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10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC

Joe Offer 07 Oct 21 - 06:22 PM
Jeri 07 Oct 21 - 07:04 PM
meself 07 Oct 21 - 07:06 PM
Steve Shaw 07 Oct 21 - 08:14 PM
Hagman 07 Oct 21 - 08:27 PM
Nick 07 Oct 21 - 10:02 PM
punkfolkrocker 08 Oct 21 - 01:06 AM
GUEST,ottery 08 Oct 21 - 01:37 AM
GerryM 08 Oct 21 - 02:29 AM
Steve Shaw 08 Oct 21 - 04:01 AM
r.padgett 08 Oct 21 - 04:08 AM
GUEST,John Robinson 08 Oct 21 - 04:09 AM
GUEST 08 Oct 21 - 06:00 AM
matt milton 08 Oct 21 - 06:08 AM
G-Force 08 Oct 21 - 06:18 AM
Dave Sutherland 08 Oct 21 - 06:31 AM
Dave Hanson 08 Oct 21 - 06:58 AM
GUEST,RA 08 Oct 21 - 08:27 AM
GUEST,Clive Foden 08 Oct 21 - 08:31 AM
Steve Shaw 08 Oct 21 - 08:58 AM
Steve Gardham 08 Oct 21 - 10:01 AM
GUEST 08 Oct 21 - 10:30 AM
GUEST,Peter 08 Oct 21 - 10:39 AM
GerryM 08 Oct 21 - 05:51 PM
Tattie Bogle 08 Oct 21 - 07:38 PM
Elmore 09 Oct 21 - 12:46 AM
Joe Offer 09 Oct 21 - 01:25 AM
Black belt caterpillar wrestler 09 Oct 21 - 03:46 AM
Tattie Bogle 10 Oct 21 - 04:04 PM
GUEST,PyschedOutStolas 10 Oct 21 - 04:21 PM
Thompson 10 Oct 21 - 05:03 PM
Rusty Dobro 11 Oct 21 - 04:24 AM
Steve Shaw 11 Oct 21 - 04:57 AM
Mrrzy 11 Oct 21 - 10:39 AM
GUEST,Rigby 11 Oct 21 - 11:02 AM
BobL 12 Oct 21 - 03:25 AM
The Sandman 12 Oct 21 - 03:32 AM
Neil D 12 Oct 21 - 09:36 AM
Sol 12 Oct 21 - 10:22 AM
Steve Shaw 13 Oct 21 - 02:23 PM
Rain Dog 15 Oct 21 - 11:06 AM
Steve Shaw 15 Oct 21 - 11:51 AM
GUEST 15 Oct 21 - 04:39 PM
Steve Shaw 15 Oct 21 - 04:59 PM
Steve Shaw 15 Oct 21 - 05:11 PM
Bonzo3legs 15 Oct 21 - 05:35 PM
Sol 15 Oct 21 - 05:38 PM
Bonzo3legs 15 Oct 21 - 06:47 PM
Steve Shaw 15 Oct 21 - 06:52 PM
GerryM 15 Oct 21 - 07:20 PM
Steve Shaw 15 Oct 21 - 07:36 PM
GUEST 15 Oct 21 - 08:11 PM
meself 15 Oct 21 - 08:41 PM
Jeri 15 Oct 21 - 09:37 PM
RTim 15 Oct 21 - 09:55 PM
Black belt caterpillar wrestler 16 Oct 21 - 04:37 AM
Rain Dog 16 Oct 21 - 06:07 AM
Rain Dog 16 Oct 21 - 06:22 AM
Bonzo3legs 16 Oct 21 - 08:06 AM
Bonzo3legs 16 Oct 21 - 09:26 AM
Jeri 16 Oct 21 - 09:39 AM
Stilly River Sage 16 Oct 21 - 09:45 AM
Mrrzy 16 Oct 21 - 11:01 AM
Steve Shaw 16 Oct 21 - 11:10 AM
GUEST,ottery 29 Oct 21 - 01:32 PM
GUEST,Gealt 29 Oct 21 - 02:10 PM
Mo the caller 29 Oct 21 - 02:39 PM
Steve Shaw 29 Oct 21 - 05:58 PM
gillymor 30 Oct 21 - 06:31 AM
gillymor 30 Oct 21 - 06:52 AM
gillymor 30 Oct 21 - 07:01 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 30 Oct 21 - 10:18 AM
gillymor 30 Oct 21 - 10:34 AM
GUEST,Some bloke 31 Oct 21 - 10:16 AM
gillymor 31 Oct 21 - 02:22 PM
GUEST 31 Oct 21 - 06:09 PM
Rain Dog 24 Nov 21 - 02:45 PM
Lighter 24 Nov 21 - 07:43 PM
GUEST,mayomick 26 Nov 21 - 04:28 PM
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Subject: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - B
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Oct 21 - 06:22 PM

