day twenty five: a continuing tradition


5. Sep. 2008, 9:11

There is, I learned, a folk tradition of men singing songs from a woman perspective, usually a ballad portraying the female predicament. I found out from Martin Scorsese’s wonderful documentary on the early life and career of Bob Dylan called No Direction Home. It showed a group of burly Irishmen, The Clancy Brothers singing a traditional folk song where maiden tells her troubles. It does look and sound a bit silly if you’re not used to it, these bearded men singing ‘I am but a poor maid‘ etc.

I already knew Bob Dylan himself had used the form in his song North Country Blues, a cracking tear jerker about a struggling mining town. Guess what? All the men bugger off and the women are left trying to bring up the kids.

I was surprised though when I found Eef Barzelay had brought the tradition bang up to date. Male singer Eef opens his Bitter Honey album with the unlikely verse, “that was my ass you saw bouncin'/ next Ludacris/ it was only on screen for a second, but it's kinda hard to miss/ and all those other hoochie skanks, they aint got shit on me/ and one of Nelly’s body he totally agreed”.

And so the plaintive white male American singing style brings us the story of a (presumably) black, woman hip-hop dancer. We get the tragic background, the good intentions and the realisation that she can use her womanly assets, and the sexist world, to bring her “pretty things”. She finishes with the plea: “Don’t hate me cause I know just what this world is all about”.


  • Babs_05

    I knew about the old tradition but this new take sounds fantastic! How clever. :)

    19. Sep. 2008, 13:22
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