04 JunWorried Man Blues

No, I’m not worried, I’ve just had this song aimlessly stuck in my head all day (which is a relief since I’ve had the freecreditreport.com song stuck in it prior).

Of course, I’ve been listening to lots of Utah Phillips, my ‘songbook’, a four cd compilation set of his work arrived on Monday (hoorah!) so I’ve been thinking a lot about folk music, and… other things. Contrary to the belief of some people, I do not think about taxonomy 24×7. Only 23.75×7. No, really I don’t even think about it that much. I do think about it a lot, but I think about other stuff too. Like joining the Wobblies. Because I *could*. I don’t think I will, maybe, but it has crossed my mind. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the song stuck in my head. Where was I? Oh, right! The song stuck in my head.

I tend to think my musical tastes are pretty broad, and I’m old enough that I am exempt from having to really worry about ‘cred’. I have no cred anymore because I am gleefully OLD and that’s given me a degree of freedom to listen to whatever I want. I did not, however, enjoy hearing Dokken’s Sister Christian today in a desperate search for appropriate beach footwear (tomorrow I’m accompanying M1 on a field trip to the beach. Maude help & protect me!). I don’t think it’s any surprise to anyone who knows me, especially not those close to me & those who’ve known me for a long time that I have a small? (maybe an understatement, maybe an overstatement, using the phrase my MLIS degree taught me, “It depends”) obsession with folk & traditional music. For a long time it was British Isles/Irish, but increasingly American folk music has been creeping in. No real surprise there.

I’ve been collecting folk music nearly since I was old enough to sing songs to myself (there, I said it — it’s folk music I’ve been collecting, maybe not quite to the point of archiving. FOLK. F – O – L – K — music of the folk, owned by them. Look. I told you I’ve been listening to a lot of Utah. Dude pretty much nailed my philosophy on folk music, it passes through me, but doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to *us*). Ah… hrm. The first songs I remember singing were songs about barnyard animals and bawdy sea chanties, Peter, Paul, & Mary, The Kingston Trio, & their elders, being, of course Woodie Guthry, the Carter Family, various Seegers, et al. Pretty sure all of these people have done variations on the song stuck in my head (except maybe the old mariners stuck on their Spanish “ladies”).

I’m fascinated by folk [music/stories]. I’ve never quite felt like I could “own” it. I struggle with the concept of authenticity — which I suppose is a variation on the “cred” issue. I know I have no cred (which hoorah freedom), but I wonder about being authentic to the music that I’ve carried with me as long as I’ve been alive (am I really allowed to keep this tradition? Me of mixed class background, but mostly middle class mutt? And if not me, then… who?). And also I wonder about “ownership” in folk traditions. Sometimes songs become attached to people, or their variations become attached & then my obsession with copyright & giving due respect to others who cover the same or variations on the same music kicks in & then I start wondering about how to go about doing *that* properly. I know it’s all hypothetical because I don’t perform it in front of anyone but Maude & occasionally my children… but I wonder none-the-less…

Anyway. Here’s the Carter Family’s variation on this theme.

Worried Man Blues
It takes a worried man to sing a worried song,
It takes a worried man to sing a worried song.
I’m worried now but I won’t be worried long,

I went across the river and I lay down to sleep,
I went across the river and I lay down to sleep.
When I woke up I had shackles on my feet.

Twenty-nine links of chain around my leg,
Twenty-nine links of chain around my leg.
And on each link an initial of my name.

It takes a worried man to sing a worried song,
It takes a worried man to sing a worried song.
I’m worried now but I won’t be worried long.

I asked the old judge what may be my fine,
I asked the old judge tell me what may be my fine?
“Twenty-one years on the R. C. Mountain line.”

The train arrived sixteen coaches long,
The train arrived sixteen coaches long.
The girl I love is on that train and gone.

It takes a worried man to sing a worried song,
It takes a worried man to sing a worried song.
I’m worried now but I won’t be worried long.

I looked down the track as far as I could see,
I looked down the track as far as I could see.
A little bitty hand was waving back at me.

M1 asked me what I was singing as I made cookies for her field trip tomorrow. I told her. She said it sounded like a lullaby. And then said it was funny, she had the same melody stuck in her head. And tried vaguely to interpret the melody, never actually having heard it before. So sweet, she still thinks I’m neat. :) I guess I should go to bed. Long day with lots of kids in it tomorrow. Eek!

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