Somebody posted a link to this article on the Mudcat Facebook page, and it will disappear sooner of later. Seems like a good thing to discuss in the Forum.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/articles/8beeaac5-064c-4406-9e85-d42cebf9a53b

The Ten songs listed are:
  1. Died for Love
  2. The Cruel Mother
  3. The Unquiet Grave
  4. The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll (Dylan)
  5. Cold Haily Rainy Night
  6. The Knoxville Girl
  7. Matty Groves
  8. O Death
  9. Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire
  10. On Morecambe Bay


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Jeri
Date: 07 Oct 21 - 07:04 PM

The Well Below the Valley


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: meself
Date: 07 Oct 21 - 07:06 PM

Thanks, Joe. Not identical with my list, but that's okay. I highly recommend the radio documentary provided with #4.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 07 Oct 21 - 08:14 PM

Well as a long-time Shirley Collins aficionado, I'd nominate two of her songs. There's Polly Vaughan, which I have on a superb album called Fountains Of Snow. Then there's The Murder of Maria Marten, on that greatest of English folk-rock albums, No Roses.

Then there's The Banks Of Red Roses by De Dannan, sung by Johnny Moynihan.

I've just realised that I've picked three songs about the murder of women... Is that apposite for the modern era, I have to ask myself...


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Hagman
Date: 07 Oct 21 - 08:27 PM

As disturbing as "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" is, I can't help thinking that "Ballad of Hollis Brown" is much more stark and shocking. I can still recall the recoil when I heard that second-last verse conclude, and that was a very long time ago.....


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Nick
Date: 07 Oct 21 - 10:02 PM

Pretty Polly that I heard Judy Collins sing is up there for me. My wife refuses to listen to it!


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 08 Oct 21 - 01:06 AM

Further proof how useless the breakaway facebook group is...

Big ups for the far superior researchable Mudcat forum archival database...


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: GUEST,ottery
Date: 08 Oct 21 - 01:37 AM

I'm not sure how this list could have been written without Long Lankin/Lamkin. Not so much creepy as nightmare fuel.

Also: Prince Heathen, Chyld Owlett...the last verses of Silkie of Sule Skerry are pretty heartbreaking.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: GerryM
Date: 08 Oct 21 - 02:29 AM

Any votes for I Come and Stand (aka Little Dead Girl of Hiroshima)? Come Away Melinda? Strange Fruit?


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 08 Oct 21 - 04:01 AM

Well if we're straying away from folk songs, there's John Lennon's "Run For Your Life:"

"I'd rather see you dead little girl
Than to be with another man..."

(He did apologise for writing it).


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: r.padgett
Date: 08 Oct 21 - 04:08 AM

Morley Main disaster by Keith Marsden ~ when I first heard this and subsequently I had to go out of the room

Time has put it in its place of course

Miners worked in highly dangerous places underground and people point to agricultural workers deaths yes that too, but largely above ground and in better conditions

Yes I live in Barnsley and was always aware of the danger from being a young miner's lad

Ray


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: GUEST,John Robinson
Date: 08 Oct 21 - 04:09 AM

I nominate 'The Banks of Green Willow'. I first heard it sung by Tony Rose, and you might think, 'Hang on! That's not disturbing.' But for me, it has a kind of fractured quality to the narrative - it might be all remains of a longer song - and it involves a boat full of Jonahs chucking a woman and her baby off a sailing ship to avoid bad luck. Imagine that on News at Ten. If you try to perform it you might understand why I've selected it, because it's such a weird little story, though 'The Outlandish Knight' is even more so...


