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Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?

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Lizzie Cornish 05 Jul 06 - 05:32 AM
Dave Earl 05 Jul 06 - 05:41 AM
Strupag 05 Jul 06 - 05:46 AM
Lizzie Cornish 05 Jul 06 - 05:49 AM
greg stephens 05 Jul 06 - 05:51 AM
Kara 05 Jul 06 - 05:54 AM
Scrump 05 Jul 06 - 06:17 AM
Lizzie Cornish 05 Jul 06 - 06:33 AM
Dave Earl 05 Jul 06 - 06:42 AM
Bonnie Shaljean 05 Jul 06 - 06:50 AM
Dave Earl 05 Jul 06 - 06:57 AM
Bonnie Shaljean 05 Jul 06 - 07:00 AM
Paul Burke 05 Jul 06 - 07:03 AM
Lizzie Cornish 05 Jul 06 - 07:07 AM
treewind 05 Jul 06 - 08:00 AM
jacqui.c 05 Jul 06 - 08:09 AM
BuckMulligan 05 Jul 06 - 08:41 AM
nutty 05 Jul 06 - 09:09 AM
Charley Noble 05 Jul 06 - 09:09 AM
Dave Hanson 05 Jul 06 - 09:14 AM
Mr Fox 05 Jul 06 - 09:18 AM
John MacKenzie 05 Jul 06 - 09:45 AM
Folkiedave 05 Jul 06 - 09:54 AM
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Subject: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Lizzie Cornish
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 05:32 AM

So, what do you think?

Did he help enormously by being so dictatorial about 'folk' music?

Or has his attitude 'damaged' folk music forever?



Lizzie :0)


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Dave Earl
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 05:41 AM

Lizzie what brought this on?

Why do we need to see things in the way you seem to be suggesting?

Like his work or not he did it and it is out there to appreciate, or not.

Dave


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Strupag
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 05:46 AM

He had his contrary side but, after all, he was a genius.
Definately a friend!

Andy


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Lizzie Cornish
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 05:49 AM

Hang on Dave..I'm just looking for a bit in the book I'm reading, to quote. I've lost the page! Grrrr.....


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: greg stephens
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 05:51 AM

Friend, obviously. Many disagreed with him about many things(the world of folk is the world of argument), but surely nobody but an idiot could fail to spot his enormous contributions to the performance, study and dissemination of British folk music.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Kara
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 05:54 AM

Anyway he's Kirsty's Dad, and that has to be a good thing.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Scrump
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 06:17 AM

Definitely a thumbs up for him. Wrote some classic songs that people still sing today, and you can't say fairer than that. (I met him once and found him easy to talk to as well).


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Lizzie Cornish
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 06:33 AM

Well...I was reading my Colin Irwin book again Dave....'In Search Of Albion'.....BRILLIANT book by the way...and in there Colin discusses many things.

One of them is Ewan and he talks about him being one of the most intimidating people he'd ever met, but without him, perhaps folk music may not have survived, as his rules and regulations about only being allowed to sing songs from your own background, in the right accent and, in particular, different songs having to be sung on a regular basis...did a lot to get people searching for things.

But, did his strict views perhaps go too far? Are they still being applied today in some places?


I think Colin puts it far better than me:

_____________________________________________________________________

From Colin Irwin's book,'In Search Of Albion, Chapter Nine 150/151:

"Ewan MacColl contended that British folk song had been misrepresented by collectors prettyfying the music and polishing its rough edges, thus eradicating proper social context and presenting a mythical idea of prissy respectability. He described the images of folk music resulting from this disservice as 'a nebulous grouping of merry Arcadian, coy rustics prancing perpetually round village maypoles and flirting archly with each other. It suited British society, he said, to foster such false images, as damning as they were to the true heart and soul of the music. To have confused 'folk' with the great army of rural cottagers driven into the Bastilles and factories by successive Poor Law acts, with the half-starved Irish navvies building the first railroads, or with the evicted Highland crofters, would have been unthinkable.

Small wonder, he said, that people had rejected such a sanitised version of folk music and turned instead to music hall and other genres. So, he duly set about reclaiming folk music. Drawing parallels between British folk songs of struggle, human emotions and the working life, with American Blues, he set up the Ballads And Blues club which settled successfully at the Princess Louise in London's High Holborn.......

......Ballads And Blues, later to become the Singers Club, had many highly respected residents, including famous American collector Alan Lomax, the great Irish uillean piper Seamus Ennis, Bert Lloyd, Ralph Rinzler and Isla Cameron.   It also pursued a musical policy so controversial, that it still inspires debate 45 years later. The club allowed artists to sing or play music only of their own heritage, a stance Peggy Seeger says was taken after discussions with residents and an audience committee, following a particularly gruesome Cockney version of Leadbelly's 'Rock Island Line'. It was so bad, she said, that the audience was laughing at the hapless young singer, and they felt something had to be done to discourage it.

Whatever else, it concentrated the British folk revivalists' minds away from slavishly copying the American songs gaining currency from the likes of the Weavers and the Kingston Trio, and triggered a flurry of research into the roots of the English tradition. Another Ballads And Blues dictum, apparently stemming from the audience committee, was that resident singers shouldn't perform the same traditional song more than once very three months, ensuring a frenzied turnover of new material. Such rigid rules have helped cement Ewan MacColl's dictatorial reputation, but there's no doubt the strong stance empowered British folk song enormously, while unemployed ex-skiffle group members rapidly involved themselves in a network of folk clubs all over the country.

MacColl was a man you didn't mess with. I only met him a couple of times and he scared me witless. He didn't suffer fools gladly, was uncomprimising in his stringent views about politics and the purity of folk song, and was one of those who felt betrayed by Dylan's decision to go electric........"
______________________________________________________________________





I suppose I'm just asking if Ewan's obsessive rules damaged the music as well, in the sense of seeming to make it become elitist and at times very overly intellectualised?


Lizzie :0)


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Dave Earl
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 06:42 AM

Well Lizzie the man had his views which, in the main, I have no dispute with.

Like Colin Irwin says Ewan was not the easist of men to deal with.

Butthat should not detract from the work he did for the revival of Traditional song and music.

Dave


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Bonnie Shaljean
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 06:50 AM

Are we going to have a Bash Ewan MacColl thread now? I think he did FAR more good than harm (if there was any lasting harm). He could be difficult but NO, of course his attitude didn't "damage folk music forever". Lizzie will probably protest that she's just asking an objective question but the wording is hardly unbiased -

>Did he help enormously by being so dictatorial about 'folk' music?

>Or has his attitude 'damaged' folk music forever?

>I'm just asking if Ewan's obsessive rules damaged the music as well, in the sense of seeming to make it become elitist and at times very overly intellectualised?


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Dave Earl
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 06:57 AM

Who is bashing who here?

A question was asked and answers have been given.

Dave


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Bonnie Shaljean
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 07:00 AM

I'm only asking the same questions you did. Since when is that bashing? The questions ARE worded negatively.

>Lizzie what brought this on?

>Why do we need to see things in the way you seem to be suggesting?"


Outta here now. Bye.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 07:03 AM

Nobody had to do what he said, he couldn't be in all the folk clubs at once. I remember clubs run on "those" lines, no guitars, no American songs, no music hall songs, beards sweaters sandals FITE and all the stereotype. A regular run of themed nights through round-the-year, soldiers' songs, industrial songs, just like in the books. But if you didn't like it, well, lots of pubs had back bars or function rooms, happy to give them out free or cheap, and if you didn't like it, go and start your own. And lots of people did.

McColl and co deserve the credit for getting things going, just as the Dubliners/ Clancy Brothers/ Peter Paul and Mary/ Seekers/ Spinners/ Pentangle and all that lot that we patronisingly looked down on back then deserve the credit for getting stuff circulated. Weren't they naive? Weren't we naive? Aren't we still naive?


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Lizzie Cornish
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 07:07 AM

>>Are we going to have a Bash Ewan MacColl thread now?<<

Oh Sigh! Here we go again!

Bonnie....I've just taken AGES to type all that out above. I'm merely asking some questions that Colin didn't.

You've said what you thought....fine.

But lay-off all the personal stuff....there's a dear.

Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: treewind
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 08:00 AM

The same question could be asked about Cecil Sharp, and with the same answer - everybody who does great work in collecting, researching and promoting folk music also has a personal agenda. It's good to be aware of that agenda, and none of them has all the answers, but that's no reason to denigrate their work. (Sharp's agenda was very different from MacColl's of course)

I don't know what point Lizzie was trying to make with the Colin Irwin quote, but it doesn't seem overly critical of MacColl, and it quite clearly explains what he wanted to achieve. People who change the way we think about things are usually extremists. If they weren't, nobody would have taken any notice.

Is there any evidence of "damage" now, caused by MacColl?

If you want an excuse to devalue his work, I'd have thought it was not his dictatorial attitude or his scary personality, but his hypocrisy. He appears to talk about being authentic to your roots and performing songs from your own culture, but he used an assumed name, I believe his Scottish accent was deliberately acquired, and he wasn't averse to writing "traditional" songs that didn't belong to his own background. Even so, as most of us here seems to agree, he made an enormous positive contribution to music, to attitudes, and to making people think.

How many of us are doing any better?

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: jacqui.c
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 08:09 AM

I'd go along with Paul. There have been many influences on the modern folk scene and, it seems, there are many interpretations of what folk is and how it should be performed.

However well known, accomplished or intimidating one person is their view is simply that, their view and the rest of us can take or leave it as we see fit.

I find it difficult to see how anybody who takes an interest in and tries to put forward folk music can be seen as a foe. Possibly, as MacColl seems to have be perceived by some, overbearing and arrogant in their views but still a friend to a musical genre that needs all the friends it can get.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: BuckMulligan
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 08:41 AM

I can't see how anyone - dictatorial, intimidating or whatever - could harm the music. It was what it was, it is what it is, and it will be what it will be. "Folk" music is pretty much whatever the folk play & sing to amuse themselves. If a buncha "folk" sit around a campfire and sing "Act Naturally" then that song is on its way to becoming part of a (if not "the") tradition. Some can sniff that it ain't folk, by by gum the folk have the last word, always. There have aleways been - and probably always will be - confused people who think that scholarship is prescriptive; who study stuff as it is & has been, and bollix themselves into thinking that's the way it's supposed to be. Pshaw. These folks help a great deal by letting us know what's been; smart "folk" stop listening when scholars begin dictating.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: nutty
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 09:09 AM

I see MacColl as belonging as much to "folk theatre" as to folk music. Every booking he undertook was a performance with a message - very similar to Roy Bailey performing today.

I think we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to MacColl for giving us all a good shake and reminding us that there were burning issues in the outside world that needed to be commented on and that the folk clubs were places where those comments could be aired.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 09:09 AM

One probably has to initiate a thread on Ewan MacColl at least once a year, or revive one of the older ones (which would be my preference). He was and is an important figure in the revival of traditional and traditional style folk music, and probably will continue to be for years to come. Some younger folks will be curious about the man himself. Some older folks make still be feeling the sting of being told what they should be singing and how they should be singing it.

I only encountered MacColl as a performer with his wife Peggy Seeger and found that a wonderful experience. I also mined many of his recordings, and his songbooks.

I haven't anything else of value to contribute to this thread.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 09:14 AM

Ewan MacColls ideas about only singing songs from your own culture to quote Martin Carthy " helped me to discover English folksong " Ewans legacy to folk music is immeasurable.

I've never read Colin Irwins books but his journalism left a lot to be desired, he often repeated the erroneous fact that Ewan MacColl was born in Auchterarder, when everyone else in the world knew he was born in Salford.

Lizzie, do a search, it's all been discussed over and over before.

eric


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Mr Fox
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 09:18 AM

Can't say I agree with Lizzie about Irwin's book. He seems to spend half of it apologising for English culture and the other half mocking it or making snarky comments about football hooligans.

