Give Us a Tune: “Lord Douglas”

Lord Douglas, perhaps the most successful and well-known of his many adaptations of Child Ballads and a firm favourite of guitarists up and down the land. The track won Moray yet another BBC Radio 2 Folk Award – for Best Traditional Track – in 2013. This new version has the welcome addition of stunning backing vocals from multi-instrumentalist and academic Angeline Morrison

Folk Radio UK

Traditional Lyrics:

Awake, awake, arise, you seven sleepers,
So long before the day,
For Lord Douglas comes all in your lady’s chamber
To steal his love away.

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Give Us a Tune: “Pavanne”

Performed by June Tabor

From June Tabor’s “Against the Streams” 1994

Performed by Dave Swarbrick with vocals by Simon Nicol

From Dave Swarbrick & Simon Nicol “When We Were Young”

Performed by Richard and Linda Thompson

“Pavanne” by Richard Thompson

Pavanne, cold steel woman Pavanne
How do you love a woman
With eyes cold as the barrel of her gun
Who’s never missed her mark on anyone
Pavanne, Pavanne, Pavanne

Casino doors swing open, the rich men raise their eyes
They say who is this beauty as elegant as ice
And later there’s an accident, another charge d’affair
Is lying in a pool of blood, no witness anywhere
And they say she was a hundred miles away
The hotel porter saw her climb the stairs
And the maid with trembling hands knows what to say
When the judge says “Are your sure,” “I’m sure” she swears

Pavanne, cold steel woman Pavanne
How do you love a woman
With eyes cold as the barrel of her gun
Who’s never missed her mark on anyone
Pavanne, Pavanne, Pavanne

At the presidential palace a thousand people saw
His excellency leave his car and never make the door
The blood flows from his fingers as he clutches at the stain
He staggers like a drunken man, lies twisted in the rain
And they say she grew up well provided for
Her mother used to keep her boys for sure
And father’s close attentions led to talk
She learned to stab her food with a silver fork

Pavanne, cold steel woman Pavanne

And they say she didn’t do it for the money
And they say she didn’t do it for a man
They say that she did it for the pleasure
The pleasure of the moment

Pavanne, cold steel woman Pavanne
How do you stop this woman
When everyone is moving in a trance
Like prisoners of some slow, courtly dance
Pavanne, Pavanne, Pavanne
Pavanne, Pavanne, Pavanne

Give us a tune: “The Leaving of Liverpool”

“If a man’s a sailor he will get along but if not then he’s sure in hell.”

Fare Thee Well, My Own True Love

The Leaving of Liverpool is a traditional folk song which tells the story of a sailor who must leave his town and his true love behind while he goes off to earn his living on a long voyage at sea.

From the moment he leaves his only concern is to return to her as soon as possible.

Bob Dylan borrowed heavily from The Leaving of Liverpool when he wrote one of his first songs, called simply, Farewell.

The song is also often referred to as Fare Thee Well, My Own True Love, which is the first line of the chorus.

Like many folk songs, The Leaving of Liverpool has developed several versions and variations since it was first discovered and published in the late 19th century.

The first known reference to the song came from an American seaman called Richard Maitland. He heard it being sung on a ship called the General Knox in 1885. Maitland later recalled: “I was on deck one night when I heard a Liverpool man singing it …yes sir, that song hit the spot.”

Leaving of Liverpool travelled the world

The song went on to hit the spot with listeners all across the world.

It became more widely known after Maitland passed the song on to William Main Doerflinger, a folk music enthusiast from New York who specialised in collecting sea songs and shanties. Doerflinger published The Leaving of Liverpool in his book, Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman.

The song was quickly picked up by a wider range of singers and soon, versions started to appear on both sides of the Atlantic.

Fare you well the Prince’s Landing Stage

The Doerflinger version begins with the line, Fare you well the Prince’s landing stage, and this is still the most popular opening to the song today.

However, many versions ignore this verse and get straight to the love element with the line, Farewell to you my own true love. While this line works very well, it is a later addition and is not found in the original version.

The Prince’s landing stage was the name of the platform used by people embarking on ships in Liverpool, often because they were emigrating.

Many of those emigrants had come across from Ireland to board ships sailing to America. Liverpool was a major port in the 19th century and was able to offer more US destinations than were available at many Irish ports.

Trains ran all the way to the platform to make embarkation quicker and easier.

