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The demise of Folk Music, Part II

Steve T 06 May 98 - 05:05 AM
Allan 06 May 98 - 08:46 AM
Jon W. 06 May 98 - 11:05 AM
steve t 06 May 98 - 11:56 AM
Allan 06 May 98 - 04:30 PM
Joe Offer 06 May 98 - 06:42 PM
McGrath 06 May 98 - 07:15 PM
Art Thieme 06 May 98 - 07:42 PM
Joe Offer 06 May 98 - 07:45 PM
Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca 06 May 98 - 07:45 PM
Art Thieme 07 May 98 - 01:43 PM
Bill D 07 May 98 - 03:44 PM
Will 08 May 98 - 04:18 PM
Bruce O. 08 May 98 - 05:15 PM
Joe Offer 08 May 98 - 05:47 PM
Will 09 May 98 - 01:44 AM
Allan C. 11 May 98 - 11:03 AM
Bert 11 May 98 - 11:12 AM
Ted 14 May 98 - 03:31 AM
erica 14 May 98 - 01:36 PM
Bert 14 May 98 - 02:25 PM
Allan C. 14 May 98 - 03:04 PM
Ted 14 May 98 - 04:23 PM
Allan C. 15 May 98 - 09:36 AM
Jenny 15 May 98 - 10:03 AM
erica 15 May 98 - 12:44 PM
Allan C. 15 May 98 - 01:42 PM
Allan C. 15 May 98 - 03:27 PM
Allan C. 15 May 98 - 03:31 PM
Jon W. 15 May 98 - 03:39 PM
northfolk 15 May 98 - 07:01 PM
Ted 16 May 98 - 03:26 PM
erica 19 May 98 - 11:18 AM
Barbara Shaw 19 May 98 - 11:42 AM
northfolk 19 May 98 - 12:09 PM
BK 20 May 98 - 01:00 AM
erica 22 May 98 - 04:07 PM
Frank in the swamps 24 May 98 - 06:30 AM
Art Thieme 25 May 98 - 10:05 AM
northfolk 27 May 98 - 03:36 PM
Lurker 27 May 98 - 04:50 PM
GUEST,Bob Connelly 04 Jul 10 - 02:51 PM
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Subject: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Steve T
Date: 06 May 98 - 05:05 AM

Interesting reading folks, but I don't want to keep loading all 96 previous posts. I don't have much to say except that I hadn't noticed any demise. In the past dozen years, my town's gone from I think zero music and song circles to four that I know of.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Allan
Date: 06 May 98 - 08:46 AM

Amen to that, brother. The thing is that now the so-called "purests" have developed new names for it. "Old Time Music" for instance. It is quite nearly rampant around here in Central Virginia. My favorite quote regarding that came from an old codger who remarked "They call it 'Old Time Music' nowadays. When I was growing up they just called it "music".

I think the Mudcatters are certain evidence that folk is still alive. I, for one, have played and sung little else in the past forty years and have never lacked for an attentive audience. PP&M's popularity with yet another generation of kids is further proof.

The local PBS radio station has an annual fundraiser during which they dredge up an incredible array of folk music. The local townspeople really get charged up by it and talk about it for days. The PBS station reports heavy donations when they are playing the folk music show.

As trite as such songs may be to some of us, I challenge you to sit anywhere near a campfire with any more than four other people without someone trying to start up "Michael rowed..." or "Cumbaya" or "Eddystone Light" or somesuch song.

Perhaps during the Writer's Work Project of the '30's and the big folk revival of the early '60's most of the really good stuff was uncovered. Maybe the romance is gone for some because they feel that there are no "new" folksongs. Truth is, though, that there are! Many of the less scholarly singers would name "Don't Fence Me In" and possibly, "Ragtime Cowboy Joe" as folk music. Maybe they are right in a way. Who's to say now how many times a song must be sung to be classified as "folk"? Yes, we tend to write them down these days; but do they really have to be unwritten to be officially folk? I am sure there are people who would argue that "California Dreaming" is a folksong. All I know is that it is no less a part of the music of my soul than any of the "Child's" collection. And to me that is all that matters.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Jon W.
Date: 06 May 98 - 11:05 AM

Well I have to agree that "California Dreaming" is very singable which I think is the first qualification for a song to enter the difficult-to-define category of folk music. Being a scoutmaster, I've given some thought to the problem of getting scouts to sing when they're not interested in anything other than heavy metal, and I've concluded that we can't sing heavy metal around the campfire because it sounds pretty bad when it has no highly amplified instrumental accompaniment (actually it sounds pretty bad to me when it does have accompaniment, but that's another story).


