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Americans singing with British accent?

02 Aug 16 - 12:30 PM (#3803211)
Subject: Americans singing with British accent?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith

I'm sure that I've heard Americans singing with British and Irish accents. Any examples?
Now, I was thinking of folk music, but I'd be also interested in any examples in the pop/rock field.

02 Aug 16 - 01:40 PM (#3803234)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: Snuffy

Dick Van Dyke (in Mary Poppins)

02 Aug 16 - 01:47 PM (#3803237)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: McGrath of Harlow

Remember there are a whole range of accents in North America, and some of them sound a lot like they might come from somewhere in the British Isles. Well, they did in fact.

02 Aug 16 - 02:16 PM (#3803244)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: GUEST,Ebor Fiddler

Van Dyke did not sing in a British accent. He invented an accent of his own, very loosely based on his idea of East End speech. It hurts the ears!

02 Aug 16 - 02:19 PM (#3803245)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: GUEST,Tunesmith

I was thinking really of examples of the reverse of Brits singing in pseudo-American accents.

02 Aug 16 - 02:25 PM (#3803249)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: meself

Most North Americans will put on an Irish accent whenever they sing an Irish song - oh, such as Dirty Old Town or Moonshiner or The Unicorn or Streets of London or ......

02 Aug 16 - 02:39 PM (#3803250)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: GUEST,Senoufou

Meryl Streep is brilliant with accents. She must have a good ear for them. Dick Van Dyke's attempts at Cockney were hilarious, poor chap. He spoke/sang in 'Van-Dykese' in my view.

It isn't easy though to sing a song and put on an accent simultaneously. I used to sing 'Delaney's Donkey' and 'Paddy McGinty's Goat' to my class, and in spite of having an Irish mother, I expect my attempts were woeful!

02 Aug 16 - 03:14 PM (#3803254)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: Will Fly

Johnny Depp does a reasonable English accent - as does Robert Downey Jr. Not heard them sing, though.

02 Aug 16 - 03:21 PM (#3803255)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: Backwoodsman

'Streets of London', an Irish song! Wow, who knew that? I'm pretty sure Ralph McTell didn't, when he wrote it! 😜

02 Aug 16 - 03:32 PM (#3803257)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: Will Fly

Erm, I think "meself" was being ironic...

02 Aug 16 - 04:22 PM (#3803262)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: The Sandman

dirty old town is not an irish song, itwas written about salford by macColl

02 Aug 16 - 04:25 PM (#3803263)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: mkebenn

I disagree, I do this, and when asked why, I don't know I'm doing it. I'm sure it sucks. Mike

02 Aug 16 - 04:46 PM (#3803265)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: Backwoodsman

"Erm, I think "meself" was being ironic..."

Aaahh! Passed me by, Will! 😄

02 Aug 16 - 05:25 PM (#3803269)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: meself

In Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, set in California in the early 'sixties - British Invasion era - a party of young Californians appear speaking in faux Liverpool accents: they are members of a rock band.

02 Aug 16 - 06:03 PM (#3803272)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: Will Fly

Remember the cast of "Spinal Tap" - a British rock band played by American actors with absolutely realistic accents.

02 Aug 16 - 08:14 PM (#3803285)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: GUEST,Gerry

I'm an American, and whenever I sing Tom Paxton's song, I Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound, I sing it with (my dreadful impression of) an Irish accent. I'm not sure why, it just seems the natural way to sing that song. Anyway, that's why I never sing that song in public.

02 Aug 16 - 08:30 PM (#3803288)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: Leadfingers

From personal experience our own Catter Maryrrf does not sound like ab American when she sings English Traditional Ballads

03 Aug 16 - 01:03 AM (#3803295)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: Joe Offer

Rather than do a full-blown accent, I think most singers are well-off to use a "lilt" that reminds the listener of the song's intended accent. And I think most people can pull that off pretty well, if they don't try too hard or get too fussy about it.

I know a rather attractive American woman who can turn on her Irish lilt anytime she wants. And every time she does it, I'm smitten.


