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Changing sex

Davetnova 28 Feb 05 - 05:52 AM
IanC 28 Feb 05 - 05:59 AM
Wrinkles 28 Feb 05 - 06:19 AM
GUEST 28 Feb 05 - 06:28 AM
IanC 28 Feb 05 - 06:43 AM
GUEST,MBSLynne 28 Feb 05 - 07:02 AM
kendall 28 Feb 05 - 07:29 AM
jacqui.c 28 Feb 05 - 07:38 AM
CStrong 28 Feb 05 - 07:39 AM
GUEST,JohnB 28 Feb 05 - 09:17 AM
Snuffy 28 Feb 05 - 09:21 AM
Georgiansilver 28 Feb 05 - 09:22 AM
GUEST,Sooz (at work) 28 Feb 05 - 09:30 AM
Davetnova 28 Feb 05 - 09:42 AM
John Hardly 28 Feb 05 - 09:45 AM
GUEST,Woodchip 28 Feb 05 - 09:55 AM
Amos 28 Feb 05 - 10:12 AM
Peace 28 Feb 05 - 10:13 AM
Bill D 28 Feb 05 - 10:38 AM
Emma B 28 Feb 05 - 10:42 AM
Amos 28 Feb 05 - 10:43 AM
iamjohnne 28 Feb 05 - 11:09 AM
open mike 28 Feb 05 - 11:16 AM
mg 28 Feb 05 - 11:17 AM
George Papavgeris 28 Feb 05 - 11:20 AM
robomatic 28 Feb 05 - 11:27 AM
PoppaGator 28 Feb 05 - 11:56 AM
GUEST,HipflaskAndy 28 Feb 05 - 12:14 PM
GUEST,Uncle DaveO 28 Feb 05 - 12:18 PM
fogie 28 Feb 05 - 12:53 PM
GUEST,HipflaskAndy 28 Feb 05 - 05:15 PM
GUEST 28 Feb 05 - 05:39 PM
Brendy 28 Feb 05 - 06:38 PM
GUEST,Gerry 28 Feb 05 - 10:19 PM
GUEST,Joe_F 28 Feb 05 - 11:19 PM
open mike 01 Mar 05 - 05:54 PM
Marion 01 Mar 05 - 06:26 PM
GUEST,Bad Cuilionn, no biscuit 01 Mar 05 - 07:59 PM
Liz the Squeak 02 Mar 05 - 04:04 AM
Singing Referee 02 Mar 05 - 07:36 AM
alanabit 02 Mar 05 - 03:14 PM
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Subject: Changing sex
From: Davetnova
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 05:52 AM

How do you deal with singing something that is obviously meant to be sung by someone of the opposite sex?
Some songs seem to change sex quite easily, some don't and there is the odd one (like Yellow Handkerchief) that seem to change sex in the middle.
Does it matter if a six foot bald guy sings about "her" lover gone to war, or a diminutive lady about her travails down the mine?


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: IanC
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 05:59 AM

Traditionally, it's never been a problem. Do you find it difficult?

:-)


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: Wrinkles
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 06:19 AM

Agreement with IanC; not a problem in trad music.

There are way too many examples but as a "for instance" compare Andy Irvine's (with Plaxty) version of "The Blacksmith" with any female singers and I think his will win hands down ;-) and that's a song sung from the woman's POV until the final two verses where it suddenly shifts to the Blacksmith himself and then introduces a narrator!

The performance is the thing; aye, there's the rub ;-)

Wrinkles


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 06:28 AM

I'm strictly an at home singer and I do sometimes feel a bit odd singing from a woman's point of view. I've heard others do it and it sounds fine, I've also heard songs changed to suit the sex of the singer so I thought I'd look for a bit of illuminating education.


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: IanC
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 06:43 AM

Well, there are some songs like "The Unquiet Grave" where it doesn't really matter which gender the singer is, so I wouldn't normally sing that as a woman. It only needs a change from He to She or vice versa, so to change it is natural.

