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Origins: John Barleycorn Must Die

DigiTrad:
JOHN BARLEYCORN
JOHN BARLEYCORN (2)
JOHN BARLEYCORN, MY JO
JOHN BARLEYCORN: A BALLAD


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Lyr Add: John Barleycorn (Jon Berger, Stan Rogers) (9)
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(origins) Origins: Meaning of John Barleycorn (91)
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Chords Req: John Barleycorn (32)
Lyr Req: John Barleycorn (3) (closed)
Penguin: John Barleycorn (15)
Tune Req: The Barleycorn (Ron Kavana) (14)
Tune Req: John Barleycorn (from Traffic) (11)
John Barleycorn (11)


Mrrzy 04 Jul 01 - 11:23 PM
GUEST,Ed 05 Jul 01 - 04:05 AM
Les from Hull 05 Jul 01 - 06:46 AM
Malcolm Douglas 05 Jul 01 - 07:40 AM
GeorgeH 05 Jul 01 - 08:53 AM
GUEST 05 Jul 01 - 09:08 AM
Mrrzy 05 Jul 01 - 09:59 AM
Malcolm Douglas 05 Jul 01 - 10:02 AM
UB Ed 05 Jul 01 - 10:41 AM
Mrrzy 05 Jul 01 - 10:50 AM
GUEST,AKRick 06 Jul 01 - 08:39 AM
Malcolm Douglas 06 Jul 01 - 09:31 AM
GUEST 10 May 04 - 06:22 AM
Steve Parkes 10 May 04 - 06:56 AM
GUEST,JOHN of ELSIE`S BAND 10 May 04 - 10:52 AM
Schantieman 10 May 04 - 01:22 PM
Malcolm Douglas 10 May 04 - 03:19 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 04 Dec 04 - 06:03 PM
GUEST,just stopping by 04 Dec 04 - 06:18 PM
Georgiansilver 04 Dec 04 - 06:18 PM
John C. 05 Dec 04 - 12:59 PM
dianavan 05 Dec 04 - 11:45 PM
M.Ted 06 Dec 04 - 01:46 PM
Nerd 07 Dec 04 - 01:02 PM
GUEST,Courtney Allen Powers 16 Apr 06 - 11:21 PM
Malcolm Douglas 17 Apr 06 - 12:03 AM
The Villan 17 Apr 06 - 02:41 PM
GUEST,Jack Campin 17 Apr 06 - 04:40 PM
Mr Happy 06 Jun 07 - 07:02 AM
Malcolm Douglas 06 Jun 07 - 09:24 PM
GUEST,Sim 02 Jun 10 - 11:50 AM
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Subject: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: Mrrzy
Date: 04 Jul 01 - 11:23 PM

Hi, all - old nor new? And is it about Prohibition (or the contemporaneous equivalent)? I'm having discussions in the absence of ken on this one... looked for conversations about it but didn't see any, nor is there any history at the bottom of the lyrics in the Trad.

Lovely song, isn't it?

Thank you all in advance,

-Mrr


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: GUEST,Ed
Date: 05 Jul 01 - 04:05 AM

There are a couple of Mudcat threads which might help:

Here and here

Ed


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: Les from Hull
Date: 05 Jul 01 - 06:46 AM

Traffic (Steve Winwood) did an excellent version of this on their album 'John Barleycorn Must Die'.


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 05 Jul 01 - 07:40 AM

Ed's first link goes to the thread relating to the version of the song that appeared in The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs: I have put links there to all the material available on the song at this site, and some other relevant ones.  "Traffic" recorded an arrangement of the Penguin book set, if I recall correctly.  We haven't ever really had Prohibition in Britain, so that's not an issue.

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: GeorgeH
Date: 05 Jul 01 - 08:53 AM

However Malcolm's "Penguin" notes do suggest the song goes back to those good old days when what's no the US of A was no more than an colony of England . . . so I guess it predates prohibition!

One of my favourite versions of this was by English Country Blues Band (which included Ian Anderson, now of Folk Roots, and Rod Stradling, now of Musical Traditions, if I remember aright). A blues re-write of the song; great fun, and well worth looking for! (Maggie Holland - who more recently wrote "A place called England" and "A proper sort of Gardener" is the vocalist).

G.


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Jul 01 - 09:08 AM

See early versions in Scarce Songs 2 on Bruce O's website.