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Oct 21 - 06:00 AM

The Bonny Hind


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: matt milton
Date: 08 Oct 21 - 06:08 AM

Lots of songs that I personally think are more disturbing than that list. Horses for courses I guess. The aforementioned Well Below The Valley is very disturbing for obvious, horrible reasons when you read the words. Willie's Lady is pretty disturbing in its own way. The White Fisher. The Wife of Usher's Well. Child Owlett. Little Sir Hugh (with or without the antisemitism) Some of the songs (but definitely not all) of the songs I just mentioned manage to be quite cathartic as well as disturbing.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: G-Force
Date: 08 Oct 21 - 06:18 AM

When I was younger and even more unsophisticated than I am now, I remember being shaken to the core by the last verse of 'Step it out Mary'.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 08 Oct 21 - 06:31 AM

"Baron o' Brackley or 'Andrew Rose/Ross"


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 08 Oct 21 - 06:58 AM

Andrew Rose is even more disturbing when you hear the truth of what his so called shipmates did to him.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: GUEST,RA
Date: 08 Oct 21 - 08:27 AM

How about 'Sheath and Knife' or 'Child Norris/Morris', anyone?


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: GUEST,Clive Foden
Date: 08 Oct 21 - 08:31 AM

Surely Hugh of Lincoln?


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 08 Oct 21 - 08:58 AM

"Willie's Lady is pretty disturbing in its own way."

Lady's Willie would be even more so.

I'll get me coat...


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 08 Oct 21 - 10:01 AM

There are just as many disturbing things occurring today in so-called civilised society.

Some of these were obviously written as warnings, some as political statements.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Oct 21 - 10:30 AM

I agree that Long Lankin should be on the list.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: GUEST,Peter
Date: 08 Oct 21 - 10:39 AM

I assumed, before opening the thread, that this would be about people objecting to their performance.

Despite listening to folk song for over half a century one that still disturbs me is Banks of Red Roses. Pete Coe's setting has such a lovely tune which makes the story hit home all the harder.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: GerryM
Date: 08 Oct 21 - 05:51 PM

Blue Bleezing Blind Drunk.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 08 Oct 21 - 07:38 PM

Gerry, you just beat me to it there: I too find that quite disturbing, along with Eric Bogle's "Glasgow Lullaby". Domestic abuse is still rife.
Andrew Lammie and Suzie Clelland both have some similarities with so-called "honour killings" as still practised today, sadly, in some cultures.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Elmore
Date: 09 Oct 21 - 12:46 AM

"Sam Stone" by John Prine disturbs me. Sheath and Knife too,but that was already mentioned.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Joe Offer
Date: 09 Oct 21 - 01:25 AM

My intention when I started this thread was to change all the songs listed into links. I'll get to it. But I gotta say, I'm impressed. Thanks to everyone who contributed. Keep 'em coming.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Black belt caterpillar wrestler
Date: 09 Oct 21 - 03:46 AM

I suppose that what makes a song disturbing is the images and feelings that it conjures in your imagination, whether fear, pity or indignation.

On that basis I would nominate "Penny Evans" for the line "and every month I mail the damned thing back".

Another song that I stopped singing as it gave me an uneasy feeling was Richard Thompson's "House of cards".

