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Ewan MacColl

Ewan MacColl may well have been the most influential person in the British folk song revival. From his early manhood until his death in 1989, he remained passionately committed to folk, though not exclusively; he was also a poet, playwright, organizer, activist, songwriter, husband, and father. MacColl was born James Henry Miller in Salford, England in 1915. His father was a lowland man who spoke Scots English, his mother a highlander who spoke Gaelic. Both of his parents were singers. MacColl left school at 14 to busk and act in the streets, and was quickly discovered by the BBC. Soon he was not only singing, but also writing programs for the radio. He founded the first folk club in England, the Ballads and Blues Club, as well as the Critic's Group, an influential early singing group that included such singers as Frankie Armstrong, Anne Briggs, and John Faulkner.

MacColl was one of the foremost interpreters of traditional songs ever recorded. The most ambitious project he undertook was to record a representative sampling of Professor Francis James Child's English and Scottish popular ballads. While his early repertoire was mainly of street songs and traditional material, he was also an important songwriter. Most impressive was his competence in producing expressions that had an appeal to all levels of society; his songs have been covered by performers as diverse as Dick Gaughan, the Pogues, Roberta Flack, and Elvis Presley, and many have been collected in several versions from the oral tradition. They range from savage political satire to tender love songs, and are supremely effective at producing the desired emotions.

Beyond his activities as a singer and songwriter, MacColl was an actor and a playwright. In 1947, George Bernard Shaw commented, "Apart from myself, MacColl is the only man of genius writing for the theater in England today." His playwriting and songwriting joined seamlessly in his "radio ballads," radio plays that bordered on ballad operas. Many of his most lovely and best-remembered songs were written for these plays, some of which have been released in album form.

MacColl was married to Peggy Seeger, herself a singer of folk songs (and half-sister to American icon Pete Seeger). Together MacColl and Seeger, sometimes accompanied by their children, also skilled musicians and singers, recorded quite a few albums as well. Many of MacColl's albums are out of print products of long-defunct record companies. Some, however, are readily available. All, like MacColl himself, are important factors in the history of the folk revival, to be cherished by all who encounter them. This great singer made many, many albums over many years. All of them are recommended for fans of great singing, though some may be a bit specialized (i.e., unaccompanied singing in broad Scots dialect) for some listeners. ~ Steve Winick
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: The English And Scottish Popular Ballads: Vol. 3 - Child Ballads

