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You know, folks, I haven't been able to get this thing in tune all night. That's all right, though, it makes it sound like there's more of us - Del McCoury, still fiddling with the tuning of his guitar half-way through the second set of a concert

Author Topic: Blues And The Old Left  (Read 11382 times)

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Offline Rivers

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #45 on: January 17, 2008, 05:01:07 AM »
Or that doyen of the left Pete Seeger copyrighting all the PD songs he could get his hands on!  :o  If he hadn't done so some industry weasel would have I suppose and that would have been even more annoying.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #46 on: January 17, 2008, 05:26:24 AM »
I do believe that Pete is an innocent in that regard. When that happened it was due to handlers or advice from his good friend Lomax. Pete has always walked the walk as far as I can tell. He faced down HUAC courageously and in a manner few others could. I've read his testimony and it is really inspiring, and very brave. The Solomon Linda episode is particularly tragic and there is no question that he was negligent in not finding out what the story was, but I'm of the opinion that business has always been the furthest thing from his mind.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #47 on: January 17, 2008, 11:49:34 AM »
No worse than Bob Shad slapping his name or pseudonym on Lightnin' Hopkins's stuff -- though we know he was in it for the money. 
Lightnin' certainly was in it for the money. Here's what Bob Shad told Arnold Shaw:

"Itinerant blues singers like Lightnin' Hopkins used to hop on buses, perform, and then walk around with a cup. When we picked him up and talked a recording date, he wouldn't sign a contract. He wouldn't accept a royalty deal. He had to be paid cash. Not only that, he had to be paid after each cut. He didn't want to know about doing a tune over. He didn't know the lyrics from one song to another, but made them up as he went along. A typical vagabond. Whatever hit his mind, he sang and recorded. Like 'Coffee Blues'?he's got the blues from coffee because his girl left him. It was out of meter, out of rhyme, and the musicians would go crazy. He had no conception of a twelve-bar blues. It could be eight-and-a-half, thirteen-and-a-quarter or what have you. The musicians would be fumbling all over the place. But he had a wonderful feeling, and if you could stay with him long enough, you ended up with something worthwhile. Smokey Hogg was the same thing.

"Yes, you had to pay Lightnin' after each song. Before he started a new one, I'd pay him a hundred dollars. He did another, I gave him another hundred. He refused to work in any other way. Smokey Hogg was the same type. They were both out of Houston, Texas."

Cash in hand! Why would LH give a damn if the 78 label read "R. Ellen" at those 1950s rates of pay?  ;D ;)

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #48 on: January 17, 2008, 12:58:36 PM »
Quote
Whatever hit his mind, he sang and recorded. Like 'Coffee Blues'?he's got the blues from coffee because his girl left him. It was out of meter, out of rhyme, and the musicians would go crazy. He had no conception of a twelve-bar blues. It could be eight-and-a-half, thirteen-and-a-quarter or what have you. The musicians would be fumbling all over the place.

This makes me so happy!
« Last Edit: January 17, 2008, 01:00:17 PM by Mr.OMuck »
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline Slack

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #49 on: January 17, 2008, 03:30:16 PM »
I saw Lightin'  Hopkins in '72 or '73 perform at Liberty Hall in Houston (I was a sophomore at U. of Houston) - a buddy and I went in an alternative state.  :) I was a little nervous about going to begin with, but became pretty paranoid when Hopkins started to play and could not even get close to a 12 bar form.  I thought he was drunk (he may have been) and that the audience was going to crucify him for not being able to play.   They loved him of course and it was no surprise to them that "Lightin' changes when Lightin' wants to".  I relaxed and enjoyed the concert.  :P

I spent a couple of years in Houston and I don't know why I never went to another concert there -- for a 19 yr old kid straight from El Paso it may have been a little out of my comfort zone.  Liberty Hall was a great place:

http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~tannahil/liberty%20hall.html

Offline NevadaPic

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #50 on: January 17, 2008, 05:20:37 PM »
Quote
BLues is ethos, terroir,  music, and  feeling. It is not a destination, it is a journey. It is not the same for each person, but it is an experience for each person. It can be a passion, and can be intensely personal while experienced by a group. Blues is blues. Don't try to overly analyze BLues, or what you feel. If you like it, play and sing it. You gotta sing it and experience the feelings, they have to be in you , you have to have had the blues in some form, to have it in you, and then for it to resonate with you.  If you like it, study and revel in it. Live it,and don't analyse it. More pleasure...
Thanks Buzz, you know it!  I thought I was on a political science forum there for awhile...

Pic
« Last Edit: January 17, 2008, 05:36:27 PM by NevadaPic »
If I don't meet you no more in this world, I'll meet you in the next one so don't be late...