03 Aug 16 - 03:09 AM (#3803300)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: Herga Kitty

It's tricky singing Scottish songs if you're English, too!


03 Aug 16 - 05:36 AM (#3803324)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: GUEST,Mark ye Morris

'd'yu like dags ?'. Wasn't that said by Johnny Depp ?

04 Aug 16 - 03:27 AM (#3803467)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: GUEST,Jon Bartlett

Sing in whatever kind of accent you fancy (parisien, Louisiana, Punjabi), just be sure a) you're doing it and b) why

Jon Bartlett

04 Aug 16 - 09:15 PM (#3803625)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: Little Robyn

It all depends on which singer or record you learnt a song from - in the 60s we were all singing American songs with a hint of Paxton or Baez or any of the Seegers. Then when we discovered the Watersons or the McPeake's we tended to copy them. It's very hard to sing some of the songs from Northumberland without a Geordie accent and Jimmy Miller himself tended to sing some of his songs with a broad Scots accent, although he came from Salford.
If I sing British songs with my usual Kiwi accent it sounds horrible - well maybe it does anyway, but songs like Coulter's candy need a slight lilt.

05 Aug 16 - 08:07 AM (#3803678)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: The Sandman

Perhaps, people listen carefuly and many times to not just accent but speakers rhythms to copy convincingly.
MacColl and Seeger also listened to the accents and rhythms of speakers and their speech, when they came to write songs, here is an extract from them.
SINGING THE FISHING, our third Radio Ballad, was an important landmark for us. We began our recording programme in the field without any preconceived notions as to what the finished product would be like. From the beginning, we decided to allow the actuality to shape the programme. The areas chosen for the field recordings were East Anglia (the traditional but now decayed hub of the herring-fishing industry) and Northeast Scotland (Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire and Banffshire), the centre of the new post-war herring-fishing industry.

In East Anglia we hit pay dirt immediately when we met Sam Larner, an eighty-year-old ex-herring-fisherman from Winterton, Norfolk. He had first gone to sea in 1892 on board a sailing lugger and, in the course of his working life, had seen the sailing fleet give way to steam-drifters. He had lived through the industry's golden age when Great Yarmouth had reckoned up the annual catch by the million barrels. Furthermore, Sam could sing. He knew dozens of country songs, traditional ballads, mnemonic rhymes for navigation and local legends. In the course of recording him, we set up a pattern which subsequently became our recording procedure.

In the first few days, we dealt with the broad outlines of his life and work. We then played back the recordings, noted carefully which type of question and method of questioning elicited the best response, listed lacunae in the narrative, made preliminary sketches for the songs in relation to speech-rhythms, and broke down the chronology of the narrative into manageable sections There followed a two-weeks' intensive recording period, during which specific areas of Sam's life were dealt with in detail. For three or four days, for example, we listened to him recalling the period of his early childhood. We probed and constantly changed the perspective of our questions until his emotion-memory was in full flight and he began to re-live and re-feel the experiences and emotions of three-quarters of a century earlier. There were times when the force of memory was so strong in the old man that he would forget that we were present and re-enact conversations with friends and neighbours dead these fifty years. The period of his adolescence and early manhood were dealt with in a similar way and in each successive recording session his eagerness to reveal the meaning of his life became more apparent. At the same time, the more deeply he entered into his past, the more rich and varied became his verbal imagery: similes, metaphors, proverbs, biblical quotations, weather rhymes, bawdy aphorisms - all combined to make his speech as active and as vital as if itself.

We noticed that as time wore on, he ceased to censor his memories. Work, huge, sexual appetite, pain and joy were all recalled with equal frankness. "I been a wicked man in my time," he said with enormous enjoyment "Ain't that right, Dorcas?" (this to his blind wife sitting by the fire). "You have, Sam, you have!" agrees Dorcas philosophically. "Yes," says Sam, his faded blue eyes alight with concupiscent memories, "I done some wicked things." "You been a wicked bugger, Sam," comments Dorcas again, and Sam shakes and wheezes with delight. "See? She knows what I mean, don't you me old dear?" And then, with passionate intensity, he says, "And I loved it! I loved it! And now that I'm too old for it, I don't care whether I live nor die. No, I don't, truly I don't."