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: steve t
Date: 06 May 98 - 11:56 AM

California Dreaming is easy? For heavy metal fans? Zowie.

One of the tips I've read about preserving your voice is: don't sing in a heavy metal band. :-)

Along the same lines though, here are a few that I'd say have already become folk, the criteria being that there are two or three "definitive" recordings out that what groups sing is usually something in between:

The Lion Sleeps Tonight
Me and Bobby McGee
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Allan
Date: 06 May 98 - 04:30 PM

I'd be curious as to what top four songs (traditional folk or "new folk" or whatever) others would find themselves singing when in such group situations. I think the answers may be good indicators of the current health of folk music. Mine are (in no particular order):
500 miles
Buttermilk Hill
California Dreamin'
Freight Train


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 May 98 - 06:42 PM

At our Song Circle, I'd say "River," "Today," and Aragon Mill" have taken on "folk" status. I suppose I should add "Waltzing with Bears," but I won't. "The Cat Came Back" would certainly qualify, though.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: McGrath
Date: 06 May 98 - 07:15 PM

Hard to say which songs crop up the most at our singers circle but I'll hazard a guess;
Raglan Road
Galway Bay (Not the B. Crosby one but.. It's far away I am today of dreams...etc)
The Parting Glass
Carrigfergus

But regular pub or family sing songs where there is no concentration of folkie types usually produces;
Shane McGowan stuff by the assload (great but overdone)
Christy Moore stuff by the assload (great but overdone)
Wonderwall
Beatles stuff by the assload (great but overdone)
Eagles stuff by the assload (great but overdone)

And I still think folk music is alive, well and growing.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Art Thieme
Date: 06 May 98 - 07:42 PM

ALLAN--here's another version of a song you mentioned as folk:

Today, in the town of Haiffa in Israel, a man named Joseph (all they knew about him) ran looting through the streets and shot Mayor Newton dead before he, himself, was killed. Digging into his past they found that his mother had once lived in a convent in Barcelona, Spain. Also that Joseph had once worked on a farm! The caption under his photo read: "Haiffa lootin', Newton shootin', son of a nun from Barcelona, part-time plowboy, Joe !"

Art Thieme

No tune--but now a "folktale". The beat goes on...


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Joe Offer
Date: 06 May 98 - 07:45 PM

Ya know, Max, I think we need a sound effects button that emits a loud groan when Art lets loose with those....
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Tim Jaques tjaques@netcom.ca
Date: 06 May 98 - 07:45 PM

The Nike Swoosh offends me more than any song.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Art Thieme
Date: 07 May 98 - 01:43 PM

Sorry--couldn't hold it back! Just took a Di-gel & that should help... art

(but i thought it was a gas)


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Bill D
Date: 07 May 98 - 03:44 PM

funny, in cyberspace, even the latest joke gets prosessed and distributed faster than ever...I got this in a email a couple of weeks ago...

Israeli police are looking for a man named Joseph, wanted for looting in the port city of Jaifa. The suspect is described as the son of a Barcelona ex-nun and a German father. He is a former flutist and has worked occasionally as a farmer.

In short, he is a Jaifa-lootin', flutin' Teuton, son-of-a-nun from Barcelona, part-time plowboy Joe.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Will
Date: 08 May 98 - 04:18 PM

Was just reading the cover notes on the Waterson/Carthy "Common Tongue" CD.

Martin Carthy writes "... the musical instinct is far too inclusive to allow any notions of 'purity' to survive for long, and it is neither possible nor desirable to set up musical border checkpoints anywhere. However, there is that elusive and ever changing thing called identity."

The notes arise in the context of devoting the CD to English music, as opposed to Irish and Scots. The point, in the context of the CD, is that identifying "English music" is as ambiguous as any other identification, but that there is some elusive form of English "identity".

In the discussion in this thread, of course, the point is that "folk music" is undefinable as a distinct notion, but that there is some thing that one might call the folk "identity".


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Bruce O.
Date: 08 May 98 - 05:15 PM

Professional performers usually take that tack, so they can style things the way they like them and call them folk songs or folk music. Even professional scholars tend to define a field as that they are familiar with and can handle pretty well.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 May 98 - 05:47 PM