Robin


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 10 Oct 21 - 04:04 PM

Even as a retired medic, I also find Alistair Hulett’s song “He fades away” quite disturbing, but correctly so as it highlights the plights of those affected by asbestosis in the Australian mines. Then there is Allan Taylor’s song “Roll on the Day” re those affected by miners’ pneumoconiosis: another one that I won’t be afraid to sing but with disturbing images.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: GUEST,PyschedOutStolas
Date: 10 Oct 21 - 04:21 PM

I feel like if this list was going to include Dylan the obvious choice is "Ballad of Hollis Brown" but I originally immediately jumped to Pearl Byrant. The graphic nature of the song's about her death (of which there are at least 2 I know of) is deserving of this list.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Thompson
Date: 10 Oct 21 - 05:03 PM

Without doubt, James Stephens singing the chilling magical refrain O the brown and the yellow ale


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Rusty Dobro
Date: 11 Oct 21 - 04:24 AM

I always find the king in ‘Willie o’ Winsbury’ rather creepy. Also not many laughs in ‘Fair Flower of Serving Men’….


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 11 Oct 21 - 04:57 AM

Little Musgrave is pretty chilling, epic though it be... more so when performed in Planxty's understated way.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Mrrzy
Date: 11 Oct 21 - 10:39 AM

Lamkins bothered me as a child.

So did The baggage coach ahead, and The letter edged in black. But those are just sad, not disturbing.

Weela wallya, anyone?


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: GUEST,Rigby
Date: 11 Oct 21 - 11:02 AM

I always find The Oxford Girl very disturbing. It's something about the way the narrator dispassionately recounts the murder even though he can't really explain or understand his own motives.

Also, how is Fanny Blair not on the list?


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: BobL
Date: 12 Oct 21 - 03:25 AM

Yes, Fanny Blair - nasty little piece of jailbait who frames an innocent man for a fictitious child rape. Most disturbing indeed.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: The Sandman
Date: 12 Oct 21 - 03:32 AM

yes i agree, about Andrew Rose


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Neil D
Date: 12 Oct 21 - 09:36 AM

Lord Randall


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Sol
Date: 12 Oct 21 - 10:22 AM

Most(?)folk songs are about one form of misery or another mainly involving death, lost love, shipwrecks and/or other natural disasters.
I suppose it's fair to say that this was the way news & various historic events were recorded in the past.

I find "The Dutchman" is a particularly sad song as it relates directly to dementia which seems to becoming more prevalent these days. Probably because people are growing older in numbers and not dying from previous killer diseases.

BTW, excellent song picks above by GerryM.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 13 Oct 21 - 02:23 PM

I know it's not a folk song (as are Dylan's not, by the way...), but I've just been reading about the Stones' song Brown Sugar being withdrawn from their set list for their upcoming tour. In all these years of bopping to it and getting carried away with the beat, I confess to never having homed in on the words. Now that I have, I don't like it one bit...


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Rain Dog
Date: 15 Oct 21 - 11:06 AM

Tom Waits "I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things."

With reference to Steve's post about Brown Sugar, there is a 'problem' with songs tackling difficult subjects. The music and singing can 'hide' the message. Arthur McBride by Paul Brady has a jaunty sound to it but it tells a violent tale.

Then you can have songs written by the performer, released on an album but then not performed live by the artist. Georgia Lee by Tom Waits & Kathleen Brennan.As far as I know, he has not performed it at a gig. I could be wrong about that. Others have performed the song.

Albion by Chris Wood is another powerful song. I don't know if he has ever sung it at one of his own gigs. Both this and Georgia Lee are based on real life events.

Once you have decided to perform your disturbing song, where do you place it in your set list?

Strange Fruit, which has been mentioned, is a powerful song. When Billie Holiday was singing it, lynchings were still happening. She was playing in clubs, people drinking etc., so where do you place the song?. From wikipedia:

"Holiday first performed the song at Café Society in 1939. She said that singing it made her fearful of retaliation but, because its imagery reminded her of her father, she continued to sing the piece, making it a regular part of her live performances.[14] Because of the power of the song, Josephson drew up some rules: Holiday would close with it; the waiters would stop all service in advance; the room would be in darkness except for a spotlight on Holiday's face; and there would be no encore.[10] During the musical introduction to the song, Holiday stood with her eyes closed, as if she were evoking a prayer."

Another disturbing song is The Boiler by Rhoda Dakar.

It is more a spoken rather than sung piece, and it is about rape.