At the end of this phase of the recording, Charles went off and Peggy and I spent several days transcribing the material and making a rough selection of the passages most immediately relevant to our purpose. By this time, the rough shape of the programme had begun to emerge. Sam Larner, without any prompting, had divided the story of the herring-fishing industry into three main chapters: sail, steam and diesel. We decided that our programme should follow this pattern and that the first section should be based on Sam himself. Some of the songs were already beginning to take shape from the actuality and I was by now so attuned to the rhythm of Sam's utterance and so familiar with his breathing patterns that I could imagine how the songs and actuality would dovetail and complement each other.

When we met with Charles to plan the third stage of the recording of Sam Larner, it was agreed that we should concentrate on getting him to expound his concept of the world around him. We asked him to sum up his eighty years' experience; to define his attitude to the community in which he lived; to comment on the changes which had taken place within that society; to define his attitude to work, politics, religion, old age, death - and the kind of songs he sang. His picture of death was akin to that of Langland's and the makers of the folk tales. Death was a cunning adversary perpetually engaged in a series of all-in wrestling bouts with human challengers. Naturally, death won most of the rounds, though occasionally he would be tricked and vanquished by a man of wit and determination. "It won't be the first time he come for me - and it won't be the first time I cheated him! Yes, cheated him! That time he come for me in the North Sea, when he came for me in the storm, when all them young chaps were cryin' and prayin' down below ... I done him down then." Returning to the theme, he said, 'I ain't got long now, but when he come for me, I'll look him in the eye. I ain't got nothing to be ashamed of."

It took us three weeks to record Sam Larner and after excising repetitions, introductions, interruptions and our own voices from he tapes we were left with almost thirty hours of magnificent actuality and three hours of songs, ballads and stories.

Ronnie Balls, a retired steam-drifter skipper from Great Yarmouth, did for steam what Sam had done for sail, but whereas Sam had used words in the manner of a dramatic poet, Ronnie's approach was that of a master of the lyric form. To hear the soft East Anglian drawl of this youthful sixty-year-old describing the finer points of a steam-drifter was to know tenderness and love in its most pure form - and that is not exaggeration. Ronnie Balls loved steam-drifters with the same kind of consuming passion that lovers in the medieval romances reserved for their mistresses. "Ah, the steam-drifter," he said, "the loveliest ship for the job that ever was built." The 'job', of course, was herring-fishing and that, too, he loved: physically, intellectually, spiritually, "There's no feelin' like coming into harbour with a good catch of fish. Hundred cran! Cor, lovely shot! Get your sample out, let's be sellin' 'em. See? And you ... you just lean back in the wheelhouse and you look. All I can think of is ... you know, if you was one of the old hunters in the old tribal days. Now you've brought home the meat. You share it out. Do what you like with it. I've done my bit."

In between the two world wars, the herring-fishing industry had declined and Great Yarmouth had declined with it. After the Second World War, a new fleet of diesel-driven boats were built, equipped with radar and echo-sounding apparatus. The centre of the industry moved to the northeast coast of Scotland. So we made our way northwards to record the third part of SINGING THE FISHING and set up base in Gardenstown (Gamrie), a small herring-fishing and farming community on the Banffshire coast. Within half an hour of arriving in Gamrie, we learned that almost all of the fisher folk were members of a fundamentalist religious sect, the Closed Brethren, and that there was scarcely any social contact between them and the ordinary country folk living there. Towards us, however, the fishermen and their families appeared friendly enough and in the course of the next few weeks we came to respect and admire them.

It was on board The Honeydew that we really began to understand these men and their way of life. The Honeydew was a trim, diesel-driven drifter that rode the big Atlantic rollers like a cork. She was small, after the manner of drifters, but tough and indomitable like the men who sailed her. On shore we had been treated with politeness mixed with some reserve, but after a day at sea we were accepted as members of the crew. We had obviously passed a test, though, to this day I don't really know what the test consisted of. While on board, Charles and I organised our recording schedule into shifts so that there was never a time in the 24-hour cycle when one of us was not on hand with a recording machine at the ready. We kept them running while we sat at meals in the galley, and in the wheelhouse where a radio-receiving set kept up a continuous chatter of information from every drifter within a fifty-mile radius.

