I am proud to have taken photos at Gaughan’s concerts and met him a few times. He spoke of singing with Emmy Lou Harris and was totally unassuming. I was sad to hear he had a stroke in 2017, and I attended a wonderful tribute concert for him at the Old Fruitmarket, during Celtic Connections 2019.
Since the 70s, Gaughan has been one of Scotia’s most powerful, authentic and honest Bards. He does this through an open chord tuning on his Stratocaster, and an unerring, defiant and hard-hitting voice. Like Burns before him, he believes we all deserve an equal chance in life. Like Burns he draws on the old traditions and adds his own verses and tunes.
He digs deep into our social heritage of the voices of ordinary folks, unrecognised folk and of those who labour for a better world. He also includes the voices from further afield – America, England, Ireland, France, more . He was a central figure in 1970s Celtic folk revival with Boys of the Lough and his early classic album, Handful of Earth. He also worked with Billy Bragg, Andy Irvine, Five Hand Reel and Clan Alba. Gaughan is half Irish and Half Scots.
**I first heard Gaughan back at a folk club in Edinburgh in the 80s, when he stood out as so different to the often romanticized view of soft, Scottish folk pop. I’d never heard folk music that challenged in this way. Since then I have heard Gaughan perform at the Celtic Connections concert hall his powerful version of Burns Parcel of Rogues to the Nation. I heard him take it intimate and emotional with Burns Westlin Windsat my local folk club, when he said, it was the best song ever written and says all there is to say really. He challenged with Outlaws and Dreamersand life on the edge. He told stories of old soldiers and miners, such as the powerful Why Old Mew Cry. Gaughan often starts his set with the honesty of the song, What You do With What You’ve Got.
He speaks of the English Diggers - "I tend to side with people like the Diggers, those English revolutionaries who fought without weapons for a fair share of the land that rightfully was the property of everyone to begin with," says Gaughan, summing up his philosophy, and smiling.
Between songs and while tuning his guitar, he tells his stories, often with dark humour and pathos. He talks of the real Scotland, the one he knows in Leith. “We used to elect our king in Scotland, you know. The last one we elected was Macbeth.”
**I heard an interview with Dick on radio Scotland when he spoke of his guitar playing being influenced by Davy Graham,
“When I heard of the murder of Chilean folk singer Victor Jara, by the fascist Pinochet. I knew, I couldn’t just play the old tunes, you had to speak out, and really that is what the tradition is all about. “
"I knew then I couldn't just play old tunes. You had to speak out. And, really, that is what the tradition is about. Traditional music--which to me has always meant just the songs that people sing and listen to, be that rock 'n' roll or old ballads--it has always had to do with politics. People's music, folk music if you will, is very dangerous stuff! It is subversive to acknowledge that ordinary people actually have a culture with artistic merit. This gives the lie to those who would like us to think that the poor are poor because they are stupid! There is a lot of wisdom in some of those old songs, and no reason I can see why songs about the politics of today are not part of The Tradition! I sing 'em, anyway, and that's the tradition I know."
Traditional music - It has always had to do with politics.”
|Dick Gaughan at Milngavie folk club|
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Concerts at Celtic Connections and Milngavie folk club - all Photos copyright Pauline Keightley.
**Dick Gaughan Interview with Phil Cunningham Radio Scotland March 2012
Dick chose five songs that have influenced him –
(1) Big Bill Broonzy – Glory of Love
(2) The Shadows – Apache
(3) The Beatles – Love Me Do
(4) Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues
(5) Davy Graham – 67