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BS: The soul music of Ewan Macoll!

30 Oct 01 - 06:36 AM (#582497)
Subject: The soul music of Ewan Macoll!
From: Dave the Gnome

Saw an ad on the box last night. Don't even know who the artist was coz I was too busy laughing. Anyhow - it said words to the effect of 'the best soul music in the world' and showed the artist singing 'The first time ever I saw your face'!

What next? The famous rap songs of Martin Carthy? Mrs Mills plays Led Zepplin?


Dave the Gnome

30 Oct 01 - 06:50 AM (#582502)
Subject: RE: BS: The soul music of Ewan Macoll!
From: GUEST,Roger the skiffler

I think it was a US hit for soul "diva" Roberta Flack? But for me it will always be Peggy Seeger.

30 Oct 01 - 07:57 AM (#582523)
Subject: RE: BS: The soul music of Ewan Macoll!

Yes, it was covered by Roberta Flack. And more recently by the Fugees/Lauryn Hill.

I think all the covers of the song are good, actually. The Fugees cover is more R & B, the Roberta Flack a pop ballad, but a respectable cover nonetheless. She did it as sort of a torch song. I prefer Lauryn Hill's version, but Roberta's is still pretty good.

Is there some problem with a good song travelling into different music genres? Or is this one of those folk music nazi threads, where only "our good folk" should be allowed to cover these songs?

30 Oct 01 - 08:09 AM (#582525)
Subject: RE: BS: The soul music of Ewan Macoll!
From: The_one_and_only_Dai

I have to say, on the subject of crossover and the Fugees, their version of 'Killing Me Softly' is an absolute masterpiece. Really added a dark undercurrent. Brilliant.

I love to hear music re-interpreted in different styles - anybody else heard the reggae version of Byker Hill by the Barely Works? Another classic, made so by a thorough rethink and sound arrangements...

30 Oct 01 - 08:59 AM (#582553)
Subject: RE: BS: The soul music of Ewan Macoll!

I love to hear it when it works, like with the Fugees cover. But when it doesn't work (as with a lot of covers by quasi-Celtic rockers, Tempest) it just sets my teeth on edge.

Not every traditional song can be made contemporary in a different genre. IMO, it takes very gifted musicians to pull it off well, and even then, they often fall short of the mark.

Its those moments when it is purely dead brilliant, as with the Fugee's "Killing Me Softly" that it really works.

What I think is odd, is how few traditional folk musicians from the Anglo, Celtic, and Anglo American music genres have been able to do cross-over by covering music from other genres. They seem much more comfortable trying to make their own music sound contemporary, rather than experiment with songs from other music genres.

Why is that, do you suppose?

30 Oct 01 - 10:25 AM (#582612)
Subject: RE: BS: The soul music of Ewan Macoll!
From: Dave the Gnome

Yea - thats exactly right, unkown guest #1. I'm a Nazi. Always have been. Always will be. Paid up member of the National Front, the BNP and the boy scouts as well.

Did anyone say there was anything wrong with music traveling into a different genre? Where did that happen? I happen to love many different types of music. Current favorite bands range from Placebo to Jamiraquoi. I love to hear folk singers taking on other genres as much as the other way round.

I cordialy invite you to our folk club in Swinton, Manchester, UK (2 miles from where Jimmy Miller was raised BTW) any Monday night where we can get together and discuss music and you can get to know me before making hasty judgements!

I will still take the piss out of anyone who classes 'The first time' as soul music as much as I will laugh with equal vigour at the pillocks who tell us Dirty old town is an Irish song!

Cheers, dismounting from soap box.

Dave the Gnome

30 Oct 01 - 12:23 PM (#582670)
Subject: RE: BS: The soul music of Ewan Macoll!

Well Dave, considering the shrillness and defensiveness of your reply to my rumination, I'm guessing others may have accused of said offence in the past.

So, is your complaint then that the words "soul music" have been used inappropriately, even in light of the information provided regarding contemporary covers of the song by black American artists who have often been referred to "soulful" or "soul musicicians"?

