About Me

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Lake Mathews (Perris), CA, United States
Born in Illinois, I grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. I am married, for the 2nd time now, to Butch & got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me grandmother 25 times over & great-grandmother to over 20!. After many years working in industry, I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication, & was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 & returned to school & got my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore & genealogy - & add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/author/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play many folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I write the "Aunty Jeff" column for the Informer, newsletter of the Jefferson County NY Gen. Soc. I work in partnership with Gena Philibert-Ortega & Sara Cochran as Genealogy Journeys® where we focus on educating folks about Social History. More about that: genaandjean.blogspot.com. More on our podcasts: genjourneys.podbean.com. More about my own projects: Circlemending.org.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Some day other than Sunday Singalong - absence makes the heart grow fonder


Yes, I am still here. Yes, I am still a folklorist with a love of folk (type) music - contemporary, traditional, and all parts between. Actually, when one thinks of "traditional" music (folk?), what might come to mind are whatever are the people's music of the time period. This would mean that today, music that is in the top 10 (20, 30, 1000 ...) would fall in that category. If it's even a category (genre?). So I might look at the recent Grammy Awards as exemplifying the music of "the masses," but does that also mean that today's contemporary music will be tomorrow's traditional folk? If so, then, we can examine the music of times past (say, Beethoven's contemporaries): what would have been contemporary folk, now moved to traditional? But if you ask a folk musician if Beethoven's music would be considered folk, in any of its forms, I can guess that the response would be a head shake and then movement to the other side of the concert hall. And, then, if rationale of that reaction was because there was no (opera, excluded) words (thus conveying the emotions that many experience when listening to music of that genre - word used very loosely here). OK, but how about the traditional Irish "Aire" - Londonderry Aire - as initially composed? It was without words until someone added those, creating "Danny Boy." So, it is not the words that makes a composition categorized with "folk" - many pieces are instrumentals and many of those, even though there might be a set of lyrics to go with them, might not be known as "songs." My father used to sort of hum classical pieces (with or without words assigned, even though he rarely, if ever, sang them while accompanying mundane tasks, demonstrating a tune for someone, or otherwise just using vocalics that might, or might not, have been sung, had someone else been "performing" the material. 

So, it appears that anything can be considered folk music and the qualifier is more likely than not to be determined by the people (musicians, singers, composers, lyricists, ??) and their audiences (with probably a consideration being given to context - church program, political rally, birthday party, etc. . . . and that context being assigned by all participants, in all circumstances). So, my program of Civil War songs may be considered contemporary pieces, if I travel back in time to a battlefield or a reunion, but as traditional (with or without known author) when presented as a historical commentary. Or something like that.

Why am I writing all this . . . probably to keep my mind alert . . . health issues seem to have had a combined effect of atrophication and education of brain matter (the former when I am lost in a computer game and the latter when stimulated by the latest offering on the History channel). Plus, since my last post carries a composition date of November 2023, whatever I might have suggested as a contemporary topic or offering then might now (approximately 3 months after that last post) be classified as "traditional." Who I am today bears only scant similarity to the pre-surgical me, with perhaps some "if only" or "20/20 hindsight" judgements added for perspective. 

Where does this take us? I'm not sure, except that I do think I should add a song that addresses some topic that might vaguely connect to all I have written here (presuming I don't give up on the whole mess and slide off to take another nap or pain pill or both).

I'm not sure if I have suggested this song in the past, but it seems remarkably timely for someone who has been in and out of the hospital, doctors' offices, labs, and the interminable waiting rooms attached thereto. It's sort of the geriatric version of what I used to ask on road trips, "are we there yet?" And the inevitable answer: "No." (After all, if we had arrived at whatever the destination was to be, wouldn't the movement be halted and the job of transitioning into that "arrival" phase of the trip have begun?)

I have heard this song sung by many, many singers (traditional and contemporary) but when I think of it, I always hear it as sung by Pete Seeger. And he began singing it long before most of the experiences detailed had yet happened to him! "Get up and Go."

And now, I shall get up and go to do exactly that (after proofreading and posting this).

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Sunday Singalong - Native American Heritage Month

As a genealogist, I'm often told,  by someone who told them, that an ancestor was a Native American. We talk about what was initially told and by whom (often a grandparent), tribes or regions of the country where the ancestor is believed to have lived, how to trace the lineage and some basic basics of DNA research when it comes to determining ethnicity. I don't do Native American research outside of my region (Southern California and the Mission Indian Tribes) and it's interesting to note how many folks don't realize that there are different record collections for the various regions and tribes in them or moved into or out of them. It is not an easy type of research if one wanted to be versed in Native American Research as a whole. Specializing is most likely to be what a NA researcher chooses to do. 

It being Native American Heritage month, I started thinking the other day about the various songs that deal with that ethnicity in one way or another (if we go way back into the annals of American folk music, we find some songs that are not altogether sensitive to the ploits of the first peoples of this continent where I live, but more recent poems and songs tend to highlight many of the civil struggles of the American Indian). 

A favorite song of my husband's is "Indian Song," by Hoyt Axton, where he talks about the inhumane treatment his grandparents experienced and how that left impressions on his parents because, as children, they were admonished never to to reveal that they had Native American ancestry. (FYI, that becomes one of the biggest stumbling blocks for genealogists since many records - e.g., Census records for the US or the particular states where "race" is to be filled in; around here, those who had Indian blood often listed themselves as Mexican, but they were also found to claim ethnicity as White, Negro, or Mulatto - the last of these isn't exactly wrong, unless one has a full quantum of Native American blood. Often the term used is one that fits best considering the reporting person's skin tone and/or facial structure.)   

So, here I want to share Hoyt's "Indian Song" recording, from YouTube; I'm just sorry that it's not from a live concert. But the 1971 album has a great sound. Hoyt's music and stories, etc. can be enjoyed more at the website of Ray Kawal.  

Photo below is of the cover of the very first Hoyt Axton album I ever got - totally impossible to play now, the needle wore clear through the vinyl on some cuts! But I have the CD!

Any songs that fit the Native American theme?

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Sunday Singalong - potpourri


Another week, another Sunday, another time of unbelievable sadness and mayhem in the world. People say they are moving to this place or that in hopes of finding peace and a good location for their families. And then the violence or other horrible event occurs "in their own back yard."

It's sad, but true, that some of the worst disasters spawn songs that are sung for years, decades, or even centuries beyond the initial action. I would venture to say that some folks singing about a war in Ireland are completely unfamiliar with the event, but the song has a good melody and the words are easy to sing.

This one has elicited many a laugh, but those that remember some of the uncertain times during the Cold War years, "The Button Pusher" is less than funny.

Any disaster songs that come to mind?