• The Living Tradition - modifying a folk song
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The Living Tradition - modifying a folk song
on: March 29, 2019, 13:06:04
My latest lyrical adventure has me tweaking a folk song that was tweaked from the original by another folk band in the late 80's

It tells the story of the Sheffield Grinders who had a lifespan typically about 32 years old due working in cramped conditions in a grinding hull.
Basically they died of silicosis from breathing in the dust from the millstone grit grinding wheels. (dry grinding). I've been working on an arrangement I might be able to sing using DADGAD tuning.

It's interesting to think about doing an Industrial / social comment folk song. I'm not looking for really changing this but I'm wondering if anybody else has thought about looking at their own areas social history for inspiration.

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THE SHEFFIELD GRINDER ( Afterhours Version modified again by me )

(Originally, The Grinders, or, The Saddle on the Right Horse)

The Sheffield grinder's a terrible blade.
Tally hi-o, the grinder!
He sets his little ones down to trade.
Tally hi-o, the grinder!
He sets ‘em all down to grind in the hull,
Till their bodies are stunted and their eyes are dull,
And their brains they are dizzy and dazed in their skulls.
Tally hi-o, the grinder!


He shortens his life and he hastens his death.
Tally hi-o, the grinder!
And he’ll drink steel dust with every breath.
Tally hi-o, the grinder!
And he won't wash his hands ‘ere he eats a meal
And he won’t wear a mask ‘ere he grinds at his wheel
And he’ll die as he’s lived, as hard as cold steel.
Tally hi-o, the grinder!


These Sheffield grinders of whom we speak.
Tally hi-o, the grinder!
Well they’re men who’ll earn just one pound a week.
Tally hi-o, the grinder!
But of Sheffield grinders there’s another sort
That I think ought to be called to court,
Aye, and that’s the grinding Government Board.
Tally hi-o, the grinder!


At whose door lies the blacker blame?
Tally hi-o, the grinder!
Where lies the heavier weight of shame?
Tally hi-o, the grinder!
Is it the famine-price contractor's head,
Or on the workman's who’s under-fed,
Who grinds his own bones and his children’s for bread?
Tally hi-o, the grinder!

"Love and Life is all about connections"


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Re: The Living Tradition - modifying a folk song
Reply #1 on: March 29, 2019, 14:00:14
« Last Edit: March 29, 2019, 15:01:32 by DonMar »
This is really well done, @MrBouzouki . Very tight. Excellent imagery. I can feel & hear everything being described in those terrible conditions. Heartbreaking, actually. And the  'grinding Government Board' line adds another dimension.

I've written lyrics on social issues, mainly corporate greed, or the destruction of the environment or marine life. Genealogical research is also a rich source of material. A few years ago, I came across documents regarding conditions for paupers in various parts of London in the 1800s.  Some of the stories reduced me to tears. I  wrote a lyric, then set it aside for revision. You've inspired me to resurrect it.

Donna
Honour the earth. Without It, we'd be nowhere. - D.D.


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Re: The Living Tradition - modifying a folk song
Reply #2 on: April 07, 2019, 13:06:48
Hi Mr Bazouki,
Touched a nerve with me here; I’m Sheffield born myself and I’ve often pondered over those monumental, abandoned mill stones in the hills.
I have a written few social.comment songs (Hillsboro for one, called ‘lessons will be learned’). I think this genre got me into writing songs in the first place. You complain about something and get accused of being a grumpy old man. Put it to music and everyone says ‘yeah, too right!’
G
valar morghulis
GTB


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Re: The Living Tradition - modifying a folk song
Reply #3 on: April 09, 2019, 15:36:06
@GTB .... aye the whole social history thing / comment is really what folk music is all about.
Well that and dancing and drinking.  :blackgrin:

The number of people who got various lung diseases from mining, quarrying, cotton spinning, grinding etc. in Victorian times and later must be immense. As an ex-environmental researcher in the Steel Industry it definitely resonates with me.


Re: The Living Tradition - modifying a folk song
Reply #4 on: July 05, 2019, 06:28:58
My latest lyrical adventure has me tweaking a folk song that was tweaked from the original by another folk band in the late 80's

It's interesting to think about doing an Industrial / social comment folk song. I'm not looking for really changing this but I'm wondering if anybody else has thought about looking at their own areas social history for inspiration.


I’ve tweaked some old folk songs (a venerable tradition) and written some lyrics with social commentary. Several about the plight of soldiers and recently one about the homeless.

It can be a good source for inspiration... but tricky if you want it to be meaningful but not devicive... truth is... you’ll never please everyone.... but you want to reach the hearts of most listeners.

Your song does that...


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Re: The Living Tradition - modifying a folk song
Reply #5 on: July 05, 2019, 19:24:21
Hi Mr Bazouki,
Touched a nerve with me here; I’m Sheffield born myself and I’ve often pondered over those monumental, abandoned mill stones in the hills.
I have a written few social.comment songs (Hillsboro for one, called ‘lessons will be learned’). I think this genre got me into writing songs in the first place. You complain about something and get accused of being a grumpy old man. Put it to music and everyone says ‘yeah, too right!’
G

I am a grumpy old man, @GTB. And you are so right. Say the lyrics out loud (speacially if they're close to the quick) and you will be accused of character murdering or some such expression; put a bunch of jingle jangle guitars behind it and they think it's caberet.

Where dancing and drinking is concerned, caberet is pretty close to traditional music. It IS trad, since it's almost extinct. Or at least over here it is. Political correctness rules.

Like your comment very much!
Kind regards, Gus


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Re: The Living Tradition - modifying a folk song
Reply #6 on: July 09, 2019, 01:36:05
He sets ‘em all down to grind in the hull,
Till their bodies are stunted and their eyes are dull,
And their brains they are dizzy and dazed in their skulls.
Tally hi-o, the grinder!
That takes me back @MrBouzouki ... in the early 70`s I worked 12 hour shifts on a grinder at a Sheffield mill in order to save enough money to quit Uni and travel. Walking those dark streets in the winter ,enduring the racket of the machines, spitting up the dust. A few weeks was enough and I had my ticket-your song reminds me of the lifelong workers with no such luck.
I like to spin stories around local /historical events ( a tramp living in the woods I remembered as a kid, a lovely old house the council where I live now are trying to pull down).
I think you`re into a rich vein and look forward to your recording of this one.

Robert


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Re: The Living Tradition - modifying a folk song
Reply #7 on: July 16, 2019, 09:19:01
As @DonMar comments, there's some great imagery with these words @MrBouzouki.

I hadn't heard of Sheffield grinders before and these types of song can really educate people about social problems and events.

I could imagine Billy Bragg singing this one and I'm looking forward to hearing it when you record it.

cheers



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