What is folk music?
It’s the music played by the people, for the people. It’s the music that people make for their own entertainment rather than because it was commissioned by Maximilian Franz, Elector of Cologne to be played at court, or because it earned a living round the music halls or because it will make a packet for some record company and give you your 15 minutes of fame. When British soldiers sang songs about the defective genitals of Hitler and his team to the tune of Colonel Bogey, that was folk music. When you sang in the playground about why Popeye has a hole in his caravan, that was folk music.
Where would you hear it?
Folk music was (and is) the music played for dancing to at barn dances, harvest homes and wedding receptions, to bring back the sun or the rain or call up or drive away spirits.
Folk songs are songs sung on board ship, at the pub, in the trenches, round the hearth or camp fire, picking cotton, on the chain gang, at a celebration, after a battle, wherever and whenever a song could be used to tell a story, express an emotion, provoke a tear or a cheer or a chuckle or a leer or sometimes to beg a drink.
What are folk songs about?
Folk songs are quite often about love found, love lost, love requited and unrequited, drunks, rakehells, cullies, bawds and villains, criminals and kings, soldiers and milkmaids, work, drink, sex, war, politics, suicides, clever ruses and tricks played, crime and punishment, revels and laments, magic and nonsense – oh, and there’s quite a funny one about dead dogs, but that list only scratches the surface.
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