That's a hard thing to call, Bruce. If you make an old song too "authentic," it's hard to convey the message of the song to your audience. If it's an unrehearsed group that's singing the song together, it can be even harder. Folk songs lose their connection to the "folk" of the present time if they are treated as museum pieces.
On the other hand, if you modernize a song too much, it loses its connection to history. It's a delicate balance.
When I lead a group in singing a song in dialect, (e.g., Scottish) I guess I usually try to downplay the dialect as much as I can - partly because I don't do dialects very well. Some people resist that, and their attempts at sounding Scottish or African-American or whatever can be quite ludicrous.
I think that folk songs are living things that have the ability to allow us to communicate with the souls of past generations. If we are too strict in preserving the authenticity of a song, I'm afraid it can become a dead artifact. As long as the songs live and grow and change, and as long as new songs are continually added to the canon of folk music, there will be no demise of folk music.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Will
Date: 09 May 98 - 01:44 AM

I think that there is something about the title of the W/C recording ("Common Tongue") that gets at the idea of identity, folk or otherwise. I can't fully put my finger (or foot) on it, especially at 1:46 in the morning, but there is something to the idea that the range of people who recognize/speak/understand/share-a-common-understanding-of a concept comes close to defining the boundaries of the concept. I think part of my discomfort with defining folk mainly in historical terms (which, I know, is a huge over-simplification of this discussion) means that the range of people who relate to the music becomes very small.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Allan C.
Date: 11 May 98 - 11:03 AM

True, to sing an "old relic" is sometimes not received well by some audiences. However, when it is seasoned with a modicum of modernization, it often becomes quite palatable to the tastes of many. I have found it to be as true with cooking with the use of old recipes. While granny's use of gobs of lard was quite suitable during her time, current trends make the use of it almost unthinkable.

At the same time, presenting the modernized version of the old recipe in a manner which produces an atmosphere of almost certain enjoyment. The checkered tablecloth does make a difference.

Yes, there are venues for singing "museum pieces". And the seeking out of the supposedly "original" version of a song is both challenging and intriguing. But most of the folk music we play, even the real oldies, are the results of evolution of some degree of evolution. I think the hard part, as Joe points out, is deciding for yourself where to place the balance between modernization and historical accuracy.

After all, you want it to taste like granny's apple pie; but your current thinking about chlorestoral makes you want to adjust the recipe a little. Who is to say if it tastes just as good as you remember it? Your granny's granny probably made it a little differently too. But they weren't into writing down recipes in those days.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Bert
Date: 11 May 98 - 11:12 AM

Ah! - Gobs of lard. Reminds me I haven't made a Lardy Cake for a long time.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Ted
Date: 14 May 98 - 03:31 AM

I've come to believe that "folk music" is just the collection of lyrics and melodies that a particular group of people sing, play, and maybe even dance to in their special time and place.(and their style of performance, too). Who and where the material comes from never makes much difference, people keep what they like and can share-

These wonderful groups that you have, where you sing and play together, there was never anything more authentic or traditional than that--just people who liked each other getting together--it doesn't really matter what you sing and play--it never did, what matters is that you do sing and play together.

The real demise is in the disappearance of singing-- Once, and not that long ago, people sang together as they worked, as they played, and even just as they walked together in in the evening. Now people only sing in church, and most people don't go to church-- Our voices have been drowned out--and most of us are usually reduced to singing along with the radio or stereo.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: erica
Date: 14 May 98 - 01:36 PM

well, ted, if it eases your mind at all, know that i rarely walk anywhere with out singing...nothing like a good rebel song to stride along with...and i don't sing quietly. i do agree with you that most people don't sing as much as they need to (it's kind of an imperative with me).

maybe it's because there's some sort of good-enough complex (just pulling this out of my arse now...we'll see where this goes). with so many recorded people everywhere whom record companies have deemed good, perhaps that's shattered the confidence of voices in the common people. when people were singing as they worked, walked, played, whatever, everybody would sing regardless of how "good" they were. the people all sang together. whenever that stopped, and left remaining just the performance singers, suddenly the voice was exposed and its quality was judged. less confident voices stopped singing.

i know a whole bunch of people who swear that they can't sing. after pushing and prodding and finally persuading them to open their mouths, they do just fine! they may not be the sweetest songbird in the forest, but damnit, they can sing! and i think what has happened is that people think singing is that solo thing, that my-voice-all-by-itself scary thing, when in actuality, some of the most fulfilling times are when your voice contributes into the group.

i get this image of 200+ people singing shape note music in an aluminum sided sheep barn, the sheer power of sound vibrating the corrugated metal. not everyone there is an incredible singer, but they are a person, with a voice, using it. and every time, it brings me to tears. powerful stuff, that singing.

okay, wow, went a wee bit crazy on that one. wonder if it made any sense?


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Bert
Date: 14 May 98 - 02:25 PM

Erica,

That made a lot of sense. Is it alright if I use some of it on the invitation to my next sing?

Bert.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Allan C.
Date: 14 May 98 - 03:04 PM

Took the words right outa my mouth, Erica - only when you spoke them, they sounded much better!