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: Mrrzy
Date: 05 Jul 01 - 09:59 AM

Well, if not Prohibition, then Temperance - one of the versions linked to above mentions temperance, but the general tenor (ha ha) is more that it celebrates ale, than delineated efforts to ban it? Yes?


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 05 Jul 01 - 10:02 AM

Absolutely.  The Temperance versions are 19th. century, I think.


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: UB Ed
Date: 05 Jul 01 - 10:41 AM

Another old thread link that ultimately leads to the excellent research done by Malcolm:

Maybe its because of the Traffic version, but I've always been fascinated by this song... Click here


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: Mrrzy
Date: 05 Jul 01 - 10:50 AM

Well, it's nice to know that in the absolute absence of any knowledge or facts, I was still right!


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: GUEST,AKRick
Date: 06 Jul 01 - 08:39 AM

Saw Waterson/Carthy recently ... great show. At one point, Martin explained how Traffic's version is an arrangement from an old Mike Waterson LP. ... worth checking into.


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 06 Jul 01 - 09:31 AM

I wouldn't be at all surprised if Traffic had learnt the song from a Watersons record (Frost and Fire, specifically); it's the "Penguin" set from "Shepherd" Hayden (1909) again.  By the way, thanks to Ub Ed for reminding me about that other thread; I need to revise a couple of links in the "Penguin" thread, and will add it.


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: GUEST
Date: 10 May 04 - 06:22 AM

John Barleycorn Must Die is a telling of the basic near easter-european fertility god myth,


Compare this to the myth of Persephone, the myth of ADonis, and the Jesus myth,




Three men come from the West/East. They kill him. He arises again.


John Barleycorn represents the spirit of the harvested grain. The song is both a metaphor, and a poetic explanation of the killing of grain.


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 10 May 04 - 06:56 AM

I wouldn't be surprised if Traffic had sung Sharp's JB in primary school, as many of us did in those days!

Steve


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: GUEST,JOHN of ELSIE`S BAND
Date: 10 May 04 - 10:52 AM

Thr version by "Four Square Circle" on their cd, "This Way Please" with Tony Field and Ken Barton is nothing more than a characterised song celebrating the transformation of barley from seed to "nut brown ale".


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: Schantieman
Date: 10 May 04 - 01:22 PM

I found a long, erudite and (I suspect) rather tedious article about John Barleycorn in the 2004 edition of an EFDSS magazine at the weekend. Traced its history and compared versions. Didn't read it in full. Can't remember the name of the mag - possibly 'Folk Song in Britain'??

Also contained an good obit of Fred Jordan.

Steve


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 10 May 04 - 03:19 PM

'John Barleycorn: The Evolution of a Folk-song Family', by Peter Wood, in The Folk Music Journal, 2004, volume 8 number 4. Not in the least tedious if you want a good picture of the way a whole group of related songs grew, through a series of re-makings, from a 16th century song which barely mentions the death-and-resurrection theme, the bulk of which seems to be a rather later addition; likely 18th century, when the revival of Classical studies led to a growth of interest in such things.


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 06:03 PM

S. Baring Gould and Cecil Sharp must bear much of the blame for this song, having included it in their "English Folk Songs for Schools."

In America, we may be thankful that it never appeared in the Silver-Burdett school songbooks.


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: GUEST,just stopping by
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 06:18 PM

"John Barleycorn Must Die is a telling of the basic near easter-european fertility god myth,

Compare this to the myth of Persephone, the myth of ADonis, and the Jesus myth,

Three men come from the West/East. They kill him. He arises again.

John Barleycorn represents the spirit of the harvested grain. The song is both a metaphor, and a poetic explanation of the killing of grain."



So...a Year King thing then?
Like the Greek Grain Cults?
I'd buy that....especially given the images usually associated with the "John barleycorn" figure.


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: Georgiansilver
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 06:18 PM

I have traced "John Barleycorn" the Folk song back to the 16th Century when it was sung as the corn was used to make a most potent beer, the like of which may not exist today...Real ale as we Brits call it but much more potent than todays "Health and Safety" conscious beers. John Barleycorn the song describes the process used to make that beer...nothing more ....nothing less....
Best wishes, Mike.


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: John C.
Date: 05 Dec 04 - 12:59 PM

I think that its a bit much to describe Pete Wood's research as 'tedious' when 'Schantieman'(above) doesn't even appear to have read it! Why should something thorough and erudite be automatically labelled, by some people, as 'tedious'?
Actually, Pete summarised his research at the National, a couple of years ago, and I thought that it was fascinating.