'The Magic Spring' by Richard Lewis (http://www.delevine.com/readfrommagicspring.html) is MUCH better value.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 09:45 AM

Well I met him and sang in his club, and named my son in his honour.
But he was at times a 'difficult' person to get on with. He had his beliefs, and he had his funny little rules, but like me you either took him or left him alone.
He did write a fine body of songs, and he did give birth to the Radio Ballads along with Charles Parker, and for those alone he deserves undying gratitude from all lovers of folk music.
Giok


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 09:54 AM

As Charley says this seems to come up every year. Before posting to this thread any more and taking Colin Irwin's uncritical words as gospel please read this article. Colin Irwin was plain wrong.

There is a link to the original article here.

Clearly the policy of " If you were singing from the stage, you sang in a language that you could speak and understand" came not from MacColl, but from members of the Ballad and Blues Club. Likewise the policy of that ".....not sing the same traditional song more than once every three months..." came from the members of the Ballad and Blues Club also.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 10:17 AM

I think there is much to be said for limiting the repeated utterance of the same song, and there is also much to be said for people singing folk songs from their own cultures. There is much to be said against hypocrisy and there is also much to be said against arrogance dictatorialism and compulsion - and how could a socialist (NB, for the benefit of Americans, usually a term of praise in the UK) fail to understand that?

There is also a remarkable hubris in purporting to write "folk" songs and a fortiori in purporting to write them for a culture that is not one's own.

Let it not be forgotten that in some ways the golden age of English folk revival came after MacColl was a spent force, and by that measure, his influence if he had one of the magnitude suggested must have been beneficial overall.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 10:23 AM

Ewan, ne: Jimmy Miller was one of the greatest unaccompanied ballad singers I've ever heard.
He brought that tradition to life.

Every artist, I believe, has a certain bias and passion for what they do. This means that they revere their art to the point of not wanting to see it debased for any reason.

Jazz musicians tend to be like this. Some are more tolerant of pop music forms and some think they suck.

Personally, I understand Ewan and Alan Lomax who decried the popularization and bowdlerization of trad music. I don't agree with the "pollution" but I understand why they would think that way.

Tolerance is OK up to a point and then you gotta' tell the Emperor about his new clothes.
American Idle comes to mind.
Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,F augmented
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 10:30 AM

Personal characteristics aside, MacColl was a huge positive influence.
It's entirely possible that without him and others, English traditional music would have acquired all the distinctiveness of a Big Mac and that certain revered English singers of Some Vintage would now be plying their trade with transatlantic accents.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,bob af
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 11:16 AM

In terms of folk song writing, some people might consider Ewan MacColl to be "The Woody Guthrie of the UK", I think. Like Woody Guthrie's best songs, MacColl's songs seemed to also reflect a desire to create a new world (and not just a desire to individually make a good living as a professional musician or singer-songwriter within a corrupt society). Many of MacColl's songs seemed to also reflect Woody Guthrie's view of what constitutes a "folk song". In a July 15, 1946 letter of 60 years ago, for instance, Woody Guthrie wrote the following:

"Every folk song that I know tells how to fix some things in this world to make it better, tells what is wrong with it, and what we've got to do to fix it better. If the song does not do this, then, it is no more of a folk song than I am a movie scout."


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 11:17 AM

I had met both Ewan & Peggy, once, back in the late 70's. They were on tour & I was traveling cross country for no perticular reason. I found a singing swap & then found out that they were doing a house concert in L.A. the next night & dived a the chance. I was introduced to them because I had come the farthest to see them. 3,000 mile but not really to see them. Anyway I found them to be very easy to talk to, interesting, attentive & Ewan was very interested in my trade (roofer) asking about the old timers & how they were treated, how they past on there knowledge, etc. I came away with a great respect for them both. I think that they were very pleased that a young someone whose neck was dirty & had rough hands appeciated their singing.

That said, who gives a care about how he ran his show. His contributions were tremdous & far reaching, mony of his written songs are songs are the world over (so have claimed to have even collected them), he's lead many others in their quest into traditional music & without him there's a lot that wouldn't be. SO how can you fault someone if he might've rubbed a few people in a different manner.

Barry


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Morris-ey
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 11:39 AM

Lizzie

What do you think about the name changer "Ewan MacColl"?


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 12:18 PM

There is much to be said against hypocrisy and there is also much to be said against arrogance dictatorialism and compulsion - and how could a socialist (NB, for the benefit of Americans, usually a term of praise in the UK) fail to understand that?

I assume - though you do not name him Richard, that those words are meant to refer to MacColl. Where is the evidence to say that MacColl was arrogant and dictatorial?

Everyone who met him (as opposed to those who have just read Colin Irwin's book or heard about him second-hand) will tell you just the opposite as they have on this thread.

I also met him on a number of occasions and found him just the opposite to dictatorial and arrogant.

He was not perfect and I have never met anyone who claimed he was, and Peggy certainly doesn't, but arrogant and dictatorial were not amongst his faults as far as I know. (Except by second-hand reputation).

Colin Irwin met him twice and he was scared witless each time. I think that says more about Colin Irwin than it says about Ewan MacColl.

As far as the name change goes there are two verions to this. The one I prefer to believe is that a number of people of Scottish heritage were writing poetry in the 1940's/50's and they took other names. Thus Christopher Grieve took the name Hugh McDiarmid. Jimmie Miller took the name Evan MacColl, and got it wrong!.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: greg stephens
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 12:37 PM

He liked to do things as well as he could, and he expected the same from other people. And he had very poweful opinions about folk music. Good for him. And of course he was self-contradictory: he famously sang "John Henry" but tried to stop others from doing so. Fine by me, what's wrong with changing your opinions from time to time? Thing is, he made things happen. Wonderful.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 01:13 PM

How do you know he tried to stop others signing John Henry?

Dave Eyre


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Don Firth
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 01:41 PM

Being "allowed" to sing only folk songs from my own culture raises a bit of a problem for someone like me. What are folk songs from my culture? I'm urban born and raised, most of my musical influences when I was younger came from listening to the radio. Other than the usual run of kids' programs (Jack Armstrong, Captain Midnight, The Green Hornet, The Lone Ranger, etc.) that often used excerpts from classical music as theme and background, I heard programs of popular and classical music (Manhattan Merry-Go-Round, Your Hit Parade, The Frederick and Nelson Concert Hour, etc.), as well as I can remember, the first folk singer I ever heard was Burl Ives, who had a radio program on Sunday afternoons for a short time. Later on, records of Susan Reed and Richard Dyer-Bennet. These singers and others that I heard early on sang folk songs from a wide variety of sources.

So what am I supposed to sing? In terms of folk music, what is my culture?

I think I can see what MacColl was getting at:   the somewhat prissy parlor renditions of British (or for that matter, American) folk music having to do with milk maids and shepherds cavorting in the clover and depicting some sort of bucolic paradise hardly reflected the broad range and frequent grittiness of real folk music, and it would undoubtedly be a bit galling for someone such as MacColl to be inundated with British folk enthusiasts singing "covers" of American singers when there is such a rich body of British Isles music that may very well have been generally neglected.

But perhaps I'm doing exactly what I should be doing:   most of the first folk songs I learned, I learned from the recordings of Burl Ives, Susan Reed, Richard Dyer-Bennet, Cynthia Gooding, Ed McCurdy, and other such sources, along with a collection of song books, like Carl Sandburg's American Songbag or those of the Lomaxes, or Song Fest, et al. A few songs I've learned directly from other singers, such as Walt Robertson or Bob Nelson. But they, in turn, probably learned them from recordings or song books just as I did.

If I sang only songs from my cultural background, I would be singing songs learned from Frank Sinatra records, along with an occasional operatic aria. And once in a great while, a song recorded by the Weavers or the Kingston Trio.

What is my culture? I would love to have had a chance to talk to MacColl (I did meet him once, but we talked of other things) and ask him that question.

But don't get me wrong. I respect him very highly and don't see that he could possibly be regarded as a foe of folk music.

By the way, I sing several songs I learned form MacColl's records. Does my Scottish ancestry count?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: greg stephens
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 01:55 PM

Folkiedave: because he told them not to. Often, and loudly. Obviously he did not set the police on them, or shoot them, but he brought whatever influence he could to bear on the situation to prevent people singing Rock Island Line and John Henry in the wrong accent. And he didnt want them trying to imitate the right accent either. I can see why he did it, and sympathise. And it was a good thing for English music that he did raise those questions: though I'm not sure that he wouldn't have been a bit more successful if he'd used a more softly softly approach.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,DB
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 02:56 PM

Dear Morris-ey,

What do you think about the name changer "Bob Dylan"? I know what I think - if an artist decides to change his/her name, who gives a s..t??

As for Ewan MacColl - I met him at an impressionable time in my life and he made a very deep impression on me that has lasted me for the rest of my life. He definitely changed my life for the better - and, personally, I always found him very approachable.

No artistic experience that I have had, before or since, has ever had the same impact as Ewan singing ballads. At a time when our popular culture was being swamped by commercial rock music here was this remarkable artist, singing these exciting and dramatic, traditional narrative songs, and holding audience after audience in the palm of his hand. I think that many of his detractors still hate him because he was uncompromising and made absolutely no concessions to commercial popular culture. He was unimpressed by passing fads and fashions and had a truly wide-ranging perspective. He was both an internationalist and a person with a deep feeling for history and the historical roots of our culture. He was a giant whose like we will never see again.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 04:22 PM

Can I clear up one mistake repeated above:

The Ballads and Blues Club at the Princess Louise and various other venues was organised by Malcolm Nixon. It DID NOT BECOME THE SINGERS CLUB. All the people mentioned above; Lomax, Ennis, Lloyd, Rinzler, Cameron, plus Dominic Behan, Sandy and Caroline Paton, Rambling Jack Elliott, Fred Gerlach, Dean Gitter, Oscar Brand I could go on, ALL appeared at the Ballads and Blues Club before Ewan and Peggy decided to go off and start the singers club with Bruce Dunnett.
Ewan's dictum was if you are American it's ok to sing American Songs and if you are English you should sing English songs. However if you were born in England of Scottish parents it would be perfectly ok to sing bothy ballads in a mock Scots accent and be accompanied by the five string banjo, just like they used to in the crofts.
The Ballads and Blues Club continued using it's previous broad policy.
Just wanted to get that straight.

But he did write one or two good songs and some rubbish too!


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 04:39 PM

Does the originator of this thread actually perform, sing, write, make music?


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 04:40 PM

Sorry but I should also have included among the people that appeared at the Ballads and Blues Club prior to Ewan & Peggy's departure; Sam Larner, Bob & Ron Copper, Enoch Kent and Harry Cox.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Lizzie Cornish
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 04:57 PM

>>Does the originator of this thread actually perform, sing, write, make music?<<

Why would you like to know?



Great info guys.....I'm enjoying reading all this. Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Northerner
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 04:58 PM

I met him in the early 70s when I visited his club. He immediately put my back up by inviting me to sit on his lap. I was younger then and a great deal slimmer and lighter!!! His audience were way too reverential for my liking. Plus he was doing stick to your own culture stuff. I'm English of Scottish parentage and immediately posed a problem (it's actually pretty much the same background as Ewan). I did return to his club on several occasions but tried to avoid going on the nights when he was present. I admired the man but couldn't like him. I thought he was snobbish.

Brilliant for what he did for our country's folk heritage (though I reckon he made a few errors). But likeable? Well, not always.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 05:01 PM

Sidmouth Folk Week


Saturday 4th ~ 11th August 2006

There will be a Folk Festival in Sidmouth; including a series of concerts and other events.


For further information visit the official website: www.sidmouthfolkweek.co.uk

Contact us by e-mail at info@sidmouthfolkweek.co.uk


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 05:10 PM

>>Does the originator of this thread actually perform, sing, write, make music?<<

Why would you like to know?



