Singing and learning about folk songs are two of my favorite joys in life. Folk songs are the poems of the people, and they belong to us all. They are about us. Our day-to-day lives and all the happy and sad shit that happens to us each day we are here.Traditionally, folk songs were passed on from one group of people to another orally and not written down til decades or even centuries later. There are really no”correct”versions for most of them because of this. The melodies to some go back centuries and are fairly consistent, but people have added and changed the lyrics to many, many times over the years, sometimes so much so the whole meaning of the song has changed from what it once was. Woody Guthrie wrote “This Land Is Your Land” during the Great Depression era as a response to Irving Berlin after he wrote “God Bless America”. It is an angry song and it has the rhetorical message that America SHOULD be for you AND me, but actually isn’t. Few people sing the whole song as Guthrie wrote it, so it often surprises people when they learn this about it. It did me, anyway.
One of my favorite folk songs is the Irish tune, “Molly Malone.” I do a kick-ass version of this “unofficial” anthem of Dublin myself, if I must say. It is about a fictional fish monger/working girl named Molly Malone who sells cockles and mussels by day but, though the lyrics don’t mention this, is a beautiful, desired “working gal” by night. She gets sick and dies young and that’s it for her. Fucking awesome song.When I first heard it in a Dublin pub years ago I knew it was one I had to sing. Though she wasn’t a real person , a cool statue of her, and her hot cleavage, stands proudly in Dublin for all to see. Also, the 13th of June, I think, is Molly Malone day there and an official holiday. Dublin takes a day off to celebrate for a women who never existed because THAT’S how much they love the song about her. In reality, I tend to think an 18th century fish monger would smell so much like dead fish by the time night came, any night-time frolicking for pay would be a profitless under taking. The Newfoundland group, “Great Big Sea” with Alan Doyle does this song well. Alan Doyle and Russell Crowe do a version of this I like too, which I’ve put below. Sinead O’Connor does a beautiful version and I’ve included that as well. Any way, I’ll write more on folk songs in future posts.