She wrote it while performing with The Bodysnatchers. She also recorded it with The Special AKA,which is the version I first heard.

She did perform the song at gigs. The following is taken from an interview with her.

"What prompted you to write 'The Boiler' with The Bodysnatchers and what was it like to perform it live? What was it like to record the song with The Special AKA?

It came about because I was just talking over a riff in rehearsal. I didn't know about writing songs, but I knew how to improvise - I had originally wanted to act and had worked in the theatre on leaving school. Performing it live was acting, that's all. A friend had been raped a couple of years earlier and I suppose I was thinking of her at the time. Recording it was a very long and drawn out process. It was released a year after it was first recorded. I remember Jerry on the phone to the studio from New York organizing remixes."

There is a recording from a 1980 gig in Folkestone on the net. It is a very disturbing piece, and i am not sure how it would go down at a gig, especially with women. If you did not know it beforehand i would imagine that it might well affect your evening.

Apologies for mentioning non folk songs but the topic does interest me. Songs are a tricky medium for dealing with disturbing subjects.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 15 Oct 21 - 11:51 AM

I think the trouble with Run For Your Life and Brown Sugar is that their messages, if any were actually intended, were not ones of addressing issues. Both Lennon and Jagger came to regret those songs. Arthur McBride is about the little man getting one over on the establishment, not an uncommon theme, and songs like that may be seen as rather lyrical ways of mildly protesting or rebelling. Pitched just right, the authoritarian powers-that-be can't really touch 'em...


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Oct 21 - 04:39 PM

The Stones are dropping Brown Sugar. So should the disturbing songs mentioned above be dropped from the folk clubs too ? Who would enforce it ?


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 15 Oct 21 - 04:59 PM

It's always quite important that we debate the "of its time" getout. I vaguely remember, from many years ago, a spat in Folk Roots when Colin Irwin criticised Nic Jones's Humpback Whale song (which was uncritical about the hunting of the whale), on the rerelease of Penguin Eggs. Defenders claimed that the song was of its time. Colin didn't come out well, but did he have a point? My view was that he did, but I still wanted the song on the album. After that heated debate, I felt that understood a bit more and that, given a bit of reflection, I could take it...


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 15 Oct 21 - 05:11 PM

I also think that another point for consideration is that we are grown-ups, and that the "let's-censor-for-fear-that-this stuff-will-deprave-and-corrupt" mindset owned by self-appointed moralisers is both authoritarian and patronising. Most of us are a bit tougher than that, thanks, and we have brains. Not saying that in certain spheres (especially with regard to the young) that we should never draw lines. It's a difficult area all right.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 15 Oct 21 - 05:35 PM

here we go again!!


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Sol
Date: 15 Oct 21 - 05:38 PM

The problem with all of this is, where do you draw the line. It's an impossible question to answer because everybody's 'line' is in a differ place. Personally, I think it's up to the artist to sing what they feel in themselves is appropriate.

"You can please some of the people some of the time .... etc."


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 15 Oct 21 - 06:47 PM

No importa lo que piensa la gente. Lo importante es disfrutar de la vida.

And so I shall continue to play and enjoy Brown Sugar, as I do The Bones of All Men by Phil Pickett + Fairport Full House without Swarb!!!


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 15 Oct 21 - 06:52 PM

Very true. We hard-bitten grown-ups can decide. But we live in an age in which social media, especially when it comes to the young, are way ahead of us on the curve...

I heard Vin sing his anti-abortion song at our folk club. I didn't like it, but, begod, I'd defend to the the hilt his right to sing it...

All I'm saying is that we have a lot to debate...


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: GerryM
Date: 15 Oct 21 - 07:20 PM

"Nic Jones's Humpback Whale song" is actually Harry Robertson's Humpback Whale song (though I grant that many more people will have heard Jones' cover than Robertson's original).

Changing gears, I'm not sure I'd defend anyone's right to sing the Horst Wessel Lied.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 15 Oct 21 - 07:36 PM

Quite so, Gerry, but I think that most folkies would associate that song with Nic...