Credentials.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Lizzie Cornish
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 05:24 PM

You're not Ewan II are you? ;0)


You'll have to elaborate a bit more than that I'm afraid.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 05:30 PM

There seems to be a surfeit of mindlessness on Mudcat lately. I simply wondered why you chose to add to it.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: concertina ceol
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 05:35 PM

He had a nice SAAB and wanted to be put up in a hotel when he came to our folk club. That went down well in a pit village - not. Why did he change his name as well? He didn't start off as a MacColl. Bizarre bloke - but then most geniuses are flawed in some way.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 05:35 PM

well I found him likeable, pleasant, helpful, witty and I have nothing but nice memories of him. he never tried to tell to sing in my own accent, as I was trying to write calypsos at the time. I knew he thought I was crackers and he invited me to sing a song at his club - but I was young and dim and i wouldn't go anywhere for less than a three song spot - certainly not all the way to London.

On the other hand the vocal gurning and hey up, ee ba goom!, willie eckerslyke, routines are firmly established as the lingua franca of the English folk revival.

are you sure these people are not blaming some stuff Ewan said experimantally thirty years ago for not being brave enough to sing in something approaching their own voices?


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Peace
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 05:38 PM

Jimmie Miller did much to preserve music. His views were his views.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 05:38 PM

You know folks, you don't really have to like the man. Or even have to have liked the man. What he did for traditional folk music is awesome--even completely apart from the material he wrote. His collection of Scottish songs (predating Buchan and Hall) really kicked off the Scottish folk revival; his early recordings were the first introduction to traditional singing that most of the US ever encountered.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Lizzie Cornish
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 05:39 PM

From er 'Guest'

>>There seems to be a surfeit of mindlessness on Mudcat lately. I simply wondered why you chose to add to it.<<

You've obviously not read all the posts on this thread then....it's filled with great stories that loads of us probably knew nothing about, until a short while ago.

Stop grizzling, there's a sweetheart...and just enjoy....

And now...back to Ewan


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 05:56 PM

"Does the originator of this thread actually perform, sing, write, make music?"

Pointless question Guest (not unbommon).

All that is required for the valid expression of an opimion is an appreciation of music. It is not necessary to be a musician for that to apply.

If you have nothing to add, other than personal attack, go play elsewhere.

Ewan's contribution to folk music is indisputable. His opinions about performance were just that, HIS opinions, to be accepted or rejected at will. His people skills were a problem only to those who allowed them to overshadow his singing skills.

BTW, guest, I DO sing, perform, write, and make music. Does this give any extra weight to MY opinions?..........I THINK NOT!

Don T.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 06:05 PM

Don't be so presumptuous, Don. It wasn't asked in that manner. Go have yourself a nice day. Relax a little.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 06:20 PM

Ewan's dictum was if you are American it's ok to sing American Songs and if you are English you should sing English songs.

Can we please put this myth to bed? First of all the policy (a folk club with a policy about folk music - wow!!) was that you sang in a language you spoke and understood. That's it. Nothing about Scots, English, American etc.

That was not the policy of MacColl, nor was it a dictum of MacColl. Apart from that every word you write about it is true.

Had it been a dictum of MacColl then he would correctly be described as arrogant and dictatorial. But it was the policy of the folk club that he sang at and it was decided by the audience and people who attended not by Ewan. And it was not designed for anywhere else. Just the Ballad and Blues Club.

There is plenty of evidence for this from people who were there at the time, not least of which is Peggy who describes the process by which this happened fully (see my previous posts for the link) and by Jim Carroll in another thread about MacColl.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Effsee
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 09:02 PM

"But he did write one or two good songs and some rubbish too!"
Just one or two eh?
And what would be the rubbish ones?


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Peace
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 09:07 PM

'As a songwriter, MacColl is best known as the author of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," "Dirty Old Town," "The Shoals of Herring," "Freeborn Man" and "The Manchester Rambler." He has written more than 300 songs. Peggy Seeger has assembled 200 of these into The Essential Ewan MacColl Songbook.'

I suppose he wrote a few duds, but if the only song he ever wrote was Shoals of Herring, that puts him above most other writers, IMO.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Effsee
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 09:20 PM

IIRC his first song The Manchester Rambler was written in 1938 for a protest for the rights of ramblers.
He went ont on to write some of the greatest songs in the canon.

IMHO the original question, is totally stupid.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Gerry
Date: 05 Jul 06 - 10:33 PM

A Dave van Ronk CD came out last year, a collection of "rarities" from 1957 to 1969, called The Mayor of MacDougal Street. On one of the tracks he tells the story of being at an English folk club and learning that he was only supposed to sing songs coming out of his own tradition (or words to that effect). He has some harsh words for the organizer of the club - he never names him, so maybe it wasn't MacColl - and decides that the only songs that are really in his tradition are the ones he learned on the street as a kid, so he sings Shaving Cream (lyrics here).


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Rowan
Date: 06 Jul 06 - 12:36 AM

I'm not sure what prompted the first question on this thread but many of the responses have reminded me of one or two relevant events. And yes, I'm a singer and player, just to get the 'cred' out of the way. And I met him when he was on tour in Australia in the '70s and I sang at the Singers Club when I visited, also in the 70s, just to get different 'cred' out of the way.

I found both Ewan and Peggy to be very personable on these (unlinked) occasions, although it was difficult for everyone to escape perceptions that their folklore/performance/pick-a-relevant-attribute status was significantly 'higher' than anyone else's present. I was aware of his reputation as an advocate for particular socialist attitudes towards context and performance and I like the reference above to the fact that being described as a socialist in the UK has different connotations in the US; Australia used to be similar to the UK in this but more and more Australian attitudes are reflecting those of the US.

My own singing seemed to me to be centred on my own tradition/culture. I sang lots of stuff out of the 1st Hackney Scout Songbook (my father's copy, issued to lots of Australian troops during the AIF expeditions before 1950) but, in a family involved with scouting since its introduction to Australia, that was no surprise. I sang lots of Australian songs, lots of English, Scottish and even a few Irish songs and many of my ancestors were English or Scottish, although I found out later that none was Irish. Even so, when I first got involved with what was euphemistically called 'the folk scene' the repertoire seemed split into two broad groups.

One part of the repertoire had lots of Burl Ives, Theodore Bikel, Odette etc stuff and lots of it was in languages other than either English or the singer's native language. Some performers had had experience of working in the same circumstances as those they sang about but many didn't. None of those performers seemed antagonistic to the songs I had grown up with. The other part of the repertoire was heavily influenced by the likes of Ewan MacColl. Most of the performers (there were some notable exceptions) of this repertoire sniffed superciliously and looked down their noses at most of the repertoire I grew up with. Interestingly, none of them had had any real experience working in the fields thay sang about, although one of them has made a career based on the notion of such experience.

Ewan MacColl's insistence on a particular approach was never articulated to me or in my presence, as potently as some in the thread have described but I could understand him doing so if he was constantly exposed to performers who could be described as pretenders. These days there are similar pretenders but we've all grown up and become much more thoughtful. Additionally, we've had much better access to brilliant performances from authentic participants in and from other traditions and "World Music" is now wonderfully accepted, by all except extremists, to the extent that it influences our perception of what is our own home-grown culture. My daughters have grown up in New England (the Australian one, not the US one) and their native culture is, thankfully, much broader and more inclusive than the one I grew up in

Ewan MacColl and Cecil Sharp are similar in more ways than their socialism. Like many others, they forced people to think and assess what was going on. They may have been difficult for some to deal with but my own experience (of MacColl, I'm not old enough to have known Sharp) is that many people are negative about those who force them to think rather than react. I think the evidence suggests MacColl's nett effect was overwhelmingly positive.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Lizzie Cornish
Date: 06 Jul 06 - 10:09 AM

From Effsee: >>>IMHO the original question, is totally stupid.<<<

Nope...the orginal question was 'designed' specifically to get the reaction it has done...and that was for a thread of great interest. I know, I wrote the stupid question! ;0)

Some great posts here....really enjoyable.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 06 Jul 06 - 10:22 AM

The Ballad and Blues club did not have a policy of singing in your own native language - only that you sang in a language you spoke and understood. And it was only for the Ballad and Blues Club.

decides that the only songs that are really in his tradition are the ones he learned on the street as a kid, so he sings Shaving Cream

I am surprised that a singer of the quality of Dave Van Ronk should pick a 1940's copy of a previous 1940's hit song, (Sweet Violets) as representative of his own culture. Still, there is no accounting for taste.

And there were other clubs that had similar policies to Ballad and Blues. One to my certain knowledge only allowed unaccompanied singing. And you had to audition for that club, they would only put singers on that met their own high standards. ( A folk club with standards - wow!!)


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Dave S at work
Date: 06 Jul 06 - 10:46 AM

That club wouldn't have been NTMC by any chance Folkiedave? I had heard such tales about the club long before I moved to Nottingham in 1978 and in all honesty they put me off going there. In the ensuing years I have been informed by the likes of Roy Harris, Sid Long, Andy Leith, Lawrence Platt that this was never the case. Since Traditions at the Tiger is called the successor to NTMC no doubt similar stories circulate about us. The Barleycorn Club in Newcastle run by Stefan Sobell and John Revie (Revie was an associate of MacColl's)had a policy of singing songs "from your own cultural media".
MacColl friend or foe? As a folk club organiser the resounding answer would be friend! A supreme professional, always on time, presentation immaculate and always a performance to linger in the memory.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 06 Jul 06 - 11:14 AM

The NTMC had a predecessor club held in the Salutation and it was that club I was thinking of. I lived in Clifton at the time.

And I agree wholeheartedly about Ewan and Peggy being consummate professionals.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 06 Jul 06 - 02:12 PM

I think the thing about peggy and Ewan was that they were creative themselves, and they appreciated you trying to be thoughtful and creative in your approach. there were clubs were they didn't have the brains and imagination to sort that one out. and there is always someone who who is looking for an excuse to act like an asshole, and any set of rules can be bent to that purpose.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 06 Jul 06 - 02:33 PM

There is a persistent urban myth that floorsingers at the NTMC were auditioned on the stairs outside the club room before the residents decided whether to let them on. I can only say that I sang at the NTMC several times in 1978/9 and nothing like that ever happened to me, or to anyone I ever met.

BTW, I have just added a message to the string on hecklers, about a talker I encountered in a folk club in Nottingham. I should maybe mention here that the club in question was neither the NTMC or the Tiger. It was called, as far as I can remember, The Carrington Triangle


"That club wouldn't have been NTMC by any chance Folkiedave? I had heard such tales about the club long before I moved to Nottingham in 1978 and in all honesty they put me off going there. In the ensuing years I have been informed by the likes of Roy Harris, Sid Long, Andy Leith, Lawrence Platt that this was never the case. Since Traditions at the Tiger is called the successor to NTMC no doubt similar stories circulate about us. The Barleycorn Club in Newcastle run by Stefan Sobell and John Revie (Revie was an associate of MacColl's)had a policy of singing songs "from your own cultural media".
MacColl friend or foe? As a folk club organiser the resounding answer would be friend! A supreme professional, always on time, presentation immaculate and always a performance to linger in the memory."


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Hootenany
Date: 06 Jul 06 - 02:47 PM

Folkie Dave, you are still confusing things. The Ballads and Blues Club had no such policy. For example Dorothy & Peter Sensier aka Dorita y Pepe often appeared and sang and played songs from South America obviously they understood the language but did not normally speak it. We also had English guys singing Israeli songs and British girls singing Plaisir D'Amour.As I said above, the Ballads and Blues Club continued with it's broad policy
The policy of which you speak was Ewan's and that is one of the reasons if not THE reason he and Peggy went off and started THE SINGER'S CLUB.
I wasn't too keen on the man but I don't deny he had talent.

Hoot
Trying to keep the record straight


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: lesblank
Date: 06 Jul 06 - 03:17 PM

Lizzie, how in the devil can you bad mouth one of the icons of our craft and then kneel down in front of yousef flotsam or whatever his name is now. Cat Stevens made a tremendous contribution to the art and I am sorry he faded away, but to belittle Ewan McCall !! Good Golly !! Take a Midol and sit on it for awhile !!


