Ballads & Songs of Southern Michigan-songbook

A Collection of 200+ traditional songs & variations with commentaries including Lyrics & Sheet music

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io            Ballads and Songs of Michigan
shortly before his death. He was a trained gardener, and when work­ing for a friend of mine he often went to the woods for some plants or shrubs. Upon rare occasions he permitted us to accompany him and to learn much from him concerning the character and habits of our native flora. But never did he even suggest that he could sing a note, so that we had no way of knowing that we were in the company of a natural ballad singer. It was not until a few days before his death, when we were calling upon him, that we discovered his gift of song. Although he was very feeble, he sang for us one old ballad after another which he recalled from his youth in Scotland. Some of them had been adapted for refined ears by his beloved Bobby Burns, but others had not been subjected to the thorough "brush­ing" which Burns sometimes gave to the songs of his country. To John Laidlaw it did not matter; all voiced the spirit of the Scotland he knew and loved. To our regret he sang too rapidly to allow of transcription, and he was too weak to endure the tedium of repeti­tion. When he was exhausted, his good wife said that if he im­proved sufficiently she would help him to copy some of his favorite ballads for us. And this she did.
A number of men who would gladly have sung for us old songs which they remembered were prevented from doing so by well-meaning wives who preferred that their spouses sing church hymns rather than what they called foolish old songs that had never been known to do anybody any good. One Presbyterian woman, who played the organ in the church where her husband's fine tenor voice led the congregational singing, was greatly annoyed at his pre­senting some ballads for us one Sunday morning. To punish him she told her minister to announce for singing certain hymns which she knew her husband could not sing. When we next called upon this man for additional items which he had promised us, his devout wife sat near and expressed her disapproval so eloquently that we did not have the heart to embarrass the poor man further.
Once again the religious prejudices of a wife prevented our secur­ing some fine songs. We had been told of a good singer who spent long summer days herding his cows while they grazed on the un-fenced pine barrens in Oceana County. Riding in a sulky behind a staid old nag, he would while away the hours from milking time to milking time, keeping the animals within bounds as he sang old ballads and songs which he had loved in his youth. Through the kindness of a mutual friend we were invited to call upon him at his home one afternoon. We found him in fine fettle, and he sang with great gusto one song after another so rapidly that we could barely catch even a few fragmentary lines. At the end of the







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