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Ives, Richard Dyer-Bennett and others—whose dedication to folk music was the opening wedge for the current trend.
"It's wonderful," says Josh White, of the fact that it is impossible nowadays to turn on radio or television without getting a flood of tunes like "On Top of Old Smokey," "Beautiful, Beautiful Brown Eyes," or "Mockin' Bird Hill."
Josh White and others may be stunned by the magnitude of the trend they sparkled, but they are not surprised by it. "Why not?" asks one. "People were bound to get tired of Tin Pan Alley sentimentality. Folk music deals with real problems—divorce, hopeless love, gambling, drink, even such topical subjects as reckless driving. It comes from the heart and there is an undercurrent of sadness to it all. In times like these, people have to respond."
It's a response that brings headaches, however. Songs like "Good Night Irene" and "On Top of Old Smokey" quickly soared to the top of hit parades. Played endlessly by disk jockeys and juke boxes, their saturation point was reached so rapidly that almost as soon as a song was a suc­cess, another had to be found to take its place. The Weav­ers, who introduced both "Irene" and "Smokey," found an­other hit, "So Long, It's Been Good to Know You," among Woody Guthrie's Dust Bowl ballads, but others required real digging, some of it the most exciting kind of literary detective work.
For instance, Howard Richmond, the young man who publishes what the Weavers sing, recently began re-reading Sinclair Lewis' "Arrowsmith." On one page he found a snatch of sea chantey, sung by Martin Arrowsmith in a moment of insobriety. The catchy words describe a girl with a dark and roving eye, whose hair hung down in ring­lets. Richmond grabbed the phone, called the Weavers, and asked whether they knew the song. They didn't, but im­mediately began tracking it down. Failing in this country, they wrote the British Museum, which not unexpectedly has the finest collection of sea songs in the world. The Arrowsmith tune turned out to be called "The Pirate Ship," and musically was as lively as its lyric. In one line the girl is described as not only having a roving eye, but being the roving kind as well. The Weavers renamed it "The Roving
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III