30 Oct 01 - 12:24 PM (#582671)
Subject: RE: BS: The soul music of Ewan Macoll!
From: GUEST,JohnB

I remember years ago having an argument with a friend when I told her it wasn't Roberta Flack who wrote First Time ever I saw your face. Guess who won! The_one_and_only_Dai, I heard the reggae version of Byker Hill by the Barely Works, hated it the first time but it grew a bit more bearable after that. I still don't think I would say it was my favourite though. JohnB

30 Oct 01 - 02:42 PM (#582729)
Subject: RE: BS: The soul music of Ewan Macoll!
From: Dave the Gnome

You just don't know how wrong you can be, Guest. Hows about a name and location now that you know mine BTW? I am interested to discuss your viewpoint and I am sure you have nothing to hide do you?

I just believe that 'The first time' is first and formost a folk song. Other people may have taken it on board but it was written as a folk song by one of the greatest folk singer/songwriters of our day. I find it quite humourous that the ad men feel the need to claim it is something else. But it is sad that some people seem to believe them.

Someone at our folk club did Metalica's 'Nothing else matters' the other week but I would not dream of saying it was now a folk song. It is a classic rock ballad. Always will be. We regularly get Lennon/MaCartney stuff but again that remains pop in the mind of most sensible people. Steeleye Spans rendition of 'Rave On' has not taken that song out of the Rock and Roll standard.

There are and always will be many wonderful songs that cross all boundries and I do not presume to categorise all music into its respective pigeon holes. It just gets on my wick when, once again, a wonderful folk song gets stolen by the money makers without even a brief acknowledgement to the writers talent. Even more so when the song was written by a man totaly commited to Socialism and then gets used to make money for more unscrupulous artists with not one tiny portion of his talent. Give credit where it is due is all I ask.

And no, I have never been called a nazi before. But then again I guess that doesn't bother someone who has already made their mind up.

The invite to Swinton still stands. Come and see where the writer was brought up. See how links with the past are being obliterated all over the City. You may even begin to understand why I get a little cross when my local culture and heritage is stolen. I am happy to enter any civilised discussion you like.

But don't push it with such inappropriate flaming eh?

In return I promise to lighten up a bit - in the spirit of the original post:-)


Dave the Gnome

31 Oct 01 - 07:42 AM (#583008)
Subject: RE: BS: The soul music of Ewan Macoll!

Dave the Gnome,

Your rant strikes me as typical of a small but prominent, and very narrow-minded group within the British folk music scene, which I find to be blatantly nationalistic and bigoted about "their" folk music.

You might find a more sympathetic ear for your rants in

31 Oct 01 - 11:45 AM (#583132)
Subject: RE: BS: The soul music of Ewan Macoll!
From: Dave the Gnome

Ok boss. Whatever.

Blown the chance for a pint I'm afraid! Unless you prove me wrong in my opinion and turn up anyway but I find it highly unlikely.

And if you think that's a rant you have led a very sheltered life!



31 Oct 01 - 02:32 PM (#583278)
Subject: RE: BS: The soul music of Ewan Macoll!
From: breezy

J.M. wrote a love song for Peggy. That does not qualify it as a 'Folk-song'.Discuss.

31 Oct 01 - 03:07 PM (#583304)
Subject: RE: BS: The soul music of Ewan Macoll!
From: John Routledge

McColl wore many hats during his life. Wonder what he would have thought of this thread. Cheers GB

31 Oct 01 - 06:02 PM (#583427)
Subject: RE: BS: The soul music of Ewan Macoll!
From: Bennet Zurofsky

I believe that Ewan and whoever he assigned his royalties too has made a good amount of money from the recordings of Lauryn Hill and Roberta Flack, among many others. He is certainly credited as the composer on the recordings, so I do not understand how the idea that he was being ripped off by more commercially-oriented artists comes into play here. Woody Guthrie once said that anyone caught singing a song that he wrote was surely a good friend of his because that is what he wrote it for. I expect that Ewan felt the same way.

As far as I can tell, neither Roberta Flack nor Lauryn Hill should be labeled as grossly commercial pop acts. Judging from their records they both seem to be at least as concerned with their art and their politics as they are with producing top selling records. Roberta Flack has always presented herself as a jazz singer. Lauryn Hill and the Fugees have always featured politics and an innovative musical approach to hip-hop. We are not talking about the Monkees here!