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Oct 21 - 08:11 PM

Boys of Bedlam is far more disturbing than several on this list.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: meself
Date: 15 Oct 21 - 08:41 PM

Gordon Lightfoot apparently stopped performing "That's What You Get for Lovin' Me" decades ago, because he had come to find it too "disturbing". There is a documentary from a few years ago in which he beats himself up for having composed that song.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Jeri
Date: 15 Oct 21 - 09:37 PM

I'm probably looking at this from the same, or a similar, angle as Rain Dog.

I think we're getting "disturbing" confused with "offensive". They overlap, but they aren't the same. There are, for example, songs about horrific things that make you think, and feel sympathetic, but are just truthful. The song I mentioned earlier, "The Well Below the Valley", is about rape, and incest, and a somewhat less obvious disturbing thing is that that woman, the victim would be condemned to Hell. Why? Because she was raped by various family members? I believe it just reflects older opinions, which aren't dissimilar from people in some countries punishing women for having been raped. "Honor" killings.

"Brown Sugar" I've always found a bit uncomfortable, but not "disturbing". I don't know - maybe I should have.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: RTim
Date: 15 Oct 21 - 09:55 PM

You could include almost every Child Ballad in this list, plus many other songs that Child excluded for whatever reason.....the canon is full of Disturbing songs !!

Tim Radford


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Black belt caterpillar wrestler
Date: 16 Oct 21 - 04:37 AM

It can be just a case your mind set when you listen to the song.

Have you ever really thought about "Santa Claus is coming to town" as a macabre warning? Just review the lyrics with aview to the dark side of them. Terry Pratchett did.

Robin


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Rain Dog
Date: 16 Oct 21 - 06:07 AM

Audience expectation when they go to their local folk club to see one of their favourite performers.

"Oh i hope he sings that song about rape/incest/murder/wholesale slaughter etc."

I would imagine that more of the audience might be 'disturbed' by a song about whaling or pro abortion.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Rain Dog
Date: 16 Oct 21 - 06:22 AM

I meant to say 'anti abortion' song in my previous post.

Of course it would depend on whereabouts in the world you were singing the song.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 16 Oct 21 - 08:06 AM

What nonsense am I reading here? For the most part people go to folk clubs to be entertained, and don't care 2 hoots what songs are about. Likewise when they go to a Stones gig - perish the thought, they just want to hear the sound of the songs. You can never understand what Mick Jagger is singing anyway. All lefty drivel.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 16 Oct 21 - 09:26 AM

Performances by Screaming Lord Sutch of his early song Jack the Ripper was prepared for by a visit to the local butcher’s to buy up offal for use on stage during the song!!!!!


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Jeri
Date: 16 Oct 21 - 09:39 AM

As to "don't care 2 hoots what songs are about": no one has EVER walked out of a performance because they didn't like what the songs were about? And they've never started threads in various internet places to complain about those performers? (Those were rhetorical.)

I don't know, Bonz. I think you're trying to turn this into a BS fight, but...
Quite a few people used to go to Dick Gaughan's gigs, because the music was great, but his diatribes were just as impressive. I bought, at least, one book because of what he said.

People go to folk clubs/concerts/venues to be entertained, AND to be inspired, both emotionally and intellectually. They make us feel. They make us think.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 16 Oct 21 - 09:45 AM

This topic appeared on Facebook and I closed the discussion there and asked it be moved here because I knew it would get some mileage. But it isn't about what is folk or who do you like or not like as performers. Those dogfights are elsewhere in the BS section.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Mrrzy
Date: 16 Oct 21 - 11:01 AM

I second the distinction between disturbing and offensive.

