Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"Brave Wolfe"

Not feeling bloggy because I'm lost in the wilderness of the French and Indian War again.

I asked my pal Peg, who knows traditional folk music, if there are any songs from the French and Indian War. She turned up "Brave Wolfe, or the Battle of Quebec," sung here by Carolyn Hester.

I've already posted the painting "The Death of Wolfe" romanticizing James Wolfe, the English general who beat the French at the Battle of Quebec in 1759--almost the last big battle of the war.

The liner notes say: "In America, the backwoods bards paid tribute to the sweetheart he left grieving for him in the haunting ballad where she is made to say, 'Strange news is come to town, strange news is carried, some say my love is dead. . . "

Of course, when you read about these war heroes, they're usually not romantic or even likable at all, and Wolfe certainly wasn't. He waged what was essentially a terrorist war against the Canadians--not that that was unusual in this war.

Anyway, it's a good song--it survived 150 years before being written down.


Anonymous said...

Hey! Just listened to this. Thanks for posting even though you're awash in the F & I war studies. (Veriword is "unbred", which could be a caption for the folky pic of Carolyn, Bobby, et al). Ths photo looks vaguely familiar, tho from where I can't say. Pretty sure my folks didn't have any of her albums. But one of my earliest folk album listening/learning the songs memories was from a prob'ly even lesser known than Carolyn male singer named Paul Evans. Two of my favorite songs from his album also happened to be about wars. Not sure of titles but will google'em later: 1. THE LOWLAND SEAS, about an ill-treated/fated poor youth who helps sink the "Spanish enemy" and is betrayed and left to drown at the captain's orders. The captain had promised him a treasure chest of gold and silver and own fairest daughter as a bonnie bride, if he were to swim alongside of the "Spanish enemy" and sink her in the Lowland Sea. The youth risked his life and the catain left him to the seas. Not a Kirkish cap'n in more ways than one. 2. MADRID, YOU WONDROUS CITY--I think it's a resistance song from the Spanish Civil war. I can still hear the sound of Evans singing these and pretty much can sing most to these forgetting a line or two here and there, but haven't heard them since my late teens. Ahh...imprinting.

Carry It On, Sistah!


Anonymous said...

Oh, Whew! No comments yet! I just finished my pseudo-musicologist stint on google about Paul Evans and came up with more than I can possibly deal with at this time. However, he apparently recorded his first album in 1957 (my birth year), and wrote and recorded tons. It says he wrote MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, which doesn't make sense to me, since my folks had a Leadbelly album that was way old of HIM singin' the song. Those other two tunes aforementioned were GOLDEN VANITY and LOS CUATROS GENERALES. Mamita, mamia I thought I remembered. THe Album was recorded in 1961 and was called "Paul Evans Sings Folk Songs Of Many Lands." (well, at least 6 or so). This is making me feel like an "ignore-anus" as one of the goils useta say. I feel intimidated and slightly threatened by my dearth of musical knowledge, Fresca, but I will recover!

Sing Out!


Fresca said...

Now I feel intimidated, Stef, in a GOOD way. : )
I am an ignore-anus about folk music.

But the Lowlands Seas must have been during the wars between the Netherlands (the lowlands, of course) and the Spanish.
Which I was just reading about working on the Netherlands.

We are a nasty lot, we humans, as I'm always saying, though we do have our better days.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it was, but it was sung in that British-y folk ballad style. So, later, I'll look up the origins of that song's (GOLDEN VANITY'S) melody/lyrics. Now, I'm gonna respond to your next post.

Margaret said...

Neat-o! Thanks.

"Bad news has come to town"---it seems like this is what much of folk music is about.

Last summer, some folk-savvy fiddlers came to stay on the farm I was working at and played folk songs for us. "Pretty Polly" was lead up to a mountain by her fiancée where he "stabbed her in the heart" (it was always the heart) for no reason at all.
Another poor girl asked all her family members for permission to marry, except for her brother, who killed her, also electing the heart as his target. Sheesh.

Fresca said...

Bad news makes the best stories, eh?

Kellie said...

The Mudcat Cafe site lists three versions of the song.

I love the little stock phrases that turn up over and over again in folk music. "Bad news is come to town" shows up in one of the first songs I learned to sing, "The Blacksmith." They're not so much cliches or copying as storytelling shorthand.

Fresca said...

Oh, Kellie: I forgot I could ask you for tips about music stuff too.
"Storytelling shorthand"--I like that!

The "bad news" phrase sounds like "once upon a time." And there's always plenty of it to go around, too.