to drown out Dad).
Hi Frank, another S/S that started as a teen, who I still to this day play maybe once a week is Laura Nyro, she was great even though maybe quasi-folk (I always thought of her as inner city folk).
Part of what I hear alot that drives me nuts is when the singer is or seems to be more important than the song. I've never heard the "4 Bitchin Babes" before but I hear about them being all over the place & how wonderful they are, so when they came on the radio just when I was getting out of the truck to go to work I stopped for a listen. I don't even remember what they sang, the harmonies were pretty good but the song really sucked, I thought what shit, they must have a great PR person or must be very very good at it themselves to have successfully pawned this crap on the public (OK you can all start beating me when this gets posted).
Lamarca & a few others posted about the repercussions the S/S have had on not only the traditional music but on folk music in general. I've always thought that in order for the S/S to get exposure, airplay, sell CDs or just gigs that they would sell themselves short & cheap. I don't know what put the Esteidford (bad spelling) under here in New England but it was once a great festival, then maybe 10 or 15 years ago they started bringing in S/S & dropping the caliber of talent they were known for. I saw Peter Bellamy there, Joe Heany, Frankie Armstrong, the Fisher family, Norman Kennedy & a just a whole world of other great people (not slighting us Yanks it's just that the real good ones were very common there) & it was just a friendly & a close festival. Then came the S/S (dum da dum dum) & eventually I couldn't be bothered going anymore along with alot of others I knew. Then not to long ago they seemed to have redirected the festival, maybe back to the way it was or at least towards a middle ground. So I went for the last few years & it was improving but I don't think it could pull itself up by the bootstraps anymore. Sandy or others let me know if you have any info on this, as this is only what appears to me & I don't know if this was really part of their dimise or if it just appeared to me that way. Barry


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 21 Nov 99 - 08:59 PM

Frank, one more thing I forgot to add to my last posting was that even listening to how someone like Cat Stephens used to use melody and chord structure, let alone the fine composers you mentioned would help avoid the "boring tune syndrome".
Rick


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: lamarca
Date: 21 Nov 99 - 11:38 PM

Then there's guitar styles...As someone who doesn't play, I don't have the right vocabulary to describe playing styles, but it seems that every era had a particular strumming pattern or style that all the less creative musicians would just fall into. These days, there's a couple predominant styles or riffs I keep hearing over and over ("DA-da, da-DA-da-da-da" or "Slap! da-da-DA-da-da-da" repeated over and over as a rhythmic undercurrent for the lyrics, rather than an actual finger-picked melody or arpeggio accompaniment) . When lots of contemporary S/S's use similar guitar strums for their songs, it helps you lose focus on the lyrics and makes them start sounding "all the same". Maybe Rick understands what I'm trying to say and can phrase it better.

One thing I loved about Joni Mitchell's early songs were her intricate and unusual guitar accompaniments. Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor and Cat Stevens all had great guitar melody lines, too.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Terry Allan Hall
Date: 22 Nov 99 - 08:34 AM

Gary T:

Yeah, I agree that there are songwriters out there who consistently spew crap, but eventually the Darwinian forces will remove their stuff from the vicinity...unless they have a really good record contract (which explains the Spice Girls, Michael Jackson, Garth Brookes, et al)...

The way I generally determine if a specific self-penned song really sucks is if after I've performed it at least a few times to the same basic audience (on different evenings, of course!),I still get NO reaction...as a general rule, the audiences are very good about letting S/S's know, usually in no uncertain terms!

The will of the people must be respected!


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Gary T
Date: 22 Nov 99 - 09:55 AM

Good point, Terry. Sounds like your approach would work well in most settings. It occurs to me that most of the S/S's I hear are playing to an audience of other S/S's who are their companions, there to offer support rather than to be entertained. I doubt they get honest feedback.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Bert
Date: 22 Nov 99 - 10:56 AM

Gary T, The feedback you get from S/S'er clubs is honest enough at the time it is given. You can applaud a particular effort and keep to yourself the recognition that this one is not going to be a great hit.

I usually think of these clubs as mutual admiration societies, but sometimes we need such places. It can help to show off a song for the first time to an audience that we know is going to be appreciative.

We learn much from the mistakes of others which we can put into practice with our own work. And if we are willing to accept positive suggestions, we can sometimes change a mediocre song into something fairly good.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 22 Nov 99 - 11:43 AM

Terry, read the beginning of the post, it's more or less what I said 80 postings ago!!!

There are good SS's and bad SS's, the good ones learn by audience reaction and the bad ones don't. Evolution will dispose of them, as evolution is wont to do. We usually refer to the omphalscopists as singing music to slash your wrists to. The worst sorts of SS's are those who do a 4 song set when asked to do 2, and make sure that he last one is longer than the whole of Tam Lin!!

There is also the sort who suffer from what Micca calls "charisn'tma", and we ALL know someone like that!!! You know the sort of person, when two people are talking and one looks bored shitless, he is the other one. Sort of person who thinks they are the only person in the world to have ever lost their teddy bear.

I'm so encouraged that I may just go dig out all the crap I wrote 20 years ago and see if I can find tunes for any of it.

And just what is wrong with 'Puff the magic dragon'??!

LTS


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: John of the Hill
Date: 22 Nov 99 - 09:12 PM

I was feeling bad because I haven't written a song for a couple of years, but having read this thread I now realize I was helping keep the tradition pure.Now if I could only give up the lousy guitar or at least keep it in standard tuning. John


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 22 Nov 99 - 09:59 PM

There's good singers (by which I mean people who can put across a song well), and there are people who write good songs.

