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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
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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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