Thursday 13 February 2014

The folk songs

Pete Seeger

The folk music world is more interested in the heritage and building on the past then on fashions or commercial motivations.

Folk songs are often about social commentary of the conditions or situations people found themselves in and in the human condition. Folk musicians write new songs in old folk styles.

American folk singer **Pete Seeger who died recently left a rich heritage of now classic folk songs - such as Turn Turn Turn, Where Have all the Flowers Gone.  His light delivery sometimes masked a clever commentary on the times. The song Little Boxes was his only chart hit (written by Malina Reynolds) and the song commentated on our decline towards cultural shallowness ' Little boxes all made out of ticky, tacky and they all look just the same'

Seeger was blacklisted in the McCarthy era and shunned by radio and tv. Like Woody Guthrie and his song 'this land is our land', Seeger sang about the rights of everyman. He was respected as a cult hero in the folk worlds by musicians such as Dylan or Springsteen and by folk musicians here in the UK. 'He was a folk commentator with a bitingly humanist touch.'  Quote Times.  Seeger was 95 and had lived through 17 presidents.  
Bob Dylan & Pete Seeger
My journey. I had my own journey into folk music in my early twenties when I dated a guitarist folk singer from Ayr. He played folk rhythms along with fiddles and banjos at Sandy Bells bar Edinburgh. It was a new world to me of live gig playing, melodic fiddle, harmony singing and foot tapping and hand clapping reels. It was wonderful.  

Before this I had mostly heard my music via vinyl Beatles LPs (also wonderful in a different way) radio, theatre music with a small orchestra, singing in school choirs, playing piano, my father singing Irish songs and some live gigs such as Jethro Tull and Cream.  My father used to ask me to accompany him on piano while he sang.  

I also developed a love of the classic masters through playing piano. I had lessons over several years from age 7 to 15 and I was very fortunate that my first teacher taught me firstly the joy of playing and to use the correct touch on the piano keys. I eventually studied and played Bach, Beethoven and Mozart Sonatas. At first I thought Mozart’s piano music had too many notes! but after some practice.... I realised he was rather a genius at expressing emotional melodies.   

My folk boyfriend introduced me to traditional music such a Dick Gaughan, who I saw live in Edinburgh, and to his record collection that included other great guitarists - John Martyn, Richard Thompson and more.  We went to folk festivals. I was taken in by the difference in the folk world to the other music worlds.

Folk songs care about the message and the story of the song and music is also considered a shared experience. 
Today there are folk singers here (and elsewhere) who continue this tradition of singing about the human condition – such as in Scotland Karine Polwart, Dick Gaughan, Rab Noakes,

 I don't believe in socialism or hand outs - but I believe in equality.
And the folk traditionalists are right,  the 'equality' raises us all up! - not by dragging us all down but by raising standards!