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Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh

DigiTrad:
FATAL FLOWER GARDEN
IT RAINED A MIST
IT RAINED A MIST
LITTLE SIR HUGH
SIR HUGH, OR THE JEW'S DAUGHTER


Related threads:
(origins) Origins: It Rained a Mist (Child #155) (19)
Lyr Req: Little Sir Hugh (from Steeleye Span) (43)
Req only: Rains a Mist (closed) (3) (closed)


Fi 23 Feb 04 - 09:57 PM
Malcolm Douglas 23 Feb 04 - 10:45 PM
Fi 23 Feb 04 - 10:54 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 23 Feb 04 - 11:04 PM
Liz the Squeak 23 Feb 04 - 11:35 PM
John MacKenzie 24 Feb 04 - 04:28 AM
GUEST 24 Feb 04 - 08:50 PM
GUEST,Joe_F 25 Feb 04 - 06:35 PM
greg stephens 25 Feb 04 - 06:42 PM
toadfrog 06 Jun 07 - 04:57 PM
Richard Bridge 06 Jun 07 - 05:21 PM
McGrath of Harlow 06 Jun 07 - 07:26 PM
Malcolm Douglas 06 Jun 07 - 07:57 PM
GUEST,Georgina Boyes 07 Jun 07 - 09:01 AM
Stephen R. 07 Jun 07 - 09:13 AM
The Borchester Echo 07 Jun 07 - 05:17 PM
GUEST,meself 07 Jun 07 - 05:23 PM
GUEST,Lighter 08 Jun 07 - 08:45 AM
GUEST 08 Jun 07 - 09:41 AM
Goose Gander 08 Jun 07 - 11:26 AM
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Subject: Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh
From: Fi
Date: 23 Feb 04 - 09:57 PM

I have been listening to a good bit of Steeleye Span recently since I'm off to see them here in Auckland, NZ in March. They sing a watered down version of Little Sir Hugh and I've just been surfing around mudcat for info on this song. I knew it's basic anti-semitic origins but was interested to see the views people had expressed in a 2001 string on this song. (http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=40854#587220) Do people generally feel that songs like this shouldn't be sung? I'm fascinated in this point of view - and not sure whether I agree or not. I usually look for songs with interesting and sometimes controversial backgrounds and sing a few. I always put these songs into context when I introduce the song and I think I feel that a song such as Little Sir Hugh - introduced properly - is a great medium for teaching/imparting the lessons of the past to the people of the future (that's all of us). What does everyone else think? F


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Subject: RE: Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 23 Feb 04 - 10:45 PM

It should either be sung uninterfered with, or not sung at all. There is no point in being mealy-mouthed about such things or in trying to impose contemporary values upon the cultural products of another time: that would be to tell deliberate lies about the past.

Personally, it's a song I don't feel able to sing; but I see no reason why it shouldn't be sung, with a sensible preamble explaining the context. It's potentially very educational, and by no means only in terms of the historic blood-libel involving the Jews: most minorities (and perceived "enemies") have had such stories told about them at one time or another, and it ought to make an excellent object-lesson in the dangers of accepting, unthinkingly, the "received wisdom" kind of prejudice which is still only too common throughout the world. I doubt if any culture is immune to it, and we all need reminding of that.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh
From: Fi
Date: 23 Feb 04 - 10:54 PM

So to add fuel to the fire..... what do people feel about contemporary controversial songs - a Kiwi friend sang "In the Green" in a London pub to a rather steely reception recently (he DID understand why). I certainly don't feel comfortable singing IRA numbers, especially with my plum UK accent :-) - and neither do I think I should. But, by contrast I do feel OK singing songs like Little Sir Hugh or some of the Scottish masacre songs (my background is Scottish). I think I make a differentiation with the passage of time and the ability to learn from the past, whereas the Irish history is still being played out today. Not that there is not still racism of every order.... which in some ways makes this distinction invalid.....?????? Yikes, I'm treading difficult ground here. Further thoughts will be read with great interest. F


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Subject: RE: Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 Feb 04 - 11:04 PM

Thread 40854: Little Sir High


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Subject: RE: Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 23 Feb 04 - 11:35 PM

A lot depends on the where and when. If you are in a room full of folkies familiar with the song and its content, then it should be OK to sing it. If you are performing at a friends' BarMitzvah, then maybe you should think again!

