Folk Songs

All folksongs begin with the phrase: ''I asked my love to take a walk' The walk should be:

  • down by the riverside
  • past the prison
  • into the valley
  • over the sea and far away
  • on the Streets of Forbes
  • in the month of May

    It should NOT be:

  • to the deli for a carton of milk
  • to Coles
  • along the Champs-Elysee, Park Avenue, or Oxford Street
  • on rollerblades.

    The conversation along the way should be about:

  • Your racehorse
  • The perfidious British
  • The revelation that you are her/his longlost brother/husband/blacksmith/Lord
  • The inevitable baby Murder
  • War

    Places to be mentioned include:

  • Botany Bay
  • The Mountains of ...
  • A Land called Honalee
  • Carrickfergus
  • The valley
  • The fair
  • All of the above in reverse order, Botany Bay always coming last.

    All folk songs repeat the same words in each verse,but move them around until one person is killed or the ghost appears. If the ghost appears, it repeats the original verses and the process begins all over again. This is known as revenge.

    The chorus of all folk songs is half of the words of the verse moved around some more, and with the addition of some poignant nonsense syllables, all in a minor key. No new information is provided.

    References to work in folk songs should include:

  • Hammers (visionary or steam)
  • Railroad trains, preferably on the same track hurtling
  • towards each other
  • Lots of whales
  • Sowing, reaping, harvesting, shearing, droving, babies dropped in furrows, etc.

    Job categories allowed in folk songs include:

  • Seafaring
  • Circus work
  • Lighthouse keeping
  • Mourning
  • Gypsying (especially kidnapping)
  • Humping the bluey
  • Blowing up British buildings.

    References to work in folk songs should avoid the following job categories:

  • Insurance
  • Work for any government agency except prisons
  • Re-insurance
  • Software engineering

    Words that can be sprinkled at random over folk songs:

  • gather,
  • farewell,
  • thee,
  • dead,
  • twas,
  • alas,
  • true love,
  • bonnie,
  • dagger,
  • do Lord.
  • and so on....
    These apply mostly to ballads.

    True loves are always either:

  • Missing (gone for seven years)
  • Dead (see Necrophilia element)
  • In disguise
  • Your brother/sister (either known or unknown)
  • False (off chasing/married to another)

    If it's a happy ending, it's a very rare folksong.

    If your true love is dead, you must:

  • Long to kiss his/her dead lips or other portions of the anatomy (The Tradition of Necrophilia)
  • Never love again
  • Have done her in yourself after spending all night diggin' of her grave
  • Have done him in yourself because he done you wrong

    If you are a sailor, and you meet a fair young lady, you will: Wind up with no money and no clothes, wearing a dress (the Transvestite Element)

  • Get laid after pulling her string
  • Acquire a painful and unpleasant social disease
  • Get shot after she dresses in men's clothing and finds you've been false (see Transvestite Element)

    If you are a young lady, and you meet a sailor, you will:

  • Turn him down because he's dirty
  • Turn him down because you don't recognize him
  • Change your mind when you find out he's got money
  • Change your mind after experiencing his sexual prowess
  • Dress up in man's clothing (the Transvestite Element, yet again)

    And LOTS of metaphors!! Referring to various actions, body parts, etc., should be as circumspect as possible. Birds, flowers, alcoholic beverages,(blood red wine, etc)... may be freely substituted for lips, breasts etc. And for Male Parts...anything is ok as long as it is longer than it is wide.

    You are a bona fide folk singer if:

  • you have nine different guitar capos, including a semi-automatic flipoff
  • your first name is one syllable long, or at most is two syllables that end in a vowel, e.g. Doc, Pete, Guy, Tom, Al, Townes, Woody, Shawn, Joan, Judy, Nanci
  • you learned the song on a porch, preferably one with a sofa with the insides sprung out
  • you refuse to make an anatomical pun about "The Londonderry Air"
  • you have ''This X fights Y'' inscribed somewhere on your instrument, e.g. ''this E string fights racism''.
  • you have a dog named after a colour.

    You are not a bona fide folk singer if:

  • you play the Hammond Organ
  • your first name is Brittany (unless you are a boy)
  • your last name is Rockefeller or Windsor
  • you learned the song from your chauffeur or housekeeper, unless her name is Elizabeth Cotton
  • you have a sticker on your guitar that reads: "Baby On Board"
  • you have a cat (whether it comes back or not) or goldfish (see Entry under whales).
    You can have a horse as long as you race it in England or France.

    Sender: Irish Traditional Music List <>
    From: Bree Delian <>
    Date: Fri, 7 Apr 2000
    This arrived unattributed. Do you know who wrote it? If so, send me email so I can add proper attribution.