As to the question of whether "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" is a folksong, it all depends upon your definition. It certainly is not a traditional song. Nor is it especially traditional in the nature of its lyric (which is essentially a poetic lyric more akin to poetry with known authors than to traditional song) or in its melody (which is quite sophisticated). It is true that Ewan was generally said to be a folksinger, but he was clearly much more than that.

The pages of Sing Out! have been filled for years with debate over what constitutes a folksong. The subject makes for interesting reading. Mostly, however, the definition boils down to whatever each person who believes him or herself to be an authority on the subject says that it is. I expect the same is true for soul music. If the people who consider themselves to be authorities on soul music, or the people who like soul music, consider "The First Time . . ." to be soul music, then I suppose it is. I doubt that Ewan would have minded.

31 Oct 01 - 08:38 PM (#583551)
Subject: RE: BS: The soul music of Ewan Macoll!
From: GUEST,John Ross

I remember talking to Ewan about "The First Time" in about 1980. He was complaining that the royalties on that song had slowed down--they were only a third of his annual income the previous year! I believe he kept a "shelf of horrors" in his record collection with all the versions of the song. But he was happy to receive those royalty checks twice a year.

01 Nov 01 - 05:38 AM (#583705)
Subject: RE: BS: The soul music of Ewan Macoll!
From: Lanfranc

"The First Time" is IMHO one of the finest love songs ever written, whatever arrangement is applied to it, from a capella to slushy strings. It was written by a man who was an actor, a playwright, a singer, a folklorist, a songwriter and a political activist, and sometimes a combination of any or all of those things at once. When he wrote that song, he did so as a man and a lover, but all his other experience was incorporated.

My belief is that, whatever genre a song or tune comes from, if it is interpreted and performed with thought and sincerity, that is all that matters, whatever the context. As long as it is correctly attributed to its original source, different interpretations can bring a song (or a whole body of work) to the notice of audiences that it might otherwise have passed by.

The true purpose of music and song is communication, not the self-indulgence of the performer. Labelling restricts that communication and can cause people to filter out things that could possibly bring them enjoyment.

Just for the record(!), I don't consider Roberta Flack's version "Soul" any more than Dave does, but then, define "Soul"!

Certainly that record, and Clint Eastwood's inclusion of it in "Play Misty for Me" brought this beautiful song to the notice of millions of people who would not have listened to Ewan's version (or the Kingston Trio's, for that matter). Does that make it "Film Music"?


01 Nov 01 - 09:08 AM (#583807)
Subject: RE: BS: The soul music of Ewan Macoll!

Not long ago, I read an article about the band Capercaillie, where Manus Lunny described their music as a sort of Celtic soul music. I had no problem understanding what he meant by that statement, which was not made in the context of trying to market the band. Rather, he seemed to be trying to describe how he views his people's traditional music done in a contemporary style, in a similar way that African American musicians viewed "soul music" as their people's traditional music done in a contemporary way. It was a comparison which made perfect sense to me, and I didn't sense that Capercaillie was now trying to market itself as an African American "soul band" in order to make the big bucks. Which would be inherently stupid, considering "soul music" hasn't been in vogue in the African American community for quite some time now, any more than it has been among European or European American music consumers.

Defining folk music or soul music is a pretty self-limiting exercise IMO, intended to maintain false divisions of "us vs. them" in instances such as the one Dave the Gnome raised. Which seems always to be done with a haughty air of superiority about "us" and sneering condescension about "them". And that to me is just plain mean-spirited begrudgery, exhibited far too often by the so-called folk purists, folk fascists, folk nazis...whatever people wish to call those with pronounced intolerances who inhabit the folk community in Britain and British North America.

01 Nov 01 - 11:32 AM (#583915)
Subject: RE: BS: The soul music of Ewan Macoll!
From: Lyndi-loo

Why do people have to stick a label on everything? Just enjoy it for what it is without trying to shoehorn it into a category. BTW I think that Peggy Seeger singing this is wonderful, but I also enjoy all the other versions because it's just a wonderful song in its own right.