Daily Song Study

Natalie Merchant – Crazy Man Michael

In songs on February 7, 2012 at 12:06 pm

In yesterday’s study the words Fairport Convention came up, and it reminded me of this tune.

Written in 1969 by band members Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick, it is covered here beautifully by Natalie Merchant, who included it in her 2003 collection of folk songs, The House Carpenter’s Daughter. In the liner notes, she asks the very difficult question of what precisely makes something a folk song. There are no easy answers, and the lines blur with each successive generation of reinterpretations.

Certainly one element is timelessness, which this tune exemplifies. It could just as easily have been written in the 19th century as the 20th or 21st. The tale has particular resonance to anyone who has had dealings with mental illness, but metaphorically speaking it reaches far beyond that topic.

In many ways humanity does not change, which may be one reason that there is even such a thing as folk music. That is the blessing and curse of consistency.

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