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #51 on: January 18, 2008, 08:31:21 AM »
Rest assured that there is no science as regards politics *. You have however been exposed to a little of the history that pertains to the music you love. Is that a bad thing?

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*Not true really but thats a discussion for another place.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2008, 08:32:39 AM by Mr.OMuck »
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline NevadaPic

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #52 on: January 19, 2008, 07:12:23 AM »
Thanks for the historical perspective on the rise in awareness of blues music among white Americans during the latter half of the 20th century.  It's not a bad thing at all, it just isn't news to me.  As a young feller in college in the 70's I read everything I could get my hands on the subject, much of it describing the sociological aspects of the music and the general struggle of Black Americans against pervasive racism.  As I continue to read the many posts on these forums describing historical details of the blues and biographical details of the lives of blues players, I realize there is much for me to learn.

Nevertheless, all of this study does not help my own interpretation of the blues through my playing and singing.  The blues is about self expression and it is a singular vehicle for that expression in my opinion.  Thus I see no point in getting too analytical or intellectual about the music.  I am content to leave its musicology to others.  Instead I focus on the actual activity of producing the music through my own playing and singing and through the enjoyment of the playing and singing of so many others.

Pic
If I don't meet you no more in this world, I'll meet you in the next one so don't be late...

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #53 on: January 19, 2008, 08:03:15 AM »
I don't think we were getting "over analytical" in this thread. As a matter of fact we weren't even discussing the music itself just the historical forces that made it available to people outside its original audience. That being said I do get an extra charge knowing that this music was employed as an exhibit in the case for the social advancement of our species. I feel it informs and helps my playing in some indirect way.
Conversely I have difficulty with the white music of the same time and place because I feel it emerged from a culture complicit in perpetrating a great evil. I have to work hard to overcome my distaste for the racism of people like Wagner and Liszt and not see their music as polluted by their anti-semetisim.
As far as the issue of self expression goes, I strongly urge you, if you haven't already done so, to read the letters of Vincent Van Gogh. Nowhere else is the conjunction between great art, supreme self expression and the desire for social justice joined so perfectly as in his thinking, writing and painting. He is, after all, practically the inventor of our modern notions of self expression and one of the supreme geniuses in art of any field.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline CF

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #54 on: January 19, 2008, 09:02:49 AM »
My analysis & intellectual appreciation of the blues in no way gets in the way of how I play it. I would say that, for me, it aids in my creation. There are a lot of people playing the blues who have a very generic & popular sense of it, you get a lot of cats who think that by wearing a fedora & copping a Muddy Waters tone that they are being true to the blues & expressing their own very sincere selves. Some people have a visceral connection with the music immediately & their prowess in the form is very natural. Others' prowess grows with a deeper immersion & understanding of the music. Oscar Wilde said 'All bad poetry is sincere.' You may not care a lick for the history of the music or the subtle dynamics of Blind Lemon's guitar skills (for instance), you may be completely self reliant, sincere & passionate & focused . . . & be a really bad blues musician. Almost every bad blues musician i've played with or heard usually had a depressingly shallow conception of the history of the music, identified with the immediate & shallow trappings of the blues (fedoras, sunglasses, really bad southern accent), used the name Robert Johnson as some kind authentification password & left it at that. Being analytical about the blues is only a bad thing if you're unable to be analytical & a good artist at the same time . . . or if it gets in the way of the human element & relationbship that is the lifeblood of the music. Happily, for me, I don't divorce my brain from my hipbone, they get along famously.
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #55 on: January 19, 2008, 10:51:48 AM »
 
Quote
Happily, for me, I don't divorce my brain from my hipbone, they get along famously.


Well said.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2008, 10:54:29 AM by Mr.OMuck »
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Offline Bricktown Bob

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #56 on: January 26, 2008, 11:21:11 PM »
I'm always irritated to see the writer credit "Ledbetter, Lomax, and Lomax."

It's bad for, perhaps, to quote oneself, and Alan Lomax certainly doesn't need me to defend his reputation, but I ran across the following at the Association for Cultural Equity and found it of great interest:

New arrangements of traditional songs are eligible to be registered as new copyrights and are afforded the same protection as writing an original composition. In the case of the Ledbetter/Lomax registrations, most were derived from John A. and Alan Lomax?s Negro Folk Songs as Sung by Lead Belly, a book based on particular and composite versions of songs that Lead Belly had sung to them over the course of six months, and published by the Macmillan Company in 1936.

There are many traditional songs attributed to Huddie Ledbetter that he didn?t write but that he legitimately published as his own versions. There are many Lead Belly songs recorded by the Lomaxes for which they did not receive arrangement credit. Some of the songs that were shown to Ledbetter by Alan Lomax included ?Black Betty,? ?Take This Hammer,? ?Duncan and Brady,? ?Ham and Eggs,? and ?Stew Ball.? Ledbetter has versions of these songs published in his name alone based on his recorded versions. The Lomaxes have published versions of these same songs based on their arrangements in American Ballads and Folk Songs and Our Singing Country. Many other performers have published arrangements of these same songs. Of the 223 or so songs published in the name of Huddie Ledbetter, the Lomaxes have a shared arrangement credit on 84 of them. This represents some, but not all, of the songs they collected from, and arranged with, Huddie Ledbetter.