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 06 Jul 06 - 04:15 PM

The Ballads and Blues Club had no such policy. For example Dorothy & Peter Sensier aka Dorita y Pepe often appeared and sang and played songs from South America obviously they understood the language but did not normally speak it. We also had English guys singing Israeli songs and British girls singing Plaisir D'Amour.As I said above, the Ballads and Blues Club continued with it's broad policy

Certainly the Ballads and Blues had an anything goes as you described and Peggy in her article says it did. She also says it changed. She sang French songs and Ewan sang John Henry.

I was not there at the time. My evidence is Peggy's article in "Living Tradition"; and Jim Carroll who was a member of the Critic's Group for twenty years who confirms Peggy's version in another thread.

It is interesting to note that Lizzie who started this thread offers a quote in support of her original question from Colin Irwin's book when the quote offered does no such thing. The quote although it mis-describes the policy as I understand it, also specifically says it was the policy of the club and not that of Ewan.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: shepherdlass
Date: 06 Jul 06 - 05:46 PM

Dave - didn't the fact that Ewan offered young singers training imply that, even if he wasn't the originator of the policy, he probably approved of its general thrust? There's certainly a hint of that in 'Journeyman'. Then again, I wasn't there ...


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Lizzie Cornish
Date: 06 Jul 06 - 06:19 PM

From:lesblank - PM
Date: 06 Jul 06 - 03:17 PM

"Lizzie, how in the devil can you bad mouth one of the icons of our craft and then kneel down in front of yousef flotsam or whatever his name is now. Cat Stevens made a tremendous contribution to the art and I am sorry he faded away, but to belittle Ewan McCall !! Good Golly !! Take a Midol and sit on it for awhile !!"


I suggest you sit on whatever that is yourself Les.   I haven't 'bad-muothed' Ewan at all. I merely put a question into the arena. You've no idea what I think. Please calm down and....sit down.

Oh..and by the way, I've just got back from seeing John Tams and Barry Coope performing at Otterton Mill and John was talking a great deal about Ewan. I'd tell you what he had to say, but I'd only get an hysterical reaction. Shame really, as it was really interesting.

I've certainly learnt a lot from this thread anyway.

Thanks Les....


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Lizzie Cornish
Date: 06 Jul 06 - 06:51 PM

And......I haven't 'bad-mOUthed' Ewan either. ;0)


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 06 Jul 06 - 06:51 PM

I had a friend who went to one of his workshops and whilst my memory is fading (it would be around 1963/1964!!) I seem to remember that the focus of the weekend was really helping younger and less experienced singers along, not just in singing techniques but also in stage presentation etc. (I am happy to stand corrected on that but that is how I remember it now. The only form of singing teaching otherwise available in those days would be classically based). And there was no charge for it I am sure. Bob Davenport was at the same weekend I seem to remember.

This would go well along with his belief that folk song was another art form equally valuable as many others, and needed training and technique. He would have his views on how to do this as other singing teachers would have.

I believe he did some of this by using techniques of group criticism - and I have always believed the name "Critics Group" came from this. BUT I emphasise I don't know that.

Certainly at that time few would be better qualified to do it. Nowadays many festivals will have something along those lines. And we think nothing of having instrumental teachers.

Certainly he and Peggy practised scales before a performance if they were able and he often used one of his favourite songs "Highland Muster Roll" as his first song in concerts just to sort of "warm up" his voice.

He also helped people with projects and many people testify to his generosity when sharing his knowledge of singing and songs.

As far as singing in a language that a person speaks and understands to be honest I am not sure that is a bad thing.

But I try not to be dogmatic about it!!


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 06 Jul 06 - 06:59 PM

Folkie Dave,

My evidence is that I was there, I started going to the Princess Louise around '57 and was there most Saturday nights through all the changes of venue until it finally closed in April or May '65. There were some very entertaining nights there, not the least of which was one night at the Horseshoes in Tottenham Court Road when Malcolm Nixon had to stop Ewan and Dominic Behan coming to blows because Dominic dared to criticise the way Lomax rewarded some of the singers that he recorded in Ireland.
Then there was the night that Ewan told Lisa Turner, a very good English singer five string banjo and guitar player who was doing a floor spot, that she couldn't do an American song. She told him firmly and politely that she wouldn't change her mind and walked off.
THAT WAS EWAN NOT THE CLUB.
It was quite ironic really, when Peggy first came here on a visitor's permit she earned a little pocket money teaching we Brits how to play five string banjo and Elizabeth Cotten style guitar.

Hoot


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: van lingle
Date: 06 Jul 06 - 07:23 PM

Great stuff. I'm glad you asked your original questions, Lizzie.vl


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: SINSULL
Date: 06 Jul 06 - 09:32 PM

Though I have nothing to contribute, I am following this thread regularly. Very interesting despite efforts to throw it off course.I would like to hear John Tam's comments on EM.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 06 Jul 06 - 10:17 PM

So much good work was done by the man!!

I can only hope that I will be judged by the work I've left on record and not by the dumb things I might've said in this forum.

After all is said and done, none of it matters.

Art


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Subject: RE: Lizzie Cornish...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Big Mick
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 12:15 AM

What do you think? Has the way she approaches things put you off? Do you find her questions inane? Do you think she has a personal problem with Countess Richard and Bonnie Shaljean?

Whaddaya think Lizzie, fair questions? MacColl's contributions to folk music and its preservation cannot be questioned. Your motives in the way you phrase things are another matter. I don't know you, and I hope the impression I am getting about you over the last 6 weeks or so are wrong.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Rowan
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 01:44 AM

"MacColl's contributions to folk music and its preservation cannot be questioned."

I'm not sure I know very much about anyone who's been posting but Big Mick's statement seems a bit strong to me. Although I met McColl and managed to have some serious discussions with both him and Peggy, the contexts of the discussions were quite public and their contents unexceptional. To me, anyway. I don't accord him heroic or godlike status but I would say his fire burned rather brightly and, from my distance, both illuminated and warmed. And it wouldn't suprise me if those who were closer got singed by the coals. As described above. Lots of people with fire in the belly about something mange to burn others off and it takes cool heads to hose the situation down.

He's left me with a question, though which I haven't yet been able to answer. At one of his concerts in Melbourne, at least 25 years ago, he sang Sheath and Knife. He gave an introduction in which he mentioned that he had always been left unsatisfied with the completeness of the allusion in the various versions of this ballad that had been collected. He went on to declare that he'd recently discovered a verse that gave the whole ballad new meaning. When he got to that verse it was drowned by someone near me in the audience having a coughing fit so I wasn't able to get the words. I wasn't able to catch up with him and, although I searched extensively ( I used to have my own copy of Bronson, for such purposes), never found any reference to such a verse anywhere.

It wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that he'd written the verse himself but, as I can't now remember the words, I doubt I'll ever pin down the answer to the question. One of you might though.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 02:11 AM

that would be the famous verse where the Martians landed and said, actually she's not your sister at all....she's an alien life force and part of our plans to take over the world.

i collected that verse meself. ewan was right, it does give the whole song different slant. I'm sorry you missed it.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Rowan
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 02:30 AM

"she's an alien life force and part of our plans to take over the world."
I'd never thought of John Wyndham as a ballad-singing folkie, but the prospect of a song about the Midwich Cuckoos seems enticing.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 02:32 AM

For more on MacColl and 'Sheath and Knife', see thread  Sheath and Knife.  It's long and confusing (especially since the Mudcat Crash screwed up the message sequence), but in spite of many digressions and some bad temper (not least my own) we did eventually get to the point. Select the "printer friendly" option at the top of the page to see the posts in the correct order.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 04:01 AM

Cards on the table; I knew, worked with and admired MacColl for over 20 years and continue to respect him and his work, yet whenever his name is mentioned I groan because I know that before we can get round to discussing his work and his contribution to folk music there will be the usual scramble over the mound of garbage that has built up around him and his ideas. It's a welcome change to get so many positive comments about him.
First – change of name. Why is it 'bizarre' that he changed his name – and does it matter? Why have I never heard anybody complain that Robert Zimmerman (or Archie Leech, or Doris Kappellhoff or Ethel Gumm or Christopher Grieve) changed theirs? MacColl changed his name when he was in the theatre – that's what actors and others in the arts did and do. Does a name change mean that these people were anything other than good at what they did?
Dictatorial – MacColl wrote very little on folk song (or anything) during his lifetime. He had strong opinions and when asked, he said what he thought (would that we all did that). Virtually all his opinions were given in interviews, and there weren't too many of them. Instead he chose to work with a small group of younger, less experienced singers, helping them to develop and trying out new ideas in order to devise a method of improving and understanding singing and traditional song. Most of those workshops were recorded and are now deposited at Birmingham Central Library and at Ruskin College for people to make up their own minds (Charles Parker Archive web-site for details). Whatever ideas he and the group came up with were solely for the use of him and the group (and anybody who expressed an interest). If I had a criticism of MacColl, it was that he didn't express his ideas more forcibly and publicly. There is a letter by Peggy Seeger on the 'Living Tradition' web-page in response to one I had written earlier, which sums their approach admirably (the debate began on the letter page in January 2000 and ran for six months or so.
In the years I knew and worked with him I never heard him slag off any other singer on the folk scene in public. Nor did I hear him 'dictate' to anybody how or what they should sing. The Singers Club had a policy, decided on and maintained by an audience committee (my wife and I were both members). One of the aims of the club was that singers should develop their own native repertoire based on its traditional singers. In order to do so, visiting singers were asked to perform songs from their own countries. I believe it is because of this policy, which was encouraged by Lomax (it was his idea in the first place), Lloyd, Dominic Behan and the early residents, that we have such a rich English, Irish and Scots repertoire on the folk scene today.
MacColl was incredibly generous with his time, his experience and his material to anybody genuinely interested. While the other 'superstars' of the revival were getting on with their own careers, he ran free weekly workshops for newer and less experienced singers – it ran for nearly ten years. I don't know any other singer who devoted anything like that time to others.
There was a wonderful example of misrepresentation of MacColl and his ideas in the recent – dreadful 'Folk Britannia'. In a discussion of Irish fiddler Michael Gorman, it was stated by somebody I have great respect for, that in the early days it was the aim of MacColl, Lloyd et al to create 'folk ensembles' similar to those to be found in eastern Europe. As evidence, the sleeve notes of a Folkways record, 'Irish Jigs and Reels' were produced, and yes - there it was in black and white - which was odd, as I knew both Lloyd and MacColl hated those ensembles. However, on a closer examination of my own copy of the record I saw that the sleeve notes were written, not by MacColl, Lloyd or anybody on the British folk scene, but by American scholar and collector Sidney Robertson Cowell. It seems that they have to bear the responsibility for other peoples ideas as well as their own!
MacColl died in 1989 and seventeen years later it is still possible to witness a regular dance over his grave (except that he was cremated and his ashes scattered over Kinder Scout). I have yet to read a decent analysis of his work – perhaps the forthcoming biography by Ben Harker will break the mould.
Sorry to have gone on for so long – it's covers half a lifetime for me.
Jim Carroll
PS The version of Sheath and Knife that McColl sang was given to him by scholar Robert S Thomson, now at Gainsville University, Florida.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 05:07 AM

Thank you for that, Jim. So many misapprehensions and myths are trotted out at the drop of a hat whenever Ewan MacColl is mentioned (and I have been guilty in that respect also, though through scepticism rather, I hope, than prejudice) that discussions of this kind badly need informed comment from people who were there at the time.

"Lizzie Cornish" has been banned from other folk music discussion groups for, so far as I can tell, being an annoying and ignorant nuisance. Her complete misunderstanding of Colin Irwin's comments (themselves not very accurate) is fairly typical. "Obsessive rules" ? Come now; do us a favour.

The Mudcat is one place where you might actually be welcome, Lizzie; do try, though, to pay attention to what other people have to say. The onsite search engine (link at the top of every page) will give you the chance to find out what has already been said on any particular subject. Always try that first, if only to avoid repeating fallacies that have already been debunked.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 05:39 AM

Interesting thread all the same. I have a great admiration for MacColls work, although myself being a rambler from Manchester I can never forgive him that..:-) I have heard in the past that he was not the easiest person to get on with but, hey, who's perfect?

