The title of an old English folk tune. The man in the story is a personification of barley and the alcohol that can be made from it. The attacks, death, indignities and resurrection suffered by the man represent the reaping, malting and invigorating by drinking process.
It dates back to Pagan Saxon times going through many incarnations and versions subsequently. Scottish poet Robert Burns published his own version in 1782. In modern times, versions by Traffic, Bert Jansch, John Redbourne Group, Pentangle, Martin Carthy, Steeleye Span, Jethro Tull, Maddy Prior, Frank Black, Oysterband, Billy Bragg and Joe Walsh have kept the tradition alive.
J is also for Jongleur
J is also for Jongleur, which fits in folk, as some commentators believe, as it was originally a professional storyteller/reciter in medieval France, who combined music, juggling and acrobatics in the role. In that sense, it’s not hard to see the jongleur as the precursor of the folk musician.
English troubadour Ralph McTell (most famous for Streets Of London, 1968) was also for a time a busker, continuing the best tradition of the travelling folk minstrel.
Listen: Steeleye Span’s version of John Barleycorn