The core theme of so much folk music and its relatives down the years.
A 2010 project described by Judi Sawyer is her CD, Love For The Underdog. Inspired and encouraged at the US Kerrville Folk Festival by singer-songwriter Joe Jencks, she created an album in memory of ‘friend, father, pastor and mentor, Donald Miller’. It’s contemporary folk singing, but the theme of ‘underdog’ is a timeless one.
She signs off her reports on the project, ‘Peace Love And Folk Music’, neatly linking hippie nostalgia with contemporary hopes.
But pity, sympathy, understanding, vicarious suffering and help on behalf of the slaves, the orphans, the hungry, the falsely accused, the poor, the oppressed, the victims, the homeless, women/children, the lost/wandering and man’s inhumanity to man is as old as man’s sojourn on earth. It has been the staple diet of folk music.
Which Side Are You On? and I Pity The Poor Immigrant and Oh My Darlin‘ Clementine are just three typical examples of American underdog/tragedy songs. But other cultures have them too. Irish ‘lyric champion of the underdog’, Liam Weldon’s Dark Horse On the Wind is an ode and a lament for Ireland’s freedom. He uncompromisingly reflected major awareness of disadvantage, exploitation and poverty.
Goanna Dreaming (2010), an album by Shane Howard with fellow members of Goanna and some Aboriginal performers, is a series of melancholic songs expressing heart-felt concern for the environment and the underdog.
His anger at the squalor Aborigines were living in, his sense of sadness at visiting Uluru, their sacred site, and his outrage at how some native people were virtually enslaved in working for little without laws to protect them, led to his composing songs to highlight the issue for a largely white audience. Politics meets folk again.
This is echoed in anger leading to song about African slaves, native Americans, Jewish people and any other ethnic group maligned for years.
U is also for Ugly Boogie
An American folk music collective founded in 2010. Sporting clarinet, vocals, ukulele, guitar, bass, mandolin and drums, their sound utilises an eclectic array of acoustic and folk styles. That is the way modern folk is going.
Listen (and watch): Goanna - Solid Rock (1982), song about Aboriginal-indigenous land rights