I must say that I am sometimes annoyed at the almost god-like reverence show to him and how even poor performers expect us to like the work just because it is MacColls. I shouldn't get annoyed. It is my flaw - no-one elses - but I do:-( There are equally good songs and some, in my mind, equally good songwriters about even now. And just because it is written by 'God' doesn't mean it has to be performed off key with one finger stuck in the ear!

The other interesting question it poses is what about globalisation? Look at the Mudcat for instance. how can anyone, nowadays, say a particular tradtion is not their own? Surely in this day and age it is perfectly acceptable to use the resources available to all? Wonder what Ewan would have made of it all?

I am part Russian/Polish/English/Welsh with a bit of Irish thrown in. Wonder what traditions it would have been safe for me to sing? :-)

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Lizzie Cornish
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 07:46 AM

From Malcolm:

"Lizzie Cornish" has been banned from other folk music discussion groups for, so far as I can tell, being an annoying and ignorant nuisance. Her complete misunderstanding of Colin Irwin's comments (themselves not very accurate) is fairly typical. "Obsessive rules" ? Come now; do us a favour.

Nowt to say to deeply ignorant comments Malcolm, apart from far from misunderstanding what Colin said, I chose to make the comments I did for the reasons I had. And the understanding of that can now be seen in this thread. I wanted a different view to come out.


From Big Mick:

"What do you think? Has the way she approaches things put you off? Do you find her questions inane? Do you think she has a personal problem with Countess Richard and Bonnie Shaljean?

Whaddaya think Lizzie, fair questions? MacColl's contributions to folk music and its preservation cannot be questioned. Your motives in the way you phrase things are another matter. I don't know you, and I hope the impression I am getting about you over the last 6 weeks or so are wrong.

Mick"


Mick, any chance you could PM me, rather than have yet another thread ruined by these sort of comments. This thread is *hugely* interesting and *very* informative. Please, can we keep it that way. Thanks.


Lizzie :0)


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Bonnie Shaljean
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 08:17 AM

I will be offline in a couple of hours and won't have access to the internet until early next week (have to deal with a stressful private situation) so just to say that there are no "personal problems" between Lizzie and myself, at least not that I am aware of. Our differences of opinion only exist in cyberspace. I won't be able to post too much later than this, so I'm just mentioning it now. If there are further comments on this issue, I won't see them. Wishing a happy weekend to EVERY PERSON in this thread, wherever their opinions lie.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Fiona
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 08:29 AM

From Malcolm Douglas,

<<"Lizzie Cornish" has been banned from other folk music discussion groups for, so far as I can tell, being an annoying and ignorant nuisance.>>

---------------------------------

Malcolm,

I disagree, Lizzie can be far more than an 'ignorant and annoying nuisance'.

Her first ban from the BBC board came about through her abuse of their complaints system, specifically my use of Scots in a discussion of childrens songs. Since 'non-standard English' is not allowed the mods removed several messages (inc gaelic song titles & 'Ilkley Moor'). This may not seem important, but on a folk music board it is essential to have a little leeway in the use of 'non standard English'.

It took some time before I realised what was going on and I got into quite a fight with the mods about it. It was only by posting 'Scots Wha Hae' on both the folk board and another BBC board that I realised it wasn't an automatic ban, but that my messages had been actively complained about. Once the mods knew what was happening they dealt with it very quickly and apologised to me.

But it was done with mischief and ill intent and caused much bad feeling as other board users got involved in the ensuing argument.

I know I should keep out of this but it still makes me angry that some folk enjoy causing trouble so much they don't care how thay do it.

fx


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Lizzie Cornish
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 08:43 AM

Oh HELL! WHY can't you just leave these threads alone Fiona?
I have NEVER done ANY such thing! EVER. This thread is bringing out SO MANY lovely stories about Ewan MacColl...WHY can't you just let that happen?

I'm at present tryig to listen to John's concert from last night to hear again what he was saying about Ewan.

Mick...if you want your answer....then THERE it is..right above me. Over and over and over! I am NEVER allowed to talk about the music that I LOVE without these people doing this to me...no matter which board I'm on or which thread. And you wonder *WHY* I get *SO* angry?

Those words above are a complete and utter breathtaking lie! I've copied them and will now send them to Mel and her colleagues at the BBC, so that *finally* she may begin to understand what has been happening.

And now...if you'll excuse me, I'm going back to John Tams and his words about Ewan....

Apologies for reacting to it, but I'll not let *that* stand, as well 'this person' knows. PLEASE can this thread now be left alone to continue as it was.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 09:25 AM

Lizzie. No complaints or gripes. Can I ask a question? From the very start you opened the thread with an attack on MacColls attitude to other singers and styles. If I may quote three references you made -

1. Did he help enormously by being so dictatorial about 'folk' music?

2. But, did his strict views perhaps go too far? Are they still being applied today in some places?

3. I suppose I'm just asking if Ewan's obsessive rules damaged the music as well, in the sense of seeming to make it become elitist and at times very overly intellectualised?


Sorry if I misread you but emotive phrases like 'dictatorial' 'views gone too far' and 'obsessive rules' lead me, and many others here, to think you had already decided.

You now go on to This thread is bringing out SO MANY lovely stories about Ewan MacColl...WHY can't you just let that happen? and PLEASE can this thread now be left alone to continue as it was.

Are we to take it from this that you have now changed your mind from the dictatorial obsesive MacColl to a man of whom there are so many lovely stories? If so it may help you communicate with other people if you were to explain these changes of heart. Maybe you get criticised and banned from other forums because it is so difficult to understand what you are saying and what your motives are?

Please consider this to be constructive critisism. But most of all let us know what YOUR views are as well.

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 09:33 AM

I have heard in the past that he was not the easiest person to get on with but, hey, who's perfect?

In fact there is a lot of evidence from people on this thread, let alone elsewhere, to say just the opposite. Read Jim Carroll talking about the workshops he ran. Let's start believing that version instead eh!! I met him four times and I found him incredibly easy to get on with! Which is why I get annoyed with the myths built up about him on hearsay. And why I fail to see why Colin Irwin was "scared witless" by him.

how even poor performers expect us to like the work just because it is MacColl's.

Can you explain this a bit more Dave? MacColl wrote some good songs and some bad songs. I suspect that most people would agree there were more good than bad. And also that the best were brilliant. Some that many have regarded as best ones have passed into the tradition ("Shoals of Herring"); into the pop world ("First time Ever"); have been recorded by dozens of people ("Dirty Old Town"); and some are just sung where people gather, (too many to mention). The bad songs have disappeared. That's the same with most song writers I would have thought.

I am part Russian/Polish/English/Welsh with a bit of Irish thrown in. Wonder what traditions it would have been safe for me to sing? :-)

I personally think that you should sing songs in a language you know and are comfortable in. I honestly cannot see why people think that is a problem. On the other hand should you want to sing in Russian, Polish, Welsh, Serbo-Croat, or any other language that is entirely your privilege. Will it sound as good as you usually do? :-)>

My mother was born in the Orkney Islands and was wholly Orcadian. I was brought up in the north of England and have had no contact whatsoever with Orkney. I would feel very uncomfortable singing anything Orcadian. Even if I could sing.

P.S. How's the missus DtG?

P.P.S. I agree with Jim Carroll that it would be great to have a discussion about MacColl's work without all this and other garbage. A forlorn hope I suspect.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 09:48 AM

Can you explain this a bit more Dave?

Course I can, Dave. I was not realy refering to MaColls writing at all but the performance of said by other people. Just because it is a MacColl song, no matter how good, it does not mean it will be performed well unfortunately:-(

I have said in the past that a particular song was poor and been chided because it was one of Ewans best. I am not one to believe that a particlar songwriter or singer is always good. I get annoyed with the attitude that if it is MacColl it must be good.

Like I said before it shouldn't bother me but my flaws are many and good points few:-)

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 10:29 AM

PPS
A couple of things.
Just read through the thread carefully (didn't come across it till late last night).
I wasn't a member of the Critics Group for 20 years - it only lasted for 10 and I didn't join it till the latter years. My wife Pat Mackenzie was a member at least four years longer than I was.
We did continue to associate with Ewan and Peg up to his death and Pat and I interviewed him at length about his work over about a year.
MacColl did not claim to write traditional songs; he argued that traditional song forms and working-class speech were valid forms in which to create new songs (he did use other models, such as Kurt Weill and on at least one occasion Gilbert and Sullivan). He encouraged other singers to study traditional styles to see if they were relevant to modern composition and performance. He never claimed his songs to be traditional, but he was highly chuffed when they were mistaken for such (we recorded versions of Freeborn Man on at least three occasions from Travellers). It is ironic that he has been accused of stealing 'Freeborn' and 'Shoals of Herring' from the tradition (completely devoid of evidence) and claiming them as his own, but I'm sure it would have pleased and amused him greatly.
MacColl's best friend couldn't call him a pussy-cat, but he was far from the arrogant monster he is usually painted. His main problem was that he spoke his mind and when he was asked a question he said what he thought, which was as popular as a fart in a telephone box in a revival that was in general sycophantic, self congratulatory and first-name dropping. Personally he was quite shy and often adopted a front to get over this.
His first influences were Scots songs; his mother and several of the people he grew up with in Salford told me this. His environment was largely Scots, and in order to sing the songs he grew up with he did what many actors do and adopted a neutral Scots accent so that they were understandable to non-Scots. I can understand why this disturbed a number of people, though it never did me.
I am in the process of indexing all the recordings of the Critics Group workshops in the hope that one day they will become freely available (when it is sorted out who owns them!!!!!).
Thank you Lizziefor starting this thread. Personally I couldn't give a toss whether you sing, dance or perform handstands. I get more than a little hacked off sometimes at the self-appointed 'big league' who seem to have given themselves a sole right to hold and express opinions.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 10:41 AM

Sorry Malcolm,
Didn't see your letter till too late. Whatever disagreements we might have had, I've come to respect your knowledge and ideas.
My big league comments were not aimed at you but in a different direction altogether.
Whatever Lizzie's past sins might be, I'm glad she started this thread.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Fiona
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 10:47 AM

Apologies from me too, I should have kept my mouth shut. You're right Jim it is an interesting thread.

Fiona


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Charley Noble
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 01:23 PM

Yes, this thread is interesting, despite its negative beginning. We do get a fuller picture of Ewan MacColl than can be gained from the usual short biographical paragraph. Thanks largely to the contributions from those who knew him for a long time.

And next year someone will begin it all over again.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Don Firth
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 01:45 PM

Jim, thank you very much for your comments at 07 Jul 06 - 04:01 AM.

I first heard of Ewan MacColl when, in 1958, I took a course called "The Popular Ballad" in the English department at the University of Washington in Seattle. During classes, the professor, David C. Fowler (later, author of A Literary History of the Popular Ballad 1968), played many cuts from the nine record collection of "English and Scottish Popular Ballads" by Ewan MacColl and A. L. Lloyd. A couple of years later, I attended the 1960 Berkeley Folk Festival where Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl were among the featured performers. I had a chance to hear them live in concert (both separately and together) and in workshops. During the festival, I had the good fortune of attending an informal after-concert party that was also attended by Peggy and Ewan. I had a chance to talk with them for awhile, and although we didn't get into any really deep discussions about folk music, I found them friendly and outgoing.

I respect them both very highly and to my mind there is no question as to the huge contribution they have made to the field of folk music. Mike Lieb, a friend of mine, was also attending the festival. He didn't sing himself, and had no plans for getting involved in folk music other than just being a listener. But at this festival, he became so intrigued with MacColl and his singing that a short time thereafter, at a song fest back in Seattle he broke into song—a Scottish ballad he had learned from one of MacColl's recordings. Mike, it turned out, was a darned good singer! Interestingly enough, he sang while straddling a chair backwards and cupping a hand behind his ear, but later on, when he taught himself to play 5-string banjo, he dropped this mannerism. He soon became one of the more prominent singers of folk songs and ballads in the Pacific Northwest. And I'm quite sure that Mike was not the only one that MacColl—and Peggy Seeger—have inspired to participate actively.