1. The Broom Of Cowdenknowes - Child 217

2. Captain Wedderburn's Courtship - Child 46

3. Fair Ellen - Child 63

4. Sweet William - The Famous Flower Of Serving-Men

5. The Elfin Knight - Child 2

6. Glenlogie - Child 238

7. Henry Martin - Child 250

x

Track List: The English And Scottish Popular Ballads: Vol. 2 - Child Ballads

1. The Beggar Man - Child Appendix 279

2. Lord Gregory - The Lass Of Roch Royal - Child 76

3. Young Beichan - Child 53

4. Glasgow Peggy - Child 228

5. Amang The Blue Flowers And The Yellow - Willie's Lyke-Wake

6. Bessie Bell And Mary Grey - Child 201

7. The Bonnie House O' Airlie - Child 199

8. Captain Ward And The Rainbow - Child 287

9. The Gypsy Laddie - Child 200

10. The Broomfield Hill - Child 43

11. Hughie Graeme - Child 191

12. Geordie - Child 209

13. Proud Lady Margaret - Child 47

14. The Sweet Kumadee - The Sweet Trinity - Child 286

x

Track List: The Definitive Collection

1. The Manchester Angel

3. Sheepcrook And Black Dog

4. Fourpence A Day

5. Oh Dear Me

6. The Collier Laddie

9. Turpin Hero

10. Jimmy Wilson

11. The Black Velvet Band

16. Farewell To Sicily

17. The Young Trooper Cut Down In His Prime

18. The Press Gang

19. The Sweet Kumadie

20. Homeward Bound

x

Track List: The Real MacColl

1. Ye Jacobites By Name

2. Johnny Cope

3. Cam Ye O'Er Fra France

4. Haughs O'Cromdale

5. Such A Parcel O'Rogues In A Nation

6. Farewell To Sicily

7. Derek Bentley

8. Johnny O'Breadiesley

9. Go Down Ye Murderers

10. Van Diemen's Land

11. Minorie

12. Sheep Crook And Black Dog

13. The Bramble Briar

14. One Night As I Lay On My Bed

15. The Grey C**k

16. The Blantyre Explosion

17. The Gresford Disaster

18. Four Loom Weaver

19. Song Of The Iron Road

20. Dirty Old Town

x

Track List: The English And Scottish Popular Ballads: Vol. 1 - Child Ballads

1. Johnnie O'Breadisley (Johnie C**k)(Child No. 114)

2. The Dowie Dens O'Yarrow - Child 214

3. Lord Randall - Child 12

4. Sir Patrick Spens - Child 58

5. The Burning O'Auchendoun - Willie MacIntosh- Child 183

6. Oud Goodman - Our Gudeman - Child 274

7. The Rantin Laddie - Child 240

8. Bawbee Allan - Barbara Allen - Child 84

9. The Brown Girl - Lord Thomas And Fair Annet - Child 73

10. The Three Ravens - Child 26

11. The Bonnie Earl O' Murray - Child 181

12. The Battle Of Harlaw - Child 163

13. Thomas Rhymer - Thomas Rymour - Child 37

x

Track List: Black And White

1. Ballad Of Accounting

2. The Driver’s Song

3. My Old Man

4. Dirty Old Town

5. Black And White

6. Brother Did You Weep

7. The Press Gang

8. The Shoals Of Herring

9. The Manchester Rambler

10. Sheath And Knife

11. Highland Muster Roll

12. Cam’ Ye O’er Frae France?

13. The Maid Gaed Tae The Mill

14. The Moving On Song

15. Nobody Knew She Was There

16. Looking For A Job

17. Kilroy Was Here

18. The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face

19. The Foggy Dew

20. The Joy Of Living

x

Track List: Songs Of Robert Burns

1. Green Grow The Rashes, O

2. Landlady, Count The Lawin

3. I Maun Hae A Wife

4. O That I Had Ne'er Been Married

5. Galloway Tam

6. I Hae A Wife O' My Ain

7. There's Cauld Kail In Aberdeen

8. A Braw Wooer

9. The Rantin Dog, The Daddie O't

10. Ay Waukin, O

11. Duncan Grey

12. Wha'll Mow Me Now?

13. Rattlin Roarin' Willie

14. Hey Ca' Thro'

15. To Daunton Me

16. Jumpin John

17. What Can A Young Lassie Do Wi' An Auld Man

18. The Dusty Miller

19. Tibbie Dunbar

20. The Cooper O' Cuddy

21. She's Fair And Fause

22. The Deil's Awa Wi' Th' Exciseman

23. A Man's A Man For A' That

Comments

Report as inappropriate
mcreiner
I'm hearing a female singer, not MacColl. Probably Peggy Seeger but the album cover/labeli n g is screwed up.
Report as inappropriate
mcreiner
The version I'm hearing is sung by a woman, not MacColl.
Report as inappropriate
Wonderful to hear Scots ballads in true Scots dialect.
Report as inappropriate
Great voice, diligent researcher, spectacular publicist. Maybe not the nicest fellow, but the best of the 'British' folk revivalists. Sang my kids to sleep for years with 'Sweet Thames Flow Softly' and 'Outward Bound.' Maybe not the nicest of fellows, but indispensabl e ; the radio ballads are brilliant.
Report as inappropriate
The Real MacColl, knew more about folk music than most, but alas the man coul'no'live ' f o r e v e r . But his tunes will..
Report as inappropriate
I've an old vinyl one with Mr MacColl singing acappella some of Burns medium racy poems- took me forever (in the mid '70's) to decipher the language of "the Wind Blew the Lassie's Plaidie Awa'"

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