I had a music teacher once who did his doctoral thesis on the subject of those who thought they could not sing. He posted a note on a bulletin board addressed to people who thought they belonged to that group. He inveigled them in some manner to form a choir. After considerable practice, the choir performed for the entire campus community. They were applauded enthusiastically. He got an "A" on his thesis.

Like so many other human foibles (both imaginary and real) which need to be overcome, the first step is deciding that you want to do it.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Ted
Date: 14 May 98 - 04:23 PM

I couldn't agree more with Erica--and I love Allen's story--maybe that's the way to start our 200 member Shape note choir!

I have another thought about what discourages people, and that is the "ethnic police" mentality--"only blacks are entitled to sing spirituals", "you can't sing that song, your ornamentation isn't Bulgarian enough" you can't play "Blue Moon of Kentucky" on an "A" mandolin-- you need an "F" mandolin!


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Allan C.
Date: 15 May 98 - 09:36 AM

I am happy, (I think,) to say that there have been some ocassions upon which my audience complained because the songs I had chosen to sing were too obscure for them to sing along with. Now, I must insert here that most of the songs I do are songs which most of you folks would recognize. But it was kinda nice, in an odd way, to find that those people were disappointed. Of course, upon learning this, I tailored my choices to songs I felt they would know - mostly the ones that "made the charts". Then the singing really started. The down side, I suppose, is that hardly ever am I asked to "teach" someone a folksong. They don't seem to mind asking to hear a particular folksong over and over again as if to learn it; but only as long as I do all of the singing. I used to think that maybe it was just me. It is sadly reassuring to find similar experiences here at MC.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Jenny
Date: 15 May 98 - 10:03 AM

Erica ... you are absolutely correct in your thoughts. Did you know that there is no such thing as being "tone deaf?" Had I gone on to teach music, it would have been at the 2nd or 3rd grade level, because once you can get a child to hear a "tone" they never forget. Individuals who think they are "tone deaf" are simply individuals whose parents never sang with them or to them; who didn't grow up singing. My earliest recollection of singing is traveling from Washington, DC to Raleigh NC, on old US1, with my grandfather singing "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette" (it's the only song to which he knew all the words) and running all the red lights, because, otherwise, I would start crying. Wow ... what a ramble ... must be feeling my mortality these days ... jen


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: erica
Date: 15 May 98 - 12:44 PM

bert--feel free to swipe away any of my rambles. (especially if it gets someone to open their mouth!!)
jen, aren't grandfathers great? i have this great picutre of my grandfather in the car with me ma, brother and i as we're driving to boston, singing the battle hymn of the republic over and over again, all the verses we could remember, with me squealing the harmony part i'd learned in school chorus. his voice was all gravelly and wonderful with a texan twang...sweet!!

and ted, as to your comments about the ethnicity-thang, i recently went to hear maya angelou speak and she said some things that fit right in with that. she bade the audience to go read the work of african-american poets, saying that you don't have to be black to read them, you don't have to be black to love them, they weren't written for black people alone. their poetry is inherently human, that's what makes it good--how it touches those emotions that are the same in everybody. i think that goes for singing folk songs, too. for all forms of art, to be sure, for the essence of humanity is the same.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Allan C.
Date: 15 May 98 - 01:42 PM

Hooray! I think Erica has found the words for where this thread may have been headed all along!


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Allan C.
Date: 15 May 98 - 03:27 PM

Hooray! I think Erica has found the words for where this thread may have been headed all along!


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Allan C.
Date: 15 May 98 - 03:31 PM

Don't know what the heck I'm doing. But somehow I am double-posting. I think it must be time to go home.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Jon W.
Date: 15 May 98 - 03:39 PM

Allan, since you're somewhat new here you probably don't know yet that the browser 'reload' button (or whatever the equivalent is in MSIE) causes double posting. Instead of using that to reload the main forum threads, use the 'display threads' button on the page itself. Many of us have had this problem when we were new.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: northfolk
Date: 15 May 98 - 07:01 PM

Hooray erica, a human voice with an art theme...sorry.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Ted
Date: 16 May 98 - 03:26 PM

To change the subject, a little anyway--here are four songs that I've been playing/singing with friends lately--

Richland Woman Blues/Lovin' Spoonful(Essentially the same song) The Battle Hymn of the Republic (as a Bluegrass Instrumental) The Worst That Could Happen Somewhere Over the Rainbow

And am trying to work up "Whispering Hope"

I'd love to know what others are doing--


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: erica
Date: 19 May 98 - 11:18 AM

ohhh, northfolk, need one say more than GROAN! (with rolling eyeballs and all...)
and allan, i don't mind that you double posted that...(with slight blushing and all)--i'm glad you approved of my rambles!!

as for what i'm singing lately, aie, it's all over the place. gigs are solo and mostly just traditional-type irish songs, but lately my pal and i have been fooling around with her originals and also a bunch o joni mitchell. kind of whatever strikes the ear well and that i have enough patience (and time) to sit and learn...