Otherwise, if it's something like "The Little Gypsy Girl" for example, I have no problem despite being 50 and bearded.

I think if you're uncomfortable singing a song like that, don't sing it. There's plenty of other grains of sand on the beach.

:-)


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: GUEST,MBSLynne
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 07:02 AM

I think my favourite song "Oo-er what a death to die" which starts "Why are the men I meet so dull?" might be a bit strange sung by a man unless he was really camping it up! I sing quite a few 'men's' songs and some which I change a littl to be from a woman's perspective rather than a man's. Depends on the song really.

Love Lynne


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: kendall
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 07:29 AM

Seems to me it depends somewhat on how comfortable you are in your own skin. I sing "Palace Grand" without a bit of embarrassment. When I sing a song, I am just the conductor, not the subject.


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: jacqui.c
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 07:38 AM

The songs need to be sung and it really doesn't matter which sex is singing them. If the lyrics and the tune are pleasing that is what will be remembered.


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: CStrong
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 07:39 AM

"The Frozen Logger" tells a waitress's story. The first verse clears it:

As I sat down one evening/Within a small cafe
A 40-year-0ld waitress/To me these words did say:

The rest is a prolonged quotation.


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: GUEST,JohnB
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 09:17 AM

If you have a problem, just look on it as narration not the actual persona.
JohnB


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: Snuffy
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 09:21 AM

Good point, CStrong. Many songs begin with something like "As I roved out I heard a maid ..." and the rest of the song is from her POV. The intro is just a little device to allow anyone to sing it without having to be the "right" sex for the song


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: Georgiansilver
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 09:22 AM

As long as I'm not expected to dress to the song...great!
Best wishes. Mike.


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: GUEST,Sooz (at work)
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 09:30 AM

So you won't be wearing the tights at the club this week then.

I don't have a problem with tradional songs, but with contemporary ones I feel the need for some personal credibilty. One of my favourite songs is Robin Laing's "Black Clothes" in which I've swapped the she's for he's (with Robin's permission). People seem to like the way I sing it.


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: Davetnova
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 09:42 AM

I like the idea of looking at it as narration. It's probably because I'm not that used to singing that i find it odd, but I do find myself liking many of the "female" songs and then I want to sing them. (or maybe I'm just not secure enough in my own skin :-) ).


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: John Hardly
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 09:45 AM

John Prine wrote Angel From Montgomery.


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: GUEST,Woodchip
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 09:55 AM

Following on from the John Prine point made there....
Jez Lowe wrote (and sings) 'The Burgen' - written from the perspective of a female that's lost her sailor lad at sea.
Similar viewpoint in Duncan McFarlane's 'Mary Read' - the words are her thoughts as she waits to be hanged for Piracy.
These songs suffer nothing when sung by a male, perhaps even have an extra poignancy for all that.


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: Amos
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 10:12 AM

Changing sex is a tricky problem, and should be approached gradually. At first, just try slowing down a little.

A


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: Peace
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 10:13 AM

I am speechless.


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: Bill D
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 10:38 AM

I once sang "Three Lovely Lasses from Bannion" (and I am the best of them all) at a camp, and one person said afterwards that they had trouble visualizing me as a "lovely lass" who was about to me married...but no one else seemed to be bothered..*grin*....and I heard it from Burl Ives.

I know there ARE songs which seem to be meant for a woman to sing, etc....but you'll know.


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: Emma B
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 10:42 AM

I must admit to a sly giggle when singing "I'm a man you don't meet every day"


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: Amos
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 10:43 AM

Another of like ilk is "Oh, I Wonder I Never Got Married" (such a beautiful creature as Oi) :D

I've never had a problem singing it, but then no-one could confuse me with a beautiful creature, either.


A


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: iamjohnne
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 11:09 AM

Judy Collins did a song many years ago called "Me and My Uncle" there is a line in it that goes "It being summer, took off my shirt" I don't think anyone ever snickered at her performance of the song. But then she had the guts to do it. She also does a very good version of Tom Paxton's "the Hostage" definitly from the male pov but Judy pulls it off.