We caught the marvellous feeling of excitement as the lookout sighted a shoal: "Herring on the port bow! Herring! Herring! Herring!." And we were there to hear the skipper, Frank West, cry out like a man in the throes of religious ecstasy: "There they are, the silver darlings!" We recorded the rhythmical clacking of the winch as the two- mile-long nets were played out and noted that it would make a fine cross rhythm against a triple time song. And we waited on the blacked out deck as the net-men pulled the herring-filled nets from the sea, hour after hour until it seemed that the world was a bottomless hole from which the shimmering green fire of herrings would never stop rising. Ten hours of pulling and two miles of fish drawn from the sea! "A good catch, well above average for this time of the year. You've brought us luck!" says the mate, an amiable giant from Cairnbulg. One by one, the weary net-haulers pass on their way to the galley, clapping us on the back, shaking hands, thanking us for having brought them luck.

Then it's a race back to Ullapool in Wester Ross, to catch the market while the prices are still high. An hour or two to unload and the off to sea again for more fish And it's like this six days a week, fifty weeks of the year. Work calculated to age a man premature and to kill off those with physical disabilities; brutal work and yet the men are not brutalised. They are serious men and when they talk it is of important things like work, man's relationship with his maker, the price of fish - and, so often, the bad old days of the Depression, the memory of which haunts all of them. They speak with the slow, deliberation of seers and prophets. If the East Anglian men's speech evokes occasional echoes of Langland and the maker of that old English Poem "The Seafarer", then these Northeasterners have the rich old speech of Henryson and Dunbar.

One of my most vivid memories is of sailing with them through the Northern Minch in a seven-point gale. The Honeydew looked and felt like a toy boat lost in a grey wilderness of sea and sky. At one moment she would be lifted to the summit of a great peak and the next would be ploughing through a deep trough ridged by banks of white-topped waves. I stood there on the deck terrified, clinging desperately with one hand to a steel cable while in the other I held up a microphone in a vain effort to record the storm - and by my side stood Louis Cardno, a Huguenot Scot from Cairnbulg who, in order to illustrate a theological pint, was howling into my ears lengthy quotations from Fox's Book of Martyrs.

The final playback and transcription of the actuality took Peggy and me the best part of three weeks. After choosing and timing the actuality for the programme we compiled a tape of alternative actuality choices. We would categorise these choices by subject or idea, such as "Hauling", "The Catch". The tape machine rolled and stopped as we put markers in the tape reel or correlate the transcript with the tape. The typewriter clacked on. Scraps of paper floated about the work-table: memos on which were scrawled odd words or phrases ("that night it blew a living gale") clipped to another scrap of paper with a couplet:

"In the stormy seas and the living gales Just to earn your daily bread you're darin',"

The scraps accumulated; "we need a song with a refrain here"; "how about the mandolin on this song?"; "it's time for something up-tempo". Or it might be an entire song text that would require only ten or fifteen minutes polishing.

The writing of the songs took me about a month or maybe a little longer. Peggy spent another two weeks on the musical arrangements . We then made rough tapes of the songs and played them to Sam Larner, Ronnie Balls and anyone else who was prepared to listen to them. Occasionally they would criticise a word or a line or a phrase or question a piece of information, whereupon I would rewrite the offending line or phrase and go on rewriting it until it met with approval. There were rare and wonderful occasions when Sam or one of the other fishermen would claim to have known all his life a song which I had just written. When this happened, we know we had really come close to capturing the true effect of the fishing life upon these men.

05 Aug 16 - 12:50 PM (#3803725)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: GUEST,Desi C

WHA!! The complaint is usiully of British singing with American accents not the other way round, I can't think of one example!

05 Aug 16 - 12:59 PM (#3803726)
Subject: RE: Americans singing with British accent?
From: GUEST,thingy

The singer in American band Green Day frequently sounds English. I thought Green Day WERE English when I heard them.