Sometimes, if they are lucky, they are the same people.

I think when people get pisssed off, and start sounding off about "another Singer/Songwriter", they're thinking about people who try to combine the two roles, and can't do it.

Most of the time I think the antagonism is towards people who are fair enough singers, but who feel obliged to sing songs they have written themselves.

And I think it's worth noting that for a lot of the people who have been picked out as good Singere/Songwriters, the songs they are best known for are songs they didn't write themselves.

I also like that term Songmaker - because that includes people who can make great songs that they can't sing as well as they need to be sung. And if you get back in the tradition, a lot of our best songs came through people whose singing was very minimal, by the time the collectors came round.

And while I'm about it, noone has mentioned the two songmakers I'd want on my desert island list - Vin Garbutt and Sydney Carter (and Sydney would fall into the list of people "who can make great songs that they can't sing as well as they need to be sung" - in spite of which I'd sooner hear him sing them than anyone else.)


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Spike Cajones
Date: 22 Nov 99 - 10:34 PM

Hi Mary
Yeah I know the rhythm you're talkin' about, but please don't make me explain it. It bores me to tears.
Rick


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: TamthebamfraeScotland
Date: 10 Oct 00 - 02:15 PM

I think that Ewan McColl was all right as a singer/songwriter, He's just as good if not better than Eric Bogle, both I might add are Scottish.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Bernard
Date: 10 Oct 00 - 02:29 PM

Many of the singer/songwriters we get round this part of the world fall into what I regard as the 'conceited' category.

By this I mean that they do ONLY their own material for the whole of the evening, and seem oblivious of the fact that they cannot hold the audience's attention.

I cannot write songs, but I can hold an audience's attention. Therefore, I feel qualified to comment.

The art is to give the audience 'something they know', and 'something they ought to know' in a fine balance.

Please don't think I'm totally against singer/songwriters - just those who can't 'read' their audience...
:-)


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Ely
Date: 10 Oct 00 - 04:14 PM

1) I can't sing or write songs. I have no plans to try it and DEFINITELY won't subject the rest of the world to it if I do.

2) Yes, I've been guilty of making jabs at singer/songwriters. Very unfair of me considering many of my favorite musicians/singers, folk or no, write a considerable portion of their own material (Norman Blake, Gillian Welch, Paul Geremia, Freakwater, Jean Ritchie, Townes Van Zandt, Hazel Dickens, etc.) and perform it very effectively. I have tried more recently to focus on the good ones and not jump to negative conclusions when I hear the term.

I'm convinced that part of my problem is college, where everybody seems to want to air their angst and be patted on the back for it. I've been to numerous concerts given by performers whom friends loved, only to find some kid whaling away on a guitar and howling. What goes through my mind?

1) I don't play solo guitar in public because I'm awful, but I'm still better than [said performer]. Is there an Eleventh Commandment I missed, "Thou shalt play only harsh percussive guitar"?

2) I'm good friends with [said performer] and I KNOW that her life is not that hard. A little college-years confusion and growing pain does not constitute a hard life.

3) [Said performer] watched too much Disney as a child or she wouldn't have written seven astonished songs about relationships that didn't last happily ever after.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Rich(bodhránai gan ciall)
Date: 11 Oct 00 - 12:22 AM

Thanks to Hammie for refreshing this thread. I had forgotten Rick's CaribAfroMaxiMariCeltoid. And the wonderful Puppy joke and Brendy's any asshole joke, and best of all the "singing their diaries" observation.

Rich


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 11 Oct 00 - 06:31 PM

I consider singer-songwriters to be the heart and soul of folk music, virtually all of which has been created...and is being created...by singer-songwriters.

A song is not sacrosanct just because no one can remember who wrote it...or when.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Bill D
Date: 11 Oct 00 - 07:02 PM

there is a profound difference between people who made up songs and sometimes sang them and ****Singer/Songwriters**** ......many of the latter tailor their output to fit the trends, so they can keep the spotlight on themselves...(not illegal, or even 'wrong'...just provides a different flavor of product)


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: The Shambles
Date: 11 Oct 00 - 07:13 PM

What kept you Bill? .....Smiles

Singer Songwriters. A defence


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: GUEST,Murray MacLeod
Date: 11 Oct 00 - 11:25 PM


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: GUEST,Murray Macleod
Date: 11 Oct 00 - 11:28 PM

Hammie, Ewan McColl was Emglish, not that it really matters ....

Murray


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Rich(bodhránai gan ciall)
Date: 12 Oct 00 - 12:24 AM

Isn't this a rhetorical question?

Rich


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Grab
Date: 12 Oct 00 - 10:02 AM

How come this got refreshed after a year or so? Do you have archaeological aspirations, Hammie?

Grab.


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: The Shambles
Date: 12 Oct 00 - 04:59 PM

Is not Eric Bogle an Austrailan?


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: bflat
Date: 12 Oct 00 - 05:08 PM

Shanbles, you are correct that Eric Bogle is an Austrailan but he is a Scottish emigrant and has lived there about twenty-five years, I believe.

bflat


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: Clinton Hammond2
Date: 14 Oct 00 - 12:32 PM

it could always be worse...

Someone could write a song about how the world doesn't need any more Wallmarts....

That would be truely insipid...

:-|


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Subject: RE: What's so bad re' singer/songwriters?
From: katlaughing
Date: 03 Feb 02 - 12:49 AM

Boy have I learned a lot over the past few years, since asking this question! I actually was a bit miffed when I heard this interview and song "defining" folk, etc. I think the interviewer needs to visit the Mudcat!

Thanks, it was fun to re-read this, again.

kat


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