Whaling songs started to bug me in the 80's, so I stopped singing them. I did not stop *liking* them, though.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 16 Oct 21 - 11:10 AM

I've been to at least three Dick Gaughan gigs (that I can remember), and his politics are my politics. I enjoyed his diatribes too, though I really didn't need to hear them as a matter of urgency (his obsessive guitar tuning between each and every song was,however, somethin' else!). In the end, as with some of Christy's earlier work, I found the politics in many of his songs to be a bit too much between-the-eyes. In a sense, even though the politics were also mine, I found some of that stuff a bit too unsettling/disturbing/uncomfortable, call it what you will. Of course, I should know what's coming and I shouldn't, and don't, expect to be cosseted in a comfort blanket. I went to even more of Vin's gigs (he was deservedly a big favourite round here) knowing that he was likely to sing his anti-abortion song, but it's all good.

I think that Woody had a far better way of putting his messages across. No polemic, no preachiness, no bitterness...

Many years ago we had Marilyn Middleton Pollock at our folk club. She nearly had us all falling off our chairs laughing when she said at the start of the gig that we should be saying to her, "Come on, you're supposed to be a folk singer. Depress me!"

And I don't agree with anything you've just said, Bonzo.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: GUEST,ottery
Date: 29 Oct 21 - 01:32 PM

Today was a day of much bus travel (seven hours) and suddenly thought - I remember one song that wasn't mentioned on the Most Disturbing thread: Twa Corbies (as I know it), close kin to The Three Ravens. Don't know how I forgot about it.

Ye'll sit on his white haus-bane
And I'll peck out his bonny blue een
Wi mony a lock of his gowden hair
We'll theek our nest when it grows bare

Oversight now corrected.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: GUEST,Gealt
Date: 29 Oct 21 - 02:10 PM

"The Hearse Song" from 'Cockney Music Hall Songs and Recitations' sung by Colyn Davies on the Tradition label.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Mo the caller
Date: 29 Oct 21 - 02:39 PM

The last of the Great Whales, last verse.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 29 Oct 21 - 05:58 PM

Ah, The Last Of The Great Whales... I had a recording of that song by Roy Bailey (what a man he was...). In 1995 I was the form teacher of a class of Year 11s in a Devon secondary school. A couple of my girls took the song to heart after hearing the recording and performed it imaginatively in a school production - wonderful it was... Roy came to our folk club around that time and he wasn't going to escape until he'd done that song!


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: gillymor
Date: 30 Oct 21 - 06:31 AM

The Two Sisters (or Twa Sisters)
gets a bit graphic and grisly. Dylan seems to have borrowed a bit of the melody and structure for Percy's Song.

There were two sisters lived in a bower,
    Oh the wind and rain,
There were two sisters lived in a bower,
    Oh the dreadful wind and rain.

Johnny courted the eldest with a gay gold ring,
But he loved the youngest above all things.

Johnny courted the eldest with a brooche and knife,
But he loved the youngest with all his life.

Oh the eldest envied the sister fair
For her pretty little face and her long flowing hair.

“Now sister, sister, come to yon sea strand,
And see our father's ships a-coming home to land.”

And the eldest pushed the youngest in
For she knew, her sister, she could not swim.

Some times she sank, and some times she swam,
Until she came to the miller's dam.

Oh the miller standing at his door
And he saw her drowning by the shore.

“Oh miller, I'll give you this gay gold chain
If you bring me back to my father again.”

And the miller took that gay gold chain
And he pushed her back in the water again.

Her father's knight he came riding by
And this fair maid's body chanced to spy.

Oh he took three locks of her long yellow hair
And with them strung a bow so fair.

And what did he do with her breast bone?
He made it a fiddle to play upon.

And what did he do with her veins so blue?
He made fiddle strings to play a tune.

And what did he do with her fingers slight?
He made little pegs to hold them tight.