Song captures the hardship of the sailor’s life

The song gives a brief glimpse of the hardship sailors and their families had to endure by long separation.

Journeys were long in those days and perilous, especially when passing “stormy Cape Horn”. Sailors could be away from home for several months, even years. The life was hard and the treatment could often be harsh.

The only thing that kept many sailors going was the thought of returning to the lovers they left behind.

They say she’s a floating in hell

The reference in The Leaving of Liverpool to the Davy Crockett ship with Burgess as its captain gives some insight into the hardship endured by sailors.

The ship is referred to as a floating hell. Life would be particularly tough for unemployed young who were forced to go to sea because they had no chance of finding jobs at home on land.

Not all of them were suited to a life at sea, which added to the hardship. As the song lyric suggests in reference to life on board Burgess’s ship: “If a man’s a sailor he will get along but if not then he’s sure in hell.”

Leaving of Liverpool now a folk standard

The Leaving of Liverpool has now become a standard on the folk circuit. It’s been covered by numerous top performers including  The Dubliners and The Clancys and Tommy Makem. It was also hit in the UK in the 1960s for the ballad group The Spinners.

More recently it has been recorded a new generation of performers including Gaelic Storm, The Pogues and The Young Dubliners | Source | Lyrics and Chords

The Old Songs Podcast explores the stories behind traditional songs – where they came from, who sang them, how they’ve changed and where they’re going. [ Produced by ]

Pentangle “Willy O Winsbury”

Willie O Winsbury is Child Ballad 100 (Roud 64). The song, which has numerous variants, is a traditional Scottish ballad that dates from at least 1775, and is known under several other names, including “Johnnie Barbour” and “Lord Thomas of Winesberry”.

Traditional lyrics

The king had been a prisoner

And a prisoner long in Spain

And Willy of the Winsbury

Has lain long with his daughter at home

“What ails you, what ails you, my daughter Janet?

Why you look so pale and wan?

Oh, have you had any sore sickness

Or yet been sleeping with a man?”

“I have not had any sore sickness

Nor yet been sleeping with a man

It is for you, my father dear

For biding so long in Spain”

“Cast off, cast off your berry-brown gown

You stand naked upon the stone

That I may know you by your shape

If you be a maiden or none”

And she cast off her berry-brown gown

She stood naked upon the stone

Her apron was low and her haunches were round

Her face was pale and wan

“Oh, was it with a lord or a duke or a knight

Or a man of birth and fame?

Or was it with one of my serving men

That’s lately come out of Spain?”

“No, it wasn’t with a lord or a duke or a knight

Nor a man of birth and fame

But it was with Willy of Winsbury

I could bide no longer alone”

And the king has called on his merry men all

By thirty and by three

Says, “Fetch me this Willy of Winsbury

For hanged he shall be”

But when he came the king before

He was clad all in the red silk

His hair was like the strands of gold

His skin was as white as the milk

“And it is no wonder”, said the king

“That my daughter’s love you did win

For if I was a woman as I am a man

My bedfellow you would have been

And will you marry my daughter Janet

By the truth of your right hand?

Oh, will you marry my daughter Janet?

I’ll make you the lord of my land”

“Oh yes, I will marry your daughter Janet

By the truth of my right hand

Oh yes, I will marry your daughter Janet

But I’ll not be the lord of your land”

And he’s mounted her on a milk-white steed

And himself on a dapple grey

He has made her the lady of as much land

As she shall ride in a long summer’s day

Who is the Writer Behind “House of the Rising Sun?”

By Jacob Uitti

The legendary blues song “The House of the Rising Sun” is one of those tunes with a murky origin story. Who wrote it? Was there a single person to do so? It’s unclear.

The traditional folk song is about a person whose life has gone down the drain thanks to a location in New Orleans, Louisiana. To date, there are many renditions of the song, from Bob Dylan to Dolly Parton and Dave Van Ronk.

The most famous version of the track was recorded in 1964 by the British rock band, The Animals. That version hit No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart, as well as in the U.S. and Canada. It has since been called the “first folk rock hit.”

Early Versions and Alan Lomax

The song originally appeared in Appalachia, in the Northeast part of the United States. But it likely has roots in traditional English folk songs, experts say. Though the exact authorship is unknown today.

Music scholars have noted that it bears resemblance to the 16th-century song “The Unfortunate Rake,” but whether these songs are siblings, so to speak, is unknown.

