The movements of music genres, the cross-overs and fusions are always open to debate. One interesting theory was voiced by Martin Carthy on the BBC programme, Folk Britannia, when he claimed that Davy Graham, a highly rated virtuoso guitarist believed that there was a link between oriental music and Irish music.
He demonstrated this by Graham’s rendition of the tune, She Moves Through The Fair, which he played on a guitar tuned to oriental music, and ‘he played melodically, rather than harmonically; chords were suggested, not imposed’.
Certainly, Graham did achieve an oriental, pentatonic-scale feel to the tune, so it may be that world music has always been closer, interlinked and threaded than people thought. He was also, with singer Shirley Collins responsible for Folk Roots New Routes (1964), a radical album that defined the crossroads of folk between its past and its future, fusing folk, jazz and blues.
T is also for Threads
It is also, then, for Threads. A party game is to be had in naming connections in folk and common ground. For example, how many songs include the line ‘I dreamed I saw...’ or similar?
The socialist activist and singer Joe Hill (see under H), was commemorated in a 1930 poem by Alfred Hayes, set to music by Earl Robinson (1936), and frequently performed by Pete Seeger, Paul Robeson and The Dubliners, I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night. Billy Bragg did a version, I Dreamed I Saw Phil Ochs Last Night.
This was lifted by Bob Dylan in his I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine. Country-folker Neil Halstead’s I Dreamed I Saw Soldiers goes in a different direction, as does Porter Wagoner’s I Dreamed I Saw America On Her Knees and Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush, which opens, ‘Well I dreamed I saw the knights in armor coming...’
American folk singer Ed McCurdy wrote, Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream, with the lyric: ‘Last night I had the strangest dream/I'd ever dreamed before/I dreamed the world had all agreed/To put an end to war’.
A Murder Of One by Counting Crows contains the line, ‘I dreamt I saw you walking up a hillside in the snow’. There is also Martin Luther King’s famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and more recently, I Dreamed A Dream from the musical Les Miserables.
And so the Threads game can go on. It can be played with cover versions too. How many people recorded versions of Scarborough Fair, for example? Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger, Shirley Collins, Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, Sarah Brightman, Moody Blues’ singer Justin Hayward, Pentangle and Bryn Terfel.
Listen: Paul Robeson’s version of I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night