Category Editor: Dr Vic Gammon
There are many thousands of songs. There are many song collections and many versions of the same song. Where to start looking? That's the problem.
Note. Our intention is not to restrict this initiative to English Song, but to use the present headings as a starting point to view whatever develops from wherever it comes.
Traditional Songs by Theme
It's often difficult to categorise a song. Is the song of a Thames Bargeman a sea song or an industrial one? Likewise a Fishing song. Many industrial or rural songs had a political dimension. It doesn't do to worry too much about it - the categories are really just a rough guide to get to something that fits the browser's interest and in the spirit of the Wiki might lead to somewhere altogether unexpected! Some Song Books are arranged by theme. Here are some of the common themes in folk song:
Songs of Love and Marriage romantic, unrequited, happy and unhappy wedlock, spinsters and batchelors, broken tokens
Songs of Seduction brief, bawdy, passionate and tragic
Songs of Country Life millers, blacksmiths, cobblers
Songs of Good Company drinking, carousing, conviviality
Hunting and Poaching Songs the fox, the hare, transportation
Sea Songs press gangs, men o' war, fishing & whaling, jack on shore
Soldiers Songs the king's shilling, bloody battles
Songs of Comedy and Diversion comical tales, legendary animals, marvels
Ritual Songs folk ceremonies, mummer's plays
Songs of the Road travellers, gypsies and journeymen
Political and Historical Songs rebellion, reform, great events
Children's Songs rhymes, game songs
Songs of Heroes and Villains Highwaymen, scoundrels, and adventurers, real and fictitious
Industrial Songs pits and mills
section editor Chris Coe
This is a tricky section to think of including. One doesn't always associate folk song and 'performance' but some of the techniques applied by the traditional singers can bear scrutiny, especially by those who want to sing the same sort of songs.
The intimate fireside delivery of Walter Pardon.......
Lizzie Higgins taking a deep breath, expanding to be a 'giant' and setting forth..........
Watch this space.
--JohnnyAdams 22:46, 14 March 2007 (UTC)
Commercially Available Recordings
Currently available or deleted
- Kyloe Records
- Leader Records
- Musical Traditions Records
- Topic Records
- Wildgoose Records
- New World Records
Books & Bibliographies
Books of and about folk songs abound and seem to increase at an exponential rate. It is ironic that computerisation and digitalisation, which make this site possible, also make it much easier and cheaper to publish new books. In addition, many rare and inaccessible books from the past have been scanned and placed on the web in recent years, which has helped more and more people to find songs and contribute to scholarship and discussion. Probably the most complete and recent listing of books is the one given immediately below. After that, there follows a short selection of some important books.
- The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library online index including
The site also gives you access to the Roud Index, compiled by Steve Roud.
The Roud Folk Song Index is a database of 143,000+ references to songs that have been collected from oral tradition in the English language from all over the world.
It is the most important finding aid for traditional song ever compiled, and not even the most casual researcher can afford to do without it.
The Folk Revival
Contributors to Folkopedia frequently mention the "Folk Revival". What they normally mean is the quite sudden increase of interest in traditional song and music starting with pioneers in the 1950s and establishing itself in the 1960s with an explosion in the number of clubs and later festivals. Much has been written about the reasons for this, and this site will probably have a major section. The revival is sometimes called the "second folk revival", the first having been the major collecting activities of the 1890s and early 1900s, including the formation of the Folk Song Society in June 1898.