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: dianavan
Date: 05 Dec 04 - 11:45 PM

Its a song that was sung by those harvesting the grain. Its a song of death and re-birth. A song of life. After their days work, they partake in the drink and of course, the drink proves to be stronger than the men.

Its an ancient theme and a work song.


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: M.Ted
Date: 06 Dec 04 - 01:46 PM

For people whose lives revolved around the planting and harvest, it must be very amusing entertainment to recast the mundane tasks of farming as brutal acts against"John Barleycorn"--If we take it seriously it's because we've lost touch with farm life, and lost our sense of fun as well--


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Subject: RE: History behind John Barleycorn Must Die
From: Nerd
Date: 07 Dec 04 - 01:02 PM

Well, to many people anything in an academic journal would be tedious. Even those of us who also write for the "real world" end up sounding pretty stuffy in academese. By the time anything is published in a good journal it has been given the once, twice and thrice-over by committee. The process is excellent at ensuring that the author's claims stand up to scrutiny, but it rarely produces entertaining writing! That said, I also have not read Peter Wood's article yet, but I certainly will do so.


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Subject: RE: Origins: John Barleycorn Must Die
From: GUEST,Courtney Allen Powers
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 11:21 PM

I've been tracing John Barleycorn back, but every version I've seen prior to Burns is to the tune of "Lull me beyond thee" or to the tune of "Stingo". Has anyone seen the modern tune back prior to Burns? Or did he just creatively interpolate and make something new in this family of songs?


[:-{]:


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Subject: RE: Origins: John Barleycorn Must Die
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 12:03 AM

See the Folk Music Journal article I mentioned a few posts (and nearly two years) ago. Burns slightly re-wrote an existing text (presumably from tradition), but didn't publish a tune; so his contribution would be insignificant if not for his fame.

Several distinct tunes have been found with forms of the song in "modern" times (over the last 150 years, say), the best known of which -and likely the one you mean- is probably the ubiquitous and protean Dives and Lazarus.


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Subject: RE: Origins: John Barleycorn Must Die
From: The Villan
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 02:41 PM

Can't resist this.
I used to be in the same youth club as Steve Winwood (still remember the uproar when he left school at 14 to further his musical career, and brother Muff (very very talented musician).
Used to play football with them. They lived 200yards from where I lived.
They used to come to the youth club and sing skiffle with the tea chest Bass and the washboard etc. It was very good.
Their father was a very good musician.
Used to be a member of a trad jazz club in Erdington in Brum, which my mates ran. Anyway one night this scruffy old git came along with guitar and asked if he could sing in the interval. He sang Lonnie Donegan songs and he was crap. It was Spencer Davis.
So I was very surprised when I heard that they were teaming up with Spencer Davis to form the Spencer Davis Group.
Anyway, I used to have the LP with John Barleycorn on with Steve Winwood. Wore the bloody thing out.


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Subject: RE: Origins: John Barleycorn Must Die
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 17 Apr 06 - 04:40 PM

There is an item in Gennady Aygi's collection of Chuvash poetry that for me brings out the difference between real paganism and the ersatz variety this song exemplifies.

The Chuvash piece is a charm to make beer ferment. It doesn't just celebrate beer, it was supposed to create it. Try finding anything like that in British tradition!


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Subject: RE: Origins: John Barleycorn Must Die
From: Mr Happy
Date: 06 Jun 07 - 07:02 AM

More here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Barleycorn


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Subject: RE: Origins: John Barleycorn Must Die
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 06 Jun 07 - 09:24 PM

Wikipedia falls short of the mark as usual; we have better information here (though also, of course, worse). See the Folk Music Journal article instead. It was written by somebody who knew what he was talking about.


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Subject: RE: Origins: John Barleycorn Must Die
From: GUEST,Sim
Date: 02 Jun 10 - 11:50 AM

Irony. It's not a new concept, folks. The song -- at least the most notable versions, such as the one recorded by Traffic -- is a metaphoric tale about the production of alcohol from barleycorn. The humor comes from the fact that the killing and maiming of John Barleycorn is ironically presented as an evil act, while it actually creates the substance the "killers" desire (and the singer of the song is winking at us the whole time, with a glass of beer in his hand).
I think it mocks those who see alcohol and its production as evil by turning the tables and metaphorically describing the process of making alcohol as an evil act against an individual -- poor John Barleycorn. John Barleycorn is dead -- thanks to (the fertility) God! Now drink up.


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