LTS


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Subject: RE: Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 04:28 AM

Why do people try to re-write history? I get really pissed off with all the angst that is whipped up by people who seem to think we should atone for the wrongs of our forefathers. These things happened, some of them were legal at the time and aren't now, some were illegal at the time but still happened. We can't change that by either refusing to sing the songs, or doctoring them to make them socially acceptable [sic] for the present time. You are singing history, and in so doing you pass it down to your successors, and you can't change history. If you don't like the content of a song, don't sing it!! Singing it does not mean you agree with it, I sing whaling songs, but abhor the activity.
John


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Subject: RE: Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Feb 04 - 08:50 PM

As mentioned (by me & others) in the thread referenced by Q, someone wishing to put a performance of this song in context could scarcely do better than to read aloud from Professor Child's commentary on it (it is No. 155 in his collection). It is of course scholarly but by no means conceals his opinions & sentiments about this bloody story, which, after summarizing the English versions, he follows across the world & the centuries (noting, ominously, that "Examples are particularly numerous in Germany"). Perhaps you could sing the sole American version (N), which, charmingly, omits all mention of the Jews.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh
From: GUEST,Joe_F
Date: 25 Feb 04 - 06:35 PM

"Me" in the above posting means Joe_F, whose cookie has crumbled once again. Now, once again, I will try to figure out how to reset it.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh
From: greg stephens
Date: 25 Feb 04 - 06:42 PM

A lot of the Bible seems to take a rather anti-Philistine line, actually. I agree with other comments here: we can learn a lot from these stories. Though the main thing we should learn is, obviously, to disagree with them.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh
From: toadfrog
Date: 06 Jun 07 - 04:57 PM

Malcom puts my feelings about the song better than I could, except I would add this: Generally speaking, folkies who are concerned about the political impact of what they sing--positive or negative--vastly overrate their own significance. I feel uneasy about the song, but it's still a good song I would sing to people if I knew they would not be offended.

Singing it does not promote anti-semitism, at least unless very explicit words are sung to a large and unsophisticated audience.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 06 Jun 07 - 05:21 PM

There are times when it is better not to insult the audience. Quite a lot of singers of Irish songs in English locales might care to remember that threatening to kill one's listener,or rejoicing in having killed his ancestor, is not usually very sociable. Or is it only up to the English to hold back?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 06 Jun 07 - 07:26 PM

Different variants of the Little Sir Hugh songs have been collected in may parts of the world. It's not a question of "a watered down" version by Steeleye Span, but of them having chosen a version, which like many versions in the traditions, does not have any overt anti-semitic content, but which treats the story as an account of a child being cruelly murdered. Which sadly happens.

The thread Q linked to discusses the pros and cons of this in a thought provoking way.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 06 Jun 07 - 07:57 PM

I'm pretty sure that the text Steeleye Span used was not traditional, but a shortened Anglicization of Scottish materisl quoted by Child, re-written by themselves to remove any uncomfortable references. The chorus, too, was their own invention; though based on material that appears in some traditional versions, usually in the final stanzas.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh
From: GUEST,Georgina Boyes
Date: 07 Jun 07 - 09:01 AM

As far as current use of 'Little Sir Hugh' is concerned, it's one of the couple of dozen 'English Folk Songs' included on the BNP linked site on tradition - and oddly enough, the text they print is one of the variants that includes the 'Jew's daughter' and 'Jew's house'.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh
From: Stephen R.
Date: 07 Jun 07 - 09:13 AM

A lot of trad songs are politically incorrect in one way or another; if you wanted to be picky, you could object to any number of ballads. The advice given so far seems right to me: sing these songs if they are appropriate for the audience, and if the words are as clearly objectionable as those of "Sir Hugh" say a few words of explanation first. Punkers and rappers seem to get away with saying anything at all; we shouldn't feel intimidated about traditional material.

Stephen


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Subject: RE: Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 07 Jun 07 - 05:17 PM

I remember Hedy West dropping it from her setlist during the 6-Day War.
Good Grief, 40 years ago . . .


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Subject: RE: Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 07 Jun 07 - 05:23 PM

Hmm ... good thing it was such a short war ... if it had been, for example, the Hundred Years' War, she would never have been able to sing the song again ...


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Subject: RE: Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh
From: GUEST,Lighter
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 08:45 AM

One difference is that no one hearing a whaling ballad sung in public will go away thinking that whales are filthy beasts deserving of whatever punishment they get.

The song is cruel enough to be "entertaining" without ethnic references, which is the case with the Steeleye version. Singing the song in 2007 without those references is not telling lies about the past - it's "continuing the folk tradition." Dropping the ballad from one's repertoire is also continuing the folk tradition of forgetting songs that whose day is done. If you must sing it, what's wrong with "a mad scientist's daughter"?

There's not much excuse for performing "Little Sir Hugh" and none at all for presenting it as "entertainment" in its ancient form. (Even singing it as a "history lesson" seems perverse. As we know, its story is still believed plausible by millions.)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 09:41 AM

Well said Giok, very well said indeed.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Controversial songs - Little Sir Hugh
From: Goose Gander
Date: 08 Jun 07 - 11:26 AM

"There's not much excuse for performing "Little Sir Hugh" and none at all for presenting it as "entertainment" in its ancient form. (Even singing it as a "history lesson" seems perverse. As we know, its story is still believed plausible by millions.)"

Yes, the blood libel is still believed by millions, and that's precisely why the ballad can be used effectively (in the right hands) as a "history lesson."

"The past isn't dead, it isn't even past."

William Faulkner


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