Folk Music in The United States


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68                 An Introduction to Folk Music in the United States

granting some significant exceptions. Union members know these songs, but they learn them from the professional union song leaders at meetings and summer camps, and the latter, in turn, learn them from songbooks. The members themselves do not usually pass them on to their families, but there is reason to believe that these union songs may have been closer to folk tradition in the days when unions were first being organized. Similiar statements could probably be made about company songs, pohtical songs, patriotic songs, and the like. Yet as the days of active strife and violence in labor relations gradually recede, there is a chance that a true body of traditional folklore in the labor movement is emerging in the cities of America.

Songs of complaint about the city, and particularly about industrial life, are evidently more common and are closer to being in a genuine folk tradition. A collection of Pittsburgh industrial folk songs^ includes, besides a number of xmion songs, material which is not directly associated with union activity in spite of its pro-labor tone. Some of these songs are in the native languages of the foreign-bom workers (Example 28), sung to eastern and southern European tunes, but others are in English and occasionally make use of the tunes current in popular and broadside balladry, such as the following text, which is sung to the tune of the well-known "Crawdad Song."

Pittsburgh is a great old town, Pittsburgh; Pittsburgh is a great old town, Pittsburgh; Pittsburgh is a great old town, Solid steel from McKeesport down. Pittsburgh is a great old town, Pittsburgh.

Evidently, then, there seems to be httle music of city origin which takes root in urban folk tradition. Just as a great deal of rural folk music seems ultimately to be of city origin and to trickle down to folk tradition, so we can say that the folk tradition within the city is dependent on material from the countryside. But the American city, in contrast to its European counterpart, is a storehouse of European folk music which is kept alive in the enclaves which perpetuate to a degree their original rural culture.

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