In the specific case of ?Goodnight, Irene? neither man wrote the song. Ledbetter sang versions of the song that he had learned from his uncle, Bob Ledbetter, and John A. Lomax documented the new arrangement. The song itself traces back to a version from 1886 by Gussie L. Davies.

The ?Goodnight, Irene? case was the first example of what was to become a perplexing matter for Alan. It was the first time that he had to deal with the ramifications of a song that he had an interest in becoming a ?hit.? He basically ignored the subject for six more years and focused his attention on field trips in the UK and Europe. In 1957, as a result of the popularity of the ?Skiffle? craze, many more of his arrangements were suddenly being published in new singers? names.

It was then, some twenty-three years after the first book had been released, that he secured a music publishing deal, with Harry Richmond?s Ludlow Publishing, Inc., that afforded some level of protection to the songs he and his father had collected, made arrangements of, and published in their books. The arrangements of traditional songs published by the Lomaxes were credited in their names, instead of the source singers, over Alan?s objections. In a letter to an attorney, dating from November 5, 1962, Alan is still trying to resolve some of the basic problems that have arisen from this publishing deal:

?From the beginning I have asked Richmond for a publishing company of my own so that my name would not have to appear as co-author. At first he demurred because he said he felt that, only by using my name could he protect the songs at all.

?In doing so, my reputation has suffered severely but, at the same time, I have established it in the minds of at least some of the decent people in the field that the collector as well as the source should get at least some of the royalties now commonly paid by recording companies for versions of folk songs.?

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #57 on: January 27, 2008, 12:32:45 AM »
Quote from: Bricktown Bob
It's bad for, perhaps, to quote oneself, and Alan Lomax certainly doesn't need me to defend his reputation, but I ran across the following at the Association for Cultural Equity and found it of great interest
Indeed, very interesting. Many thanks.
In the specific case of ?Goodnight, Irene? neither man wrote the song. Ledbetter sang versions of the song that he had learned from his uncle, Bob Ledbetter, and John A. Lomax documented the new arrangement.
FWIW, there's two minutes of Uncle Bob singing the song on the 1978  LP "Jerry's Saloon Blues" (LP 260 - see Stefan's Flyright page). Paul Oliver's booklet quotes extensively from interview and field notes in regard to Uncle Bob. One of the two photos of him on the back sleeve has been reproduced on p. 283 of Larry Cohen's Nothing But The Blues.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #58 on: January 27, 2008, 07:17:23 AM »
Thanks, that does explain the mechanism. Basically there was no other instrument in law other than co-authorship. I must add I don't know much about the Lomaxes other than reading their musical writings.

The question I have is this. Surely Lomax and Lomax were public servants, at least for some of their careers. Why should they have received additional remuneration for collecting folk songs during the normal course and scope of their employment? That is what they were being paid to do, was it not? Did they perhaps work freelance, and not directly for the LoC perhaps? Was there some kind of incentive commission scheme in play, as in 'find a song, you can share in the royalties'?

Or was it simply that by uncovering the songs they created a hithertofore unknown market, and were damn sure if anyone was going to cash in it was themselves. That would be an easy case to make from their perspective, having sweated and toiled in sometimes dangerous conditions for so long. Were they really analogous to wildcat oil drillers, hoping to strike it rich out in the unexplored musical wilderness?

If either case is true then this has very little to do with any kind of socialist model, it's capitalizing on culture.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2008, 12:02:32 PM by Rivers »

Offline waxwing

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Re: Blues And The Old Left
« Reply #59 on: January 27, 2008, 11:34:48 AM »
So, basically, the Lomaxes played field recordings to Leadbelly who then put chords to them. They may have made verse choices, selecting three minutes of verses from perhaps dozens. Then Leadbelly records and they all share in the writing copyright. Lead collects the performance fees.

Now, no one really wrote most of the songs, or melodies the Lomaxes had collected. Leadbelly put a guitar arrangement to songs he may never have heard otherwise. The Lomaxes probably did collaborate artistically in terms of choices somewhere in the process. Once collected, under their contract with the  LoC, the songs on the field recordings would be PD, so as private citizens, the Lomaxes would have as much right as anyone to contribute to arrangements for new commercial recordings of the songs and profit from that work, it seems to me.

I don't think we are talking about songs Leadbelly knew and performed before he met the Lomaxes. These are songs they introduced to him.

All for now.
John C.
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