I have no idea what the background beef between Lizzie Cornish and Fiona might be and I don't really care. That's their business. But I am glad that Lizzie started this thread because it's turned out to be a very interesting discussion.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 01:49 PM

Don Firth bring up an interesting point. It would be phony for him to try to be someone he's not. I think that those of us who are interested in folk music have to come to terms with how we fit in. For example, Pete Seeger is a highly educated New Englander who lived mostly in New York and got most of his work around the big cities. And yet, he embodies the "image" of the backwoods banjo picker. He plays ninth and thirteenth chords on the banjo and at one time was a tenor banjo player who knew all the words to the popular music of his day.

Peggy, Ewan's wife, played a sophisticated style of banjo which would not be the norm in say the collected works of Hobart Smith. Her guitar work on "I Wish I Was A Single Girl Again" is a lovely arrangement that has all the earmarks of an "Art song". Not from the Southern Mountain field recordings.

When I traveled through the South with Jack Elliott and Guy Carawan, Ted Sutton (Maggie's Old Man) from Maggie Valley Gap was excited because I played the banjo "Californy style".

I think we accept the Seegers because they do bring their own backgrounds and tradition to the music but they understand it and have studied it sufficiently well enough to do it their way.

The idea of being slavish to performing a song by imitating the way a traditional performer on a field recording sings it is specious and phony. It's possible that it's a good learning tool but to present oneself as being from a specific tradition or the best exponent of it doesn't make any sense. Somewhere, the artist appears bringing into it their individual stamp.

I think Ewan was upset by the lack of knowledge or empathy that some of the pop skiffle types in England at the time were displaying. They simply weren't enough in touch with American music to make it credible. I think it was a reaction. OTOH Peggy and Ewan have written songs that come from their own experience which may or may not have been influenced by traditional ethnic folk music.

I happened to enjoy Roberta Flack's cover of their song because for one thing, it's a damn fine song and the proof is that it can be performed outside of the context of the original environment and people will and did like it. it didn't invalidate the song one bit.

The "Seeger Sessions" are another example. It's a hootenanny at the local pub. It's loud, it's fun and there's some good music in it. Is it Pete? Of course not. How could it be?
To Bruce's credit, he doesn't try to go there. He does it his way. Is it great? Who knows and frankly who cares? I enjoyed it.

The same can be said for any of the so-called "commericializers" of folk music. The KT knew how to entertain people and make them happy. They brought the public the folk music that hadn't surfaced beyond college students, collectors or academics. Were they great? Who cares? They were fun.

Many fine musicians were part of the Folk Scare. Some of them understood folk music better than others I maintain that the ones who really understood it will prevail over the decades.

This business of trying to force an artist into a trad-ethnic pigeonhole is not only a waste of time but actually degrades the appreciation of folk music by inhibiting it so that those who are not acquainted with it can enjoy it.

Ewan was a "popularizer" of sorts. He brought the Scottish Ballad to the stage in a way that some people were moved and accepted it. But the important thing here is that he brought with his performance an understanding, an empathy and a familiarity with that tradition whether he came from it or not.

I remember Josh White being criticized because he didn't do the blues like a Texas convict or honky-tonk belter. He didn't do it like Son House or Leadbelly. Josh brought the blues to a Cafe Society audience who learned to love it because he was a great artist and did his own thing with it. Leading Blind Lemon Jefferson around gave him some "folk cred" but he reflected more the tradition of some of the pop music of his day as well as his stints with the Golden Gate Quartet and the Carolinians (who were highly arranged). But through Josh, many people began to see the tradition of the blues.

Ewan was not a foe to folk music. He was intolerant of the shallowness of some of the pop performers in his country at the time.

You need the Alan Lomaxes and the Ewan McColls as well as the KT and the PPand M's.
They all serve an important function in the cultural lives of their countries.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Lizzie Cornish
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 02:11 PM

Hi Dave,

I don't have much time to write tonight I'm afraid....but here we go...very fast!

In answer to your questions above, I've read in quite a few places that Ewan was not the easiest man to get along with etc. etc. and also that he was very stringent about certain things. For years now I've been told that I like the 'wrong' type of music, that I know nothing, that the people whose music I love sing 'in the wrong accent'
(I kid you not!).....and I would so LOVE to get down to the reason behind it all. I thought that perhaps Ewan *did* have a lot to do with building up some sort of 'dictatorial grou of people around him, who for decades have 'ruled' certain parts of the folk world, but now....because of this thread, I've completely changed my mind.

I'm very glad that these stories have come out, that 'myths' have been put straight and the truth is winning over, particularly from person after person who met or knew Ewan.

It's very easy for people to get the wrong impression about someone, because of rumours that are circulated by others. I now know far, far more about Ewan MacColl than I ever did, before I started this thread....and I put the man in a totally different category!

But that *is* why I worded everything as I did. I hoped that if there was another side....it would come out.

Also, John Tams sang nothing but his praises last night, as he told us all about the history behind The Manchester Rambler, Ewan's part in that, along with The Duke Of Devonshire's....and he talked about the new The Radio Ballads, which he (John) and others had so much of a part in....and how he felt all the way through that Ewan was sitting right on his shoulder, telling him to make sure that he did the original series justice. I *loved* the new series, I've got links to it on my Myspace page...and I'll make sure to try and track down the original ones as well. I know there are certain links on the BBC site to some parts of them.

The new Radio Ballads will be out on CD just before Christmas, so John said. They are still available on 'Listen Again' right here, for anyone who missed them.....

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/radioballads/2006/index.shtml


I now realise that the bizarre behaviour that has rained down on me for so very long was never from the beginnings of what Ewan or Peggy wanted to do....and somehow he has been tarred with a very wrong brush...certainly in my mind.

I'm just so very glad that the record, at least in here, is being set straight on his behalf.

Oh....and you'll be pleased to know that Andrew, the last Duke of Devonshire, actually apologised at the end of his life, for what his father, the previous Duke had actually done to the working people of Manchester and Sheffield, by fencing in vasts areas of the Derbyshire Moors...getting many of them arrested etc. He said it was totally wrong. Still it shows the power of Mass Trespass I guess. His son Peregrine, the present Duke, agrees with him.

The things you learn from John Tams eh! And *that's* why my children love to go and see him. He's a natural teacher.

So, many many thanks to all the decent people on this thread who've taken the trouble to put their often long, involved but always interesting posts on here.

Right...gotta dash! Friends just arrived! EEK!!


Lizzie :0)


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 07 Jul 06 - 03:24 PM

I'd say that was a good point to close this thread.

DAve Eyre


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 08 Jul 06 - 04:58 AM

Thanks, Lizzie. Well explained. I, and hopefuly a lot more people, understand what you were doing now.

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: JamesHenry
Date: 08 Jul 06 - 08:08 AM

Nice "con" job the way I see it.

Post a thread full of inuendo, stand back and evaluate the reaction, then post agreeing with the general concensus along with a contrite mea culpa that wins the admiration of the gullable.

Excellent insight from the main body of contributers, though, which I suppose justifies the thread.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Greg B
Date: 08 Jul 06 - 08:20 AM

James...

And your point would be?

It's unfortunate that someone forced you to read a
thread the existence of which you object to so thoroughly.

I suppose that reading all 98 posts to it must have been
an awful experience.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: JamesHenry
Date: 08 Jul 06 - 08:28 AM

On the contrary it was an educational and enjoyable experience but as the saying goes, "It's hard to kid a kidder"

Did you read them all?


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Jul 06 - 08:58 AM

Did he go Absent WithOut Leave from the British Army and why is this period in his life glossed over? Where was he hiding? There is a story that he dessed as a hunchback to avoid recognition.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: JamesHenry
Date: 08 Jul 06 - 09:28 AM

Apparently so. Research has revealed that during this period he was known as "AWOL MacColl" and that the Military Police had to regularly drag him out of singing sessions where he was attempting to indoctrinate local club performers into his way of doing things.
In his defence he always stated that he was working on a hunch that this would be good for them.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Jul 06 - 10:05 AM

Yes, and he once asked me for the loan of a fiver 'till he got straightened out!


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 08 Jul 06 - 12:49 PM

My respect goes up for AWOL MacColl. Attempting to indoctrinate? How 'bout just expressing what you believe? Ewan did a great service doing just that.

"Attempting to indoctrinate" is the business of American mainstream corporate media.

Good on Ewan for taking a courageous stand. The MP's dragging him out of singing sessions is comparable to what death squads do in dicatatorial countries.

They cut off Victor Jara's hands for singing songs of the Nueva Cancion.

Ewan is to be admired because he had the temerity to stand for something.

Only dictators try to squelch free speech. But the songs live.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Big Mick
Date: 08 Jul 06 - 01:38 PM

Yep, Frank, right dead on as usual.

Lizzie, the point of the post was to show how unfair the wording of your opening post was. It screamed of an agenda. I agree with the poster above who indicated that it is easy to throw out a loaded premise and then watch for how the sentiment runs in order to craft your response.

I am dealing with the loss of a close personal friend right now, but I will post more later.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Jul 06 - 02:49 PM

MacColl's army record was virtually kicked to death on another thread recently (Did MI5 spy on MacColl or something). It didn't reach a satisfactory conclusion then and I very much doubt if it will now.
Next year will see a biography (well researched as far as I can judge) and then we can make up our own minds on whether MacColl was a spy, a deserter or Kaiser Bill's batman with a lot more real information at our disposal.

Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 09 Jul 06 - 06:41 AM

Did you know how he got his name btw? When Mr Miller moved up to Scotland he was sat in a pub one day listening to a miner talking.

"I was doon at the face today, hewin ma coal..."


:D (tG)


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Jul 06 - 07:26 AM

So he was a deserter in an anti fascist war?


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Jul 06 - 08:07 AM

My father was a card carrying member of the communist party, on one occassion he had to serve one months hard labour in prison.I remember him saying that at the start of the second world war, the British communist partys official line was that this was a capitalist war and communists were not to get involved.Ithink this changed in 1943. this could well be the reason why Ewan was not fighting at the beginning of the second world war.Whatver or however propagandists or historians want to view J Stalin, without him the allies would not have won the second world war. The battle of Stalingrad was Very important in the final determination of the second world war.I for one would not be hear but for ALL the allied forces. I believe Ewan had flaws as a person dont we all,but he was a great songwriter. Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 09 Jul 06 - 11:12 AM

Dick,

Interesting points. Apparently the Bank of America and others feared Stalin as well and that's why Hitler was supported early on in the US by certain groups. Hitler was supposed to be the deterrant to Stalin.

My view is that there was no real communism in the USSR. It was a dictatorship under Stalin.

It's true that the battle of Stalingrad was a decisive turning point.

Many early folk lefties were naive about Stalin and what he did. They just didn't know.
Ewan may have been one of those.

So Ewan and Alan Lomax were passionate about folk music. What's wrong with that?
Even though they may have rubbed some people the wrong way.

Anyone with a sense of conviction about anything is bound to step on someone's toes.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Big Mick
Date: 09 Jul 06 - 02:10 PM

Frank's post reminds me again why Lizzie Cornish's title and post are so unfair. Over the many yeara I have been on this forum, I have grown to admire people like Art Thieme who has a very definite view of what constitutes folk music. I would never ask anyone to define him as a folk friend or a folk foe. He is, in the strictest sense, a folk musician. He has forgotten more about the songs than I will ever know. MacColl is the same way. You may not approve of his way of it, but there is no question as to his devotion to it and his devotion to certain principles.