Legendary folk song expert Alan Lomax has noted that the melody may be related to the 17th-century folk song “Lord Barnard and Little Musgrave.” Again, though, there is no clear throughline between the two. Lomax has also said that “Rising Sun” was the name of a bawdy house, or whore house, in two other traditional English songs. It was also the name of an English pub.

In 1953, Lomax met English musician and farm worker Harry Cox, known for his wealth of folk song history, who said that there was a song called “She was a Rum One,” that had two possible opening lines. One is, If you go to Lowestoft, and ask for The Rising Sun, There you’ll find two old whores and my old woman is one. The recording Lomax and Harry Cox made is still available (here). Though, many believe Cox’s “She Was A Rum One” is not connected to “Rising Sun.”

Even Earlier Versions

Some scholars believe the song goes back to the turn of the 20th century in America, with the oldest published version of its lyrics credited to Robert Winslow Gordon in 1925. The lyrics ran in a column in Adventure magazine, titled “Old Songs That Men Have Sung.” Those lyrics go:

There is a house in New Orleans, it’s called the Rising Sun
It’s been the ruin of many poor girl
Great God, and I for one.

The oldest known recording is by Appalachian artists Clarence Ashley and Gwen Foster who cut a version in September of 1933. Ashley said he’d learned it from his grandfather, Enoch, who was married around the time of the Civil War. In Ashley’s version, which switches narrators between a man and a woman, the lyrics go:

There is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
Where many poor boys to destruction has gone
And me, oh God, are one.

Another early version was recorded by controversial American artist Leadbelly.

A bit later in 1937, Lomax recorded folks performing the song, including the 16-year-old daughter of a local miner, Georgia Turner. That song was recorded under the title “The Rising Sun Blues.”

Other songs exist with similar titles but are unrelated, including “Rising Sun Blues” by Ivy Smith in 1927.

Later Versions

American Songwriter previously wrote about the 1961 arrangement of the song by New York City folk artist Dave Van Ronk, here. That arrangement was later appropriated by Bob Dylan, causing some friction between the musical friends. Dolly Parton recorded her version in 1980.

Possible Rising Sun Locales

There are various places in Crescent City that have become possible locales for the subject of the song. Each has varying plausibility. While “House of the Rising Sun” often implies a brothel, many don’t know if the song points to a real place or a fictitious one.

Some think it could be a jailhouse, the place where a woman goes after she killed her alcoholic abusive father. Or it could be the place where prostitutes were detained.

According to old city directories of New Orleans, one short-lived hotel on Conti Street in the French Quarter in the 1820s was called Rising Sun. But it burned down in 1822. In the late 19th century, there was also Rising Sun Hall on what is now Cherokee Street. Also, in the 1860s, a place called The Rising Sun was advertised in local papers on what is now the lake side of the 100 block of Decatur Street. That place boasted a restaurant, a larger beer salon, and a coffee house.

Van Ronk, himself, wrote in his biography, The Mayor of MacDougal Street, that he was in New Orleans when someone showed him some old photos from the city. And among them “was a picture of a foreboding stone doorway with a carving on the lintel of a stylized rising sun … It was the Orleans Parish women’s prison.”

Furthermore, Bizarre New Orleans, a guidebook on New Orleans, says that the real house was at 1614 Esplanade Avenue between 1862 and 1874. It was said to have been named after its madam, Marianne LeSoleil Levant, whose name means “the rising sun” in French.

Guidebook, Offbeat New Orleans, asserts that the real House of the Rising Sun was at 826–830 St. Louis St. between 1862 and 1874, also purportedly named for Marianne LeSoleil Levant. The building still stands, and Eric Burdon, a British singer for The Animals and War, said after visiting at the behest of the owner, “The house was talking to me.”

Not everyone believes that the house actually existed. Pamela D. Arceneaux, a research librarian at the Williams Research Center in New Orleans, once said, “I have made a study of the history of prostitution in New Orleans and have often confronted the perennial question, ‘Where is the House of the Rising Sun?’ without finding a satisfactory answer.

“Although it is generally assumed that the singer is referring to a brothel, there is actually nothing in the lyrics that indicates that the ‘house’ is a brothel. Many knowledgeable persons have conjectured that a better case can be made for either a gambling hall or a prison; however, to paraphrase Freud: sometimes lyrics are just lyrics.”

Photo by David Redfern / Redferns