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Barbara Shaw
Date: 19 May 98 - 11:42 AM

Have to comment on "tone deaf."

There really are people who are "monotones." My older son is one. He inherited this from his father (different father from younger son who is a musical prodigy). I sang to him from the minute he was born, and he grew up around just as much music as the other child. Loves music, but can't reproduce the sound, no matter what. I don't know if monotones hear the sound right but can't reproduce it, or hear it wrong.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: northfolk
Date: 19 May 98 - 12:09 PM

On a more serious note than my last posting. The Demise of folk music has been discussed occasionally in the thirty plus years that I have been a listener. But it won't happen as long as their is a human need to pass on our traditions. (music being in some sense a celebration of who we are) Not all music, turn on the radio, it becomes apparent that much music today is ephemeral, and meaningless, built to be sold...abandoned...rewritten...sold again. While it is good that some folksingers get payed for what they do, that is the benchmark by which our detractors guage "the demise", don't fall for it. Sing for the song, Boys (and girls) just like you did before all of the bright lights, and cocaine, and bright painted ladies got ahold of your soul! Thanks for the roadmap brother Ochs. I can ramble with the best.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: BK
Date: 20 May 98 - 01:00 AM

Bravo, Erica!! and Northfork, 'n the others too....

Cheers, BK

ps; when we go back east in the fall, I'll try to get time to go to Cafe Lena, Erica.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: erica
Date: 22 May 98 - 04:07 PM

yeah, BK, if you end up there on a thursday, the open mic always turns out some interesting stuff!!
enjoy your ramblings, wherever they're taking you!


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Frank in the swamps
Date: 24 May 98 - 06:30 AM

I guess the Mudcat is proof that folk music isn't dead. One thing these "demise" talks have shown me is that there is a lot regional variation. Here in central Florida, the Bluegrass crowd keeps a pretty good fire going, but in my experience they're a bit rigid, if it ain't bluegrass or gospel keep out! The Blues have a large following here also but be forewarned, it's strong for R & B or rock and roll type blues. Classic or country, or any other branch of that great family isn't going to find much in the way of public venues. I hope people keep posting information about their local music scenes though, because I do get out and about the country (U.S.)sometimes, and I make decisions about where I go and how I get there on the information available to me. And I disregard commercial advertising.

Frank i.t.s.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Art Thieme
Date: 25 May 98 - 10:05 AM

Northfolk,

Howdy! I'm pretty sure that "Sing For The Song" was written by Bob Gibson, a friend o' this old folkie, who passed away fairly recently after hosting his own farewell party a week earlier. Amazing gathering.

But Bob LIVED the sad life as depicted in "Sing For The Song"!! All those "bright painted ladies & cocaine & heroin too" did get ahold of his soul. But he died in his sleep of natural (?) causes. (Supra-nuclear Palsey) He was a mentor to me like he was to many in Chicago in the late 50s.

The song "Farewell Party" was written by Bob Gibson AND Phil Ochs! Is a possibility they collaborated on "Sing For The Song" also. Bob & Hamilton Camp recorded a great version of "Sing For The Song".

And Northfolk, thanks for the play-on-words on my name! It was so quiet I could hear a pun drop until Joe Offer pointed it out to me. Glad I saw it.

Take it easy, but take it!

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: northfolk
Date: 27 May 98 - 03:36 PM

Brother Thieme, You are right RE: Bob Gibson, and Sing for the Song, I was thinking of a song that Phil Ochs did that voiced a similar sentiment, then I started typing faster than I was thinking,(if my hands get any faster or my mind any slower, I could pick up the banjo)wrong thread? Sorry to find out about the Demise of folk musician, Gibson. I remember a song that I saw him do on what must have been a very rare TV broadcast, about a woman that he picked up hitchhiking, she used him and discarded him, great social statement.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: Lurker
Date: 27 May 98 - 04:50 PM

Of course, folk music will never die---as long as it keeps being redefined to include whatever is being sung at the moment.


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Subject: RE: The demise of Folk Music, Part II
From: GUEST,Bob Connelly
Date: 04 Jul 10 - 02:51 PM

Correction..the song FAREWELL PARTY was composed by Bob Gibson and Bob Connelly, not Phil Ochs


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