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: open mike
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 11:16 AM

Greg Brown has writeen some songs from a women's point of view..
such as this girl, who has been abused:
"(I) Took off out of high school and joined the army
People said that ain't no place for a girl"

and this one:
"A grown woman, a woman like me, Walks alone in the evenin'
thinkin' 'bout her baby,.....who's now grown up to be almost a man."

such as Every Street in Town, that states that we ALL should feel safe to walk any where we want to go.

"An' when a woman could walk out free in the day and night Without havin' to worry if she's gonna be alright on Every street in town,"


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: mg
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 11:17 AM

I vote for absolutely never changing in a traditional song. For newer songs, if they are generic to start with and it is a weddding or something like that..perhaps..better not to, but if you absolutely must... mg


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 11:20 AM

I have written 2 songs in first person from a woman's point of view - I do occasionally sing the first of those (Scullery Maid), without feeling funny about it; I even stopped the joking introduction "you'll have to imagine I am not the Greek God you see before you, but...". I have even recorded that song with me singing it.

But I have never sung the second of those songs (The Rain Is Falling), except immediately after I wrote it, trying it out in my local clubs. In recording it I asked for the help of Mary Humphries, who did a wonderful job of it, as indeed did also MGAS who includes it in her repertoire.

The reason I sing the first but not the second is more to do with the fact that the second song is part of a trilogy, and the "theatrical" aspect of telling different parts of the story from different viewpoints is what pushed me to ask for a female voice.

I have no problem "gender crossing" in song generally speaking.


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: robomatic
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 11:27 AM

A great example of this is a song written by a man and sung possibly originally by a man, these days usually sung by female:

My favorite version is possibly the original: Paul Whiteman big band with Bing Crosby singing: "There Ain't No Sweet Man Worth The Salt Of My Tears."


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: PoppaGator
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 11:56 AM

One of the first country-blues pieces I wanted to learn was Mississippi John Hurt's "Richland Woman Blues," a song whose lyrics come from a a woman's point of view. I always took the attitude that the male singer (whether Hurt when listening, or me when practicing) was telling a story by delivering an extended quotation.

MJH's "I'm Satisfied" also seems to be coming from a female's point of view, although it's a bit more ambiguous than "Richland Woman."

I sing both of 'em without hesitation and without explanation.

There are songs where a "gender change" seems more necessary and where such a change is also easier to achieve ~ straightforward love songs wherein it's a simple matter to change "him" to "her," etc. Is those cases, I'll do it. In songs like the abovementioned where the lyrics present a more complicated scenario, and where a quick change of a few words won't help and won't make sense, I'll do what singers have done since time immemorial: just perform the song as-is.

I don't think it's a question of how old or "traditional" the song may be; I think it's just a matter of whether the gender readjustment can be accomplished easily and effectively without changing the song too noticeably.


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: GUEST,HipflaskAndy
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 12:14 PM

El Grec

Yep, you would HAVE to stop saying that to 'em G, it was just too big an ask for anyone, eh?
See you soon matey! Hic!


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: GUEST,Uncle DaveO
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 12:18 PM

There are, as I see it, five point-of-view sets in songs, and some of them present no problem at all to a singer of either sex, and some perhaps more:

There's what novelists sometimes refer to as "the eye of God" point of view. It's told completely by what might be called an unidentified outside narrator.   There's no problem here.

There's the song told entirely in the first person by a female protagonist. This is one which might just be tricky or uncomfortable for a man to sing. Or perhaps it may be comic for that reason.

Then the converse is the song in the first person by a male protagonist.   Perhaps a woman might have problems with this, but somehow I don't think that women generally would have as much discomfort with this kind of song as some men might with the female song above. I wouldn't think a "male" song sung by a female singer is so likely to be made comic as the other way around.

