Week 3 Thoughts

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The first things we talked about as a group were what I called the “must haves” of folk music. We decided that folk music must: have roots in the community, carry a personal message, not be elitist, give voice to the marginalized. These qualities not only describe folk music pretty well, but they also sketch out a kind of society in which music becomes a natural expression not only of cultural values, but of social and political values as well. In fact, those sets of values might be indistinguishable from one another in such a society.

Harry wanted the Anthology to make America more like a “must have” nation. When he was a kid his father and mother lived in separate houses. He thought his father may have been Aleister Crowley; his mother thought she might have been the Czarina of Russia. This was not a family one could belong to, so he tried the Lummi Indians. Here, I believe, Harry found a community he longed to join, but he was beginning to realize that belonging was beyond him. The community he finally created, the “must have” community was, in a sadly appropriate way, almost entirely made up of people that Harry had never met.

This week, at Dan’s inspired suggestion, we’ll listen to some Anthology songs and share our impressions. One will surely be Tom Ashley’s The Coo Coo Bird. Here’s Ashley performing his “greatest hit” on a video shot in the early 1960’s by Jean Ritchie’s husband, George Pickow.

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