And the only tune that the fiddle would play
Was oh the wind and rain,
And the only tune that the fiddle would play
Was oh the dreadful wind and rain.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: gillymor
Date: 30 Oct 21 - 06:52 AM

I've always found this one disturbing and infuriating-


Victor Jara

Arlo Guthrie/A. Mitchell

Victor Jara of Chile lived like a shooting star
He fought for the people of Chile with his songs and his guitar
His hands were gentle and his hands were strong

Victor Jara was a peasant boy barely six years old
He sat upon his father’s plough and watched the earth unfold

When the neighbours had a wedding or one of their children died
His mother sang all night to them with Victor by her side

He grew up to be a fighter stood against what was wrong
He learned of peoples grief and joy and turned it into song

He sang for the copper miners and those who farmed the land
He sang for the factory workers who knew Victor was their man

He campaigned for Allende canvassed night and day
Singing take hold of your brother’s hand the future starts today

When Pinochet seized Chile they arrested Victor then –
They caged him in the stadium with 5000 frightened men

Victor picked up his guitar his voice resounded strong
And he sang for his comrades till the guards cut short his song

They broke the bones in both his hands and beat him on the head
Tortured him with electric wires then they shot him dead

Victor Jara of Chile lived like a shooting star
He fought for the people of Chile with his songs and his guitar
His hands were gentle and his hands were strong


Dylan's Seven Curses is also a bit disturbing.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: gillymor
Date: 30 Oct 21 - 07:01 AM

I forgot to preview that last one, can someone tighten it up? Thanks.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 30 Oct 21 - 10:18 AM

Folks following this thread might be interested in hearing this song recently posted on you tube by Martha Spencer from Whitetop, Virginia



       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bg4nc_37Zto


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: gillymor
Date: 30 Oct 21 - 10:34 AM

Here's a link the song Hootenanny mentioned-

The Revenge of Pretty Polly, Rose Connelly, and Little Sadie- Martha Spencer and Jamie Collins

I love the concept, production and execution (pun intended) of that one, plus a very cool guitar and well played.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: GUEST,Some bloke
Date: 31 Oct 21 - 10:16 AM

“Disturbing” is perhaps a genre in itself, regardless of musical style.   

Music is a form of abstract entertainment and so are books and movies. Horror stories sell…

In terms of examples, the imagery that Dylan displayed in The Ballad of Hollis Brown was not only clever but hit the button. In one verse, the gun is on the wall then is in his hand in the next verse. Beats anything from Hammer House of Horror.

Richard Thompson’s We Sing Hallelujah” is disturbing in the cynical way it looks at society, but to be fair, he pricks the bubble of hubris in many excellent songs.

In the trad world, I am presently revamping a version of The Lover’s Ghost / The Grey Cock and whilst it is a storyline old as the hills, it’s rather creepy all the same……


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: gillymor
Date: 31 Oct 21 - 02:22 PM

RT also gave us Psycho Street, for better or worse.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: GUEST
Date: 31 Oct 21 - 06:09 PM

Depends how easily "disturbed" you are.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Rain Dog
Date: 24 Nov 21 - 02:45 PM

Repeated on BBC Radio 4 Extra in the early hours of this morning.

Soul Music : Strange Fruit

"Southern trees bear a strange fruit, blood on the leaves and blood at the root..."

Billie Holiday's famous song expresses the horror and anguish of those communities subjected to a campaign of lynching in the American South.

Soul Music hears the stories of people whose relatives were lynched by white racists and of the various forms of grief, anger and reconciliation that have followed. These include the cousin of teenager Emmett Till, whose killing in 1955 for whistling at a white woman, added powerful impetus to the civil rights movement.

Despite its association with the deep south, the song was actually composed in 1930's New York by a Jewish schoolteacher, Abel Meeropol.

Meeropol adopted the children of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg after they were executed in 1953 as Soviet spies. One of those children, Robert, talks of his adopted father's humanity and his belief that the Rosenberg's were killed in a 'state sanctioned lynching by the American government'. For him, Strange Fruit is a comforting reminder of his adopted father's passionate belief in justice and compassion.


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: Lighter
Date: 24 Nov 21 - 07:43 PM

Wot, no "Pills of White Mercury"? (Old Blind Dogs, "Tall Tails," 1994).

Or "The S & M Man"? (Rugby players everywhere.)


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Subject: RE: 10 of the Most Disturbing Folk Songs - BBC
From: GUEST,mayomick
Date: 26 Nov 21 - 04:28 PM

Rambling Sailor's nasty, misogynist lyrics


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