Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Story Songs

So last night, a friend of mine asked the question: What's your favorite SCA or drinking song and why?

Mine is The Drunken Scotsman.

When I was 19, my housemate and I went to the Texas Renaissance Festival for the very first time. Made garb for it and everything. Camped the weekend. And this is where I first heard the song performed. It's -hysterical-! And the faire was amazing. But it's also a story song, and I -adore- story songs.

In asking the same question, I had another friend, Ryan Butler, who shared his three favorites, along with this bit of wisdom: What ties all of these songs together is that they are quite catchy and very easy to sing aloud. That is Irish music in a nutshell. The Irish often say that when they are happy, they sing. And when they are sad, they sing louder. There ya go.

His explanation got me thinking about my family.

The first time I went with my husband to his family reunion, I felt a little out of place and a lot overwhelmed, but all in a new wonderful kind of way. His family has large reunions every year in different parts of the country, usually at sites with excellent tourist attractions and plenty of golfing. And every night is full of visiting and some of the funnest card games I've ever been privy to. They're gearing up for the next one as we speak. (:

My family isn't nearly so consistent with reunions. When I think of reunions, I think of my mother's family. And reunions usually happened around weddings or funerals. What I remember most about them is that we would always go to my Grandma and Grandpa's house in Flint, Michigan. The house would be full of stories, songs and laughter. There'd be house chores and singing. Visiting and stories. And the grown ups playing with the kids.

Thinking about the music and my family made me realize that my love of story songs almost certainly came from my Grandma Betty.

One summer, when I was no older than my oldest son is now, I was interested in her organ. She taught me how to play chopsticks, twinkle twinkle little star, the entertainer-- and then I came across a song I wish I still knew how to play-- even though I still know how to sing it.

It actually took almost an hour to find an acceptable version of the song to share. See, it was originally (and is most frequently) performed by Johnny Preston-- with whooping in the background-- which is not at all how I learned this song.

But this song was my introduction to ballads and story songs and has fostered a life long love of them.

So before I wrap up this blog, I figured I'd share two others of my absolute favorite story songs:

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald


The Highwayman

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