To another matter, there is no question that the Russian Front and the Battle of Stalingrad were major contributors to the downfall of Hitler. Between the fighting grit of the Russians and the weather, they severely depleted Hitler's armies. But Joe Stalin was no hero. He was a murdering despot of the first order. I also don't believe he was a decent communist. I don't believe communism has truly been practiced anywhere.   It is not a system of governance that I could embrace, but neither is it the horrible thing that the US propaganda machine makes it. The totalitarian regime instituted by Stalin was just another dictatorship in the world.

You say the war could not have been won without Stalin. I could make the same statement about Churchill, Roosevelt, DeGaulle, and a number of others. The statement is self evident. The war was won by all the factors.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Jul 06 - 02:56 PM

Just when you get around to MacColl as an artist - along comes some eejit and changes the subject - ah come on fellers, can't you come up with anything more orginal than ground that has been covered ad-nauseum.
I have nothing to add to this argument about MacColl and his politics (anti-Fascist war my arse - especially when you take into consideration statements by Brit politicians describing the reports of the concentration camps as "rumours put round by whining Yids" - not forgetting the cynical second front delay in the hope that Russia and Germany would rip each other to pieces).
I know of at least two traditional singers who gave evidence against Pete Seeger and his fellow musicians at the McCarthy witch-hunts, a superb banjo player who prevented Woodie Guthrie taking part in a local music festival because he was a 'damned red', an English singer who came from a fascist background (Mosely's party), and if you care to read Lomax you will find that some great singers and musicians from the Southern States were active segregationists who supported, if not participated in the lynchings and burnings.
As much as I might abhor their politics, I hope I am able to discuss their music rationally.
This has been a great thread to date. I cant remember reading as interesting and informative contibutions as Don Firth and Frank Hamilton's for a long time.
I have no doubt that red herrings such as MacColl's pacifism, his change of name, his Scots/Salford background (even his singing with his hand over his ear) are always dragged up to prevent discussion of his singing.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: The Sandman
Date: 09 Jul 06 - 03:18 PM

I said that without J STALIN, world war two would not have been won. Stalin was mentioned by me because he was determining COMMUNIST PARTY policy.the British communist party was following the Soviet communists party line,which is probably why Ewan macoll was AWOL during the first part of the war. I am sorry but I disagree I dont think the second world war would have been won by the allies without Stalin.having to fight on two fronts defeated Hitler,.Now Churchill had blood on his hands too at Sydney Sreet, and with the introduction of the Black AND tans in Ireland   but he was the man England needed at the time.Likewise Stalin and the Soviet Union. i Dont wish to discuss anything else about Stalin in public, so lets stick to Ewan Macoll I would prefer to remember him for the great songs that he wrote than for any feet of clay he may have had as a person.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Don Firth
Date: 09 Jul 06 - 07:11 PM

There were a lot of people dreaming of a better world who had a great deal of faith in Communism and the Communist Revolution. This includes Pete Seeger. But as Lenin muttered, "What's the point of having a revolution if you can't betray it?" And betray it they did. When Seeger and others grasped what was going on, they didn't lose their ideals, but—they backed away from Communism as it was manifesting itself.

I see nothing wrong with that. What is disingenuous is when people attack someone for their former position and don't say anything about their change of mind. That's not telling the whole story, and it's not playing fair.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Jul 06 - 07:21 PM

The CP in Great Britain and elsewhere enthusiastically supported the war effort as soon as Hitler attacked the USSR, toward the end of June, 1941.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Rowan
Date: 09 Jul 06 - 09:06 PM

Thanks to Malcolm and Jim for the info on Sheath and Knife. What a link!
Jim also wrote "Just when you get around to MacColl as an artist - along comes some eejit and changes the subject" I understand (and often share) the frustration but good conversations can, occasionally, be like that. At the risk of becoming such an eejit I'd like to comment on Big Mick's "Frank's post reminds me again why Lizzie Cornish's title and post are so unfair" with reference to a technique I've observed a couple of times.

In a past life I used to run school camps at Steiglitz, a more or less derelict goldmining town about 60 miles west of Melbourne. It's heyday had started in 1864 and finished in the 1920s and I was one of only three permanent residents. The old bloke living in what had been the pub was the only resident with any time depth and had been extensively interviewed by various people who were interested in the oral history of the area. A brash young fella I'd known while at university went and wrote an article on the history of Steiglitz for the Geelong Advertiser, the nearest thing to a local paper for the area. He included his contact details as part of the article, which I recognised as containing quite a few simple errors. He later told me that he'd been inundated with letters from all sorts of characters who'd previously resisted all contacts from other more local historians but who insisted that they had documentation to correct his mistakes and 'obvious ignorance.'

At the 1990 international conference on cycads held in Townsville attended by the usual academics (and, more unusually, a swag of seed collectors and plant nursery operators with no academic pretensions) I listened to a presentation by a friend of mine who proceeded to tell the audience that he was writing the then the forthcoming chapter on cycads in the "Flora of Australia" and outlined the names and distributions of the species he intended including. I didn't see him for the next day and a half. When he surfaced he commented "seven [or was it "seventeen"] new species and 12 new localities!"

Both were (and still are, I think) great examples of fishing expeditions where a proposition, whether declared subtly as part of a question or, more provocatively, as part of a declaration can elicit useful information. But I'm well aware that, if you don't want to raise hackles, the technique requires more skill than I can muster.

On a topic more closely related to the thread title, perhaps I should tell the story about how Ewan's classes on voice projection affected the tree frogs at Wyong. Unless you've all heard it before.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: van lingle
Date: 09 Jul 06 - 10:07 PM

Do tell, Rowan.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Rowan
Date: 10 Jul 06 - 12:04 AM

In the early '80s (or late '70s) Ewan came out to Australia and, among his concerts, gave a series of voice projection workshops. I wasn't able to attend either the concerts (which disappointed me, because I'd enjoyed all the times I had had previously with both Peggy and Ewan and I wanted to ask him about his Sheath and Knife version) or the workshops. As a singer of shanties and a caller/MC at bush dances I'd never had any problems with voice projection but I was out of luck there too.

At the workshops Ewan gave everyone lessons in how to move the diaphragm with a series of "Hough!" (for want of any better spelling) ejaculations. The idea was to do these exercises in front of a mirror so that you could see that you weren't forcing the air by moving your shoulders; all the vocalisation had to come from the diaphragm. A friend of mine, who lived at Wyong (on the mid-North Coast of NSW, and thus vaguely subtropical, for all you northern hemisphere people) taped Ewan's performance of these exercises so that he could properly replicate the "Hough!"

My friend would routinely play the tape and perform the exercises in front of his bathroom window. Outside the window lived some tree frogs. After the first couple of days practising the exercises, my friend noticed that, whenever he played the tape, every time Ewan's voice ejaculated "Hough!" the resident frogs would respond with their call, which was very similar to Ewan's call. This became part of the day's routine for my friend, who later commented that he wanted a second tape recorder so that he could record the antiphon-response between Ewan and the frogs.

I never found out whether he'd ever made such a tape of the folk process at work.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 10 Jul 06 - 05:08 AM

Since there are clearly several posters on this thread who knew MacColl and his methods far better than I (who never met nor even heard him in the flesh), does any of you have inside knowledge of his creative input to the traditional songs he popularised? I'm thinking specifically of "Four Loom Weaver", which he credited as having been collected from Beckett Whitehead of Delph, in my part of England. Whitehead does not sing this in the collected recordings held at the VWML, and it strikes me as far more likely that he either recited or presented MacColl with the text of the old "Jone O' Grinfilt" poem and that MacColl set it to the grand tune we all know. And did something similar happen with "I Mean to get Jolly Well Drunk", which again has more of the ring of a polemical poem and little in common with Beckett Whithead's generally rural folksong repertoire? (He did sing "To the Begging I Will Go" but again MacColl seems to have made up a new tune for this too) I don't have any axe to grind over this, but it's a matter of interest that many songs were fed into the revival by MacColl and Lloyd after what had clearly been much creative tinkering, and were then passed down the line as completely authentic.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 10 Jul 06 - 05:30 AM

The most (in)famous example is, of course, [i]The Recruited Collier[/i], cobbled up and industrialised from a Cumbrian farmworker's poem, but that's been done to death here on other threads. Mind you, someone was arguing vehemently with me the other day that Kate Rusby wrote it . . . Anne Briggs must have had tremendous powers of foresight. After I had left the Critics after a very short time (rather ungratefully but I was young and knew a lot more then than I do now), Ewan and especially Bert Lloyd helped me enormously with my writing. After each published piece, Bert would send me page upon page of advice, single-spaced on a manual typewriter. How I wish I'd kept these as they may have contained clues to help answer Brian Peters' question. And whenever I turned up at the Singers, Ewan would always ask if I was still singing and would tell me how I was always welcome to come back. Very missed chaps and grossly represented by those who never even knew them.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 10 Jul 06 - 06:25 AM

>> The most (in)famous example is, of course, [i]The Recruited Collier[/i], cobbled up and industrialised from a Cumbrian farmworker's poem <<

Something similar obviously happened with "The Handweaver and the Factory Maid" (Roy Palmer published a paper on the various versions, and armed with that knowledge you can see the scissor marks and glue in the version popularised by Lloyd). And don't get me started on "The Cutty Wren". None of this is to decry the work of either man, but for those of us interested in what people actually sang in the first place it's sometimes worth doing a bit of digging.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 10 Jul 06 - 06:56 AM

Well it works like this. Its called the folk process. Ewan had these rooms full(if he was lucky) of people to interest in folk music. So he came up with something, within his technical ability, that he felt confident and capable of holding the audiences attention with. So he could make as powerful presentation to an audience as possible.

he wasn't the curator of a museum, though god knows there are plenty of people in revival who see themselves as something similar.

And the proof of Ewan's sincerity and the success of his enterprise is that we are here today - talking about these songs and what he did.

Lay off a very decent, sincere guy...and one of the best friends the folk revival ever had.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 10 Jul 06 - 07:17 AM

>> Lay off a very decent, sincere guy <<

I thought I'd made it pretty clear I had no agenda against either MacColl or Lloyd. Collating, improving, or patching-up songs is something I've done plenty of myself, although creating what were in effect new songs from fragments, poems and collations, then disseminating them amongst enthusiastic young revival singers, stretches the definition of "folk process" to the very limit, if you ask me. But when, for instance, I'm asked to give a workshop on "Industrial Songs", it might be no bad thing to have an idea of whether any singer predating the folk revival actually sang the songs in question. That has nothing to do with museums or curatorship.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: JamesHenry
Date: 10 Jul 06 - 07:47 AM

Ewan MacColl and Bert Loyd
Filled the hole that was then the folk void
They sought a revival to ensure its survival
Don't dwell on the means they employed.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 10 Jul 06 - 08:22 AM

the point of what I was saying that much of this material is audience/artist specific.

Maybe the original artist - knew a local fact, or personality, or even a way of phrasing that would bowl over his audience.

Ewan Macoll had his set of co--ordinates to navigate and the young singers who follow after will have theirs.

I'm obviously not communicating. I've been slung out and studiously ignored at many a traddy gathering of kindred spirits and fisherman's smocks. Its not a new experience.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: The Sandman
Date: 10 Jul 06 - 08:48 AM

I Dont know if Don Firths comments are aimed at me,but i do not wish to discuss STALIN in depth.It may be that I agree with you,But Iwould need a lot of time to discuss it,and as far as i am concerned This is not the time and place Ewan was a better songwriter,what did Stalin write, even less than Henry the Eighth,             In my opinion Ewan macoll was a great songwriter.Dick Miles


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 10 Jul 06 - 08:59 AM

>> I'm obviously not communicating. I've been slung out and studiously ignored at many a traddy gathering of kindred spirits and fisherman's smocks. <<

Obviously not, given that you feel the need to bring outdated caricatures like "fisherman's smocks" into a discussion about traditional song.

"Four Loom Weaver" is an extremely powerful song with a magnificent tune. I've sung it myself. I'd love to have been in the room to hear Ewan MacColl perform it. Nonetheless, is the question of no historical interest, whether Becket (spelling corrected) Whitehead actually knew it in that form?