Then there's the "extended quote" song, as was pointed out earlier about The Frozen Logger. Another example would be The Bold Fenian Men. Actually, in neither of those two songs is the sex of the initial narrator specified, but I think most of us would think of it as male.

One of the frequent characteristics of the traditional ballad is the unanounced change of "speaker" or point of view. A good example is the ghost version of The Grey Cock, which freely changes narrators. Or maybe I should say there is no "narrator" as such, but it's told in a combination of "eye of God" and unannounced quotes from both parties, which it's up to the listener to sort out by context.   This kind of song should present no problem to a singer.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: fogie
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 12:53 PM

I used to occasionally change the words a bit if I could as long as the general thrust of the song remained. I tell you what I found even more difficult -trying to singing in a particular accent especially Scots or Geordie


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: GUEST,HipflaskAndy
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 05:15 PM

El Grec me lad - I made some witty remark about your ....'I even stopped the joking introduction "you'll have to imagine I am not the Greek God you see before you, but...' and it disappeared totally - now I can't remember what I said exactly dammit!
May be I'll remember when your up here in Bratf'd (practice how to say that!) - see ya soon pal. HFA


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 05:39 PM

Why cant you just have a change of clothes?


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: Brendy
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 06:38 PM

>i>"I always took the attitude that the male singer ... was telling a story by delivering an extended quotation."

That just about hits the nail on the head, as far as I can make out.

I came to this thread via the Dory Previn one, so I covered quit a bit of the way I view it, over there.

There's some songs I will sing, and some I couldn't bring myself around to. I always liked Janis Ian's 'Tea & Sympathy', and still do it now and again.
But I'll sing all trad and blues 'cross-genderingers', no prob.

Small bit of thread creep, here, but trad/folk songs that require a duet, like 'An Ghibóg', by Clannad, or 'Fairytale of New York' by Kirsty & the Pogues, I would never do on my own.
I would sing the 'woman's part', no problem..., it just doesn't work, I think, when you start changing sex backwards and forwards in the middle of a song.

B.


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 10:19 PM

You know the Carry It On album from some years back, with Pete Seeger,
Si Kahn, and Jane Sapp? When I saw that Bread and Roses was on that album,
I assumed Jane Sapp would sing it - but no, it was Si Kahn. In that context,
it seemed a bit odd for a man to sing that song. Wouldn't seem odd in
a folk club - lovely song, no reason a man shouldn't sing it - just seemed
odd to me on that album, what with there being a woman around.

Alsitair Hulett sings his song, He Fades Away, which starts,
"There's a man in my bed, I used to love him,"
and everyone knows by now (if they didn't from the get-go)
that he wrote it from the point of view of a woman singing
about her husband, and I don't think anyone has any problem
with it.


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: GUEST,Joe_F
Date: 28 Feb 05 - 11:19 PM

Having been sent to the wrong planet, I am puzzled & sometimes exasperated by the notion that certain facts about oneself, such as one's sex or class or race, belong to one's "essence" or "identity" or some such cant pseudoconcept, within which one must remain, even in imagination, for fear of being dishonest or ridiculous or presumptuous or perverted. The fact that I am male, for me, is just another fact about me, important for some purposes but not for others, and *logically* on a par with my gray hair. If I must refrain, in singing, from impersonating other human beings who happen not to be male, then must I abstain from "Abide with Me" because I am not a Christian? Shall I adjust the words of "Sam Hall" to take account of my not being a murderer? As it happens, I value many songs, such as "Dink's Song", "The Cuckoo", and "Lolly-Too-Dum", in part because they are helpful in sympathizing with people who differ from me in that particular, and eke out my poor native abilities in that endeavor. I sing them straight, and so far as a I know no-one of my acquaintance takes it amiss.

--- Joe Fineman    joe_f@verizon.net

||: Wouldn't you rather be hurt by someone who enjoyed doing it, than by someone for whom it was strictly business? :||


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: open mike
Date: 01 Mar 05 - 05:54 PM

I often sing "young one" (John Prine's Paradise)
or "native one" (City of New Orleans) instead
of using the word "son" as i can then relate to
the song better. fits the meter, if not the
original meaning of the song.