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Jul 06 - 12:07 PM

What a prat - if that wanker idiot came to my club and told me what I could or couldn't sing I'd break his scotch legs. Good job the shithead is dead!!!


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: JamesHenry
Date: 10 Jul 06 - 12:44 PM

Tourette alert!


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Don Firth
Date: 10 Jul 06 - 12:48 PM

No, Captain, my comments were not directed at anyone in particular. They were just an observation that there were (and for that matter, are) many people who embraced what they considered an idealistic position (such as many people, e.g., Pete Seeger and perhaps Ewan MacColl also, but I don't know his history that well), only to be disillusioned by how those ideals work out in practice. There were a lot of Americans who were into Communism who later decided that it wasn't such a good idea after all, especially the way it manifested itself in the Soviet Union. I presume that there were a lot of British, French, Scandinavians, and others as well.

I just think that it's unfair to saddle someone with perpetual guilt because they were young and idealistic, then, after they've matured and changed their minds, continue to insist that they are guilty beyond merely being young and idealistic. We'd all be in deep soup if that were the case.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,The Real DB
Date: 10 Jul 06 - 01:02 PM

I'm afraid my psycho impersonator has been at it again with the most tasteless remarks that he can possibly think of.
As I can't seem to re-join because my e-mail address appears to be simultaneously 'on the database' and 'not on the database' I think it's time to call it a day. From now on all postings from 'Guest DB' are from the sicko psycho.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Jul 06 - 02:48 PM

Don't worry DB we are on to him know his email address. he hs also posted on other threads. Will expose or pm, your choice ?

Best wishes
J.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Jul 06 - 03:35 PM

MacColl's work on song was purely as a singer, his aim was to put them back in the repertoire and in order to do so he was happy to re-write or collate as the basic integrity of the song was maintained. Usually, but not always, he could tell you what he had done to which song. He never, as far as I know, made any claims to authenticity.
He said Four Loom Weaver and Drinking were recorded from Beckett Whitehead on a field trip for material for a radio programme for the BBC in 1947 with Joan Littlewood. They got Fourpence a Day, T'owd Chap Cam' Ower The Bank (an obscene version of Seven Nights Drunk) and (I think) Moses of The Mail on the same trip. To my knowledge he never had copies of the recordings but kept them in ms form.
He used to tell the story of the time he was singing at a club in Brighton and getting a visit from Big Bill Broonzy who was appearing nearby. Broonzy heard him sing Four Loom Weaver and described it as the nearest thing to an English blues.
Bert, on the other hand, claimed authenticity for most of the songs he sang, though quite often he omitted to say where he got them from. One of his sources of repertoire was the Edith Fowke collection of Canadian songs, some of which he claimed were typically English. I believe somebody has done a great deal of research on Bert's work on Australian songs, though I have never seen the result of this.
I had never heard the story of the tree frogs - thanks for that Rowan.
Luke Kelly's biographer, Des Geraghty tells of the time Kelly was performing at (I think) the Grimsby Club and was staying with friends of Ewan and Peg. One morning his hosts heard peculiar noises coming from the bathroom and, thinking Kelly was having some sort of siezure, they broke down the bathroom door to find Kelly naked in the shower doing his voice excercises.
Incidentally - despite claims to the contrary, Luke Kelly described his time in The Critics group as the most exciting and informative period of his career.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Jim McLean
Date: 10 Jul 06 - 04:39 PM

I knew Luke Kelly very well before and after I became the Dubliners' first roadie. I heard the story posted by Jim Carroll and asked him about it. He said he was only having a gargle.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: JamesHenry
Date: 10 Jul 06 - 04:52 PM

Wasn't the waxies gargle was it Jim?


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Jul 06 - 05:47 PM

Do you mean gargle in the 'clearing the throat' sense or gargle in the Irish sense?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: The Sandman
Date: 10 Jul 06 - 06:08 PM

To the guest that called Macoll a wanker. I think you will find he was born in Salford.as far as i know he was not scotch or scottish although i think his mother was.    2.If he was a wanker it certainly didnt affect his creative flow, perhaps when youve written the amount of good songs that EWAN did we could take seriously your criticisms, in the meantime we could do without your defamatory language.When you come out from behind your cloak of anonymity,perhaps you would send us a list of all the great songs you have written.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 10 Jul 06 - 11:40 PM

Thread title sounds like--"Ludwig van Beethoven: Music Friend or Foe?"

After all, he wasn't the easiest person to get along with.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Nerd
Date: 11 Jul 06 - 02:20 AM

eric the Red:

[Colin Irwin] often repeated the erroneous fact that Ewan MacColl was born in Auchterarder, when everyone else in the world knew he was born in Salford.

"Ewan MacColl is that rare combination of traditional and revival singer at one and the same time. Born in Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland..." From Broadside Ballads [Folkways 3443, 1962], notes by Ewan MacColl.

As the above shows, Ewan sometimes claimed (or allowed his publicist to claim) that he was born in Auchterarder, and moved to Salford later.

So, yes, MacColl lied a bit about himself. Lloyd lied a fair bit about songs (see the Reynardine thread and the Recruited Collier thread, which both have a link to my 2004 scholarly article, for more on Lloyd's approach). I wouldn't venture a guess on Brian P's question about "four loom weaver," but I wouldn't put anything past either of them when it came to reworking a song into something they liked better.

As to the original question, Friend or Foe of the music? MacColl made huge contributions, and will be remembered for them long after our comments here are forgotten. Brian Peters continues in that tradition (as do many of us, I'm sure). So, I would say, "friend."


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 11 Jul 06 - 04:31 AM

After all, he wasn't the easiest person to get along with.

Whilst not accusing anyone - this is often repeated through hearsay. Whilst not everyone would agree, correspondent after correspondent in this thread - and many others - have testified to the fact that he was precisely the opposite to what people "spread " about him.

As for Colin Irwin's record as a journalist - he couldn't tell "Oh COme All Ye Faithful" from "While Shepherds......." when he came up here to Sheffield for the carols. Perhaps the locals got him pissed!!


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: JamesHenry
Date: 11 Jul 06 - 04:44 AM

Are you up there Ewan
Reading this tread?
What do you think
Of what's written and said?
Your life and your work
Has still got us all guessing
Was your passion in life
A curse or a blessing?


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 11 Jul 06 - 04:53 AM

To Jim Carroll: Thanks, Jim; a little more of the picture emerges....

To Nerd:

>> I wouldn't put anything past either of them when it came to reworking a song into something they liked better. <<

Indeed not. And nothing wrong with reworking at all. So long as we don't lose sight of the songs that were actually sung in the tradition. If we do that, we risk being diverted down attractive but entirely misleading pathways such as the Reynardine "werefox" example, that I'd love to read about if I could make the link to your article work, Steve! (We must talk about this stuff sometime).

>> I would say, "friend." <<

Without question.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Folkiedave
Date: 11 Jul 06 - 05:09 AM

I meant to mention this in my last post.

Others who have been known to "rework" songs include Martin Carthy. And I am pretty sure the Watersons have done so too - though in fairness I canot think of a particular example at the moment.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Jim McLean
Date: 11 Jul 06 - 05:49 AM

Jim Carroll, you'll have to ask Luke that.


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Jul 06 - 09:48 AM

Further information on the 1948 collecting trip by MacColl and Joan Littlewood.
A programme entitled The Song Collector directed by Olive Shaply using some of the songs collected on the trip was broadcast by the BBC in the same year.
Wonder if they - or anybody kept a copy!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: The Borchester Echo
Date: 11 Jul 06 - 11:16 AM

There was a programme on R4 (one of those Monday 13.30 - 14.00 music docs, I think) a couple of years ago about Olive Shapley's broadcasting career. There's also her autobiography:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/185727038X/026-0501046-0149248?v=glance&n=266239

Or have you tried asking BBC Manchester, or maybe the Village Music Project?


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Nerd
Date: 11 Jul 06 - 03:57 PM


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Nerd at work
Date: 11 Jul 06 - 04:05 PM

Oops, that last post didn't work!

Yes, folkiedave, I wasn't suggesting there was anything wrong with reworking a song. In fact, usually the song comes out the better for it. However, to rework a song extensively and then claim to have collected it, as Lloyd has certainly done and MacColl may have done, is a bad policy. Not only is it inherently dishonest, it makes it harder for people like Brian Peters and me, who care about such things, to sort out what was in the tradition and what wasn't.

To those folks who don't care, fair enough...but for their purposes, the reworkers might as well admit what they are doing. For ours, it's much better if they admit what they are doing. No one's life is improved by the deception.

As sins go, this a very minor one, as we'd all admit.

Brian, a link to a more complete, and fully accessible, version of my article has been added to the Reynardine thread by Malcolm Douglas. Handy fellow, Malcolm!


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Jul 06 - 04:39 PM

Nerd,
I agree with you it does matter if they are passed off as the real thing.
I know that Bert did it regularly - don't know that Ewan did, though he might have at one time or another.
And then there's the story of Aunt Mollie Jackson giving Lomax Robin Hood ballads - from (I think) the Kitteridge edition of Child she had on her bookshelf. Any truth in this story?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Nerd at work
Date: 11 Jul 06 - 05:20 PM

I don't know if that is specifically true about Aunt Molly Jackson and Lomax, though it would not surprise me. I believe it is true that various settlement schools bought Child Ballad books because they were considered appropriate materials for appalachian boys and girls. So when collectors showed up, they might get songs sung in someone's family filled out with verses learned from the books.

As for Ewan MacColl, I also don't know that he ever tried to pass a reworked song as a product of the tradition. Brian was just wondering...


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Nerd again
Date: 11 Jul 06 - 05:45 PM

Jim, it IS true, but it wasn't Lomax. In the Journal of American Folklore in 1956, John Greenway wrote:

To confirm my suspicion that the Sargent and Kittredge one-volume compilation of the Child ballads was the source of Aunt Molly's knowledge of the Robin Hood pieces, I wrote to Mary Elizabeth Barnicle, one of the early collectors of Aunt Molly's Songs. "Yes," Miss Barnicle replied, she had lent Aunt Molly a copy of the book in the early thirties. "I was scraping the bottom of the barrel so far as her memory of the British ballads went, and lent her the book in the hope that she might find something that would revive further memories. In a few days she came padding back to tell me that she now remembered some RH ballads. She sang them, more or less verbatim, as she had found them in the Child book."


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Brian Peters
Date: 11 Jul 06 - 07:36 PM

>> As for Ewan MacColl, I also don't know that he ever tried to pass a reworked song as a product of the tradition. Brian was just wondering... <<

Yes, just wondering. I suppose my notion that the melody of "Four Loom Weaver" is so magnificent it just *had* to be MacColl's own is in itself a compliment to his skills......


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 11 Jul 06 - 11:39 PM

Folkiedave-

Beethoven was indeed not the easiest person to get along with. I have no idea if any of the stories about Ewan --(which don't appear all hearsay--some in this thread have cited specific incidents at which they were present)--are true. Point is: even if the stories of Ewan being possibly at times a prickly individual are true, that does not negate his huge contributions to folk music.

Just as it might possibly be argued that Beethoven made great contributions to music.

Hence my suggestion that "Ewan McColl..Folk Friend or Foe?" makes as much sense as "Ludwig van Beethoven: Music Friend or Foe?"


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,The Big Iota
Date: 14 Jul 06 - 01:49 PM

Someone on this posting is erroneously claiming to have been a member of the CG. They certianly werent.

I used to box with the Briggs's brother.

Ted


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Subject: RE: Ewan MacColl ...Folk Friend Or Foe?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 15 Jul 06 - 12:53 PM

Hi Nerd,

Glad to see you back!

Sure, folk singers lie all the time. They call it folklore. :)

Ewan?   Compassionate human being. Sensitive about the commericialization of folk music and it's corruption in the pop field. Dictatorial? I'd say more impassioned about the music he loved. Someone who has strong opinions is bound to step on someone else's toes.


Frank Hamilton


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