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: Marion
Date: 01 Mar 05 - 06:26 PM

I think Joe F. makes a good point. For those of you who are uncomfortable singing and/or writing a song from the other gender's perspective, do you have the same discomfort with the other ways that the song's narrator is different from you (generation, race, nationality, religion, profession, etc.)? If so, aren't you stuck singing only autobiographical songs or boring "universal" ones? If not, why is gender an issue when the other things aren't?

I think Uncle Dave is right too, that this is less of an issue for woman singers. I sing and write songs from a male perspective without thinking twice about it. Lots of good male singers and/or songwriters use female perspectives, but they often seem to add a comment to explain it or joke about it. One exception that I can think of: I've gotten a few requests for "Boy Named Sue" but I'm not inclined to learn it. I just don't think it would be funny sung by a woman, unless perhaps it was in some kind of Johnny-Cash-impersonation drag king context.

Marion


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: GUEST,Bad Cuilionn, no biscuit
Date: 01 Mar 05 - 07:59 PM

Jist a side note:

Among Scottish Gaelic singers, there seems to be absolutely no hesitation or concern when it comes to singing a song from the other gender's perspective. I've seen old men stand up to sing at a ceilidh & launch into a woman's lament for her husband lost at sea... I've also seen young women offer heart-rending versions of "An Ataireachd Ard" and other "I'm-a-dying-old-man-so-take-me-down-to-the-sea"-type songs. Regardless of age or gender, Gaelic singers seem to be drawn to the poetic power & driving cadence of certain songs, and folks sing them with an absolute disregard for who "should" be singing. A man might sing "Oran na Maighdinn-Mhara" (The Sea-Maiden's Song) and a woman might sing "Ho Ro Mo Nighean Donn Bhoidheach" (Ho Ro My Lovely Dark Lass) with equal passion, and both may be received with full approval and appreciation by a ceilidh crowd.

--Cuilionn


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 02 Mar 05 - 04:04 AM

Personally, I like the juxtaposition of a fat, bearded, balding bloke singing things like 'I wish I was a maid again'...

A song is there to be sung.. it doesn't matter who sings it, just so long as someone does!

LTS


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: Singing Referee
Date: 02 Mar 05 - 07:36 AM

Sometimes the same words when sung by one sex could be interpreted entirely differently when sung by the other, especially songs that are intended to be sung by "the opposite" sex.

I've been singing "Oh no my love not I" since I first heard it sung by Mary Humphrey. It's written in the first person, narrated by the man of the story, but meant to be sung by a woman. If sung by a man without explanation, it could easily sound like an arrogant male boast, rather than the condemnation of the man's actions that it really is. The chorus "For when fishes fly and swallows die, young men will prove true" points to the true sense of the song, but I doubt that is sufficient to balance the argument when sung by a man.

It's such a great song which I love singing and try to do so with sensitivity, but would not want people who didn't know the song to misinterpret, so I start with an explanation which also gives me an opportunity for a little humour.

Or do I misjudge the intelligence of my audience?


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Subject: RE: Changing sex
From: alanabit
Date: 02 Mar 05 - 03:14 PM

Interesting comment Marion. There is actually an "answer" song to "A Boy Named Sue" by the same author (Shel Silverstein). I think it is actually funnier than the original, as it tells the same story from the father's point of view. I have a song which is sung from a woman's point of view called Johnny Petto. I often wistfully think that if I ever hear it sung well by a woman, my own efforts will become redundant. It would be so much easier for an audience to believe that a woman really was the character.
There are, no doubt, plenty of men who can pull off this sort of thing though. Bert Jansch's excellent "Rosemary Lane" is a case in point. I would not want to make a sweeping statement about whether it always comes off or not though. Best to judge on a case by case basis. I can't think of any real folk song which I would want to change the sex of though.


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