Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Stan Rogers

Stan Rogers *1949, 1983† invented maritime songs. They are his fictions, and they sound real. He had a pleasant, strong baritone as he played a twelve string guitar. In 'The Mary Ellen Carter' (i wonder if there is a Gordon Lightfoot-Edmund Fitzgerald inspiration), he has two marvelous phrases, both worth remembering for depth of impact: ...'Let her name not be lost to the knowledge of men', wonderful sentiment, and he tricks us in thinking his creation is an historical ballade: the other, 'With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go', a commonplace truth not often mentioned out loud. It is a cynical acknowledgment of reality.

The first phrase of Rogers sounds very much like the words of Pope Gelasius I †496, in referring, to famous beloved saints, that, we know nothing concretely of [George, Valentine]: “whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God”. I have seen that line, or similar, written many times in mini-hagiographies. The person, here for Rogers—a thing, is of such importance that some portion must be remembered, if only the name.

He invents a rousing shanty with
'Barrett's Privateers'. Both songs have had some popularity amongst canadian folkies, and some festivals have closed with the several singers singing together a Stan Roger's song. A couple of local college radio folk programmes are fond of Rogers', Mary Ellen Carter. Both songs are infectious. There is something of the joy of survival through struggle in the songs. This you tube on l'éther électronique is a fine portal to find a singer, and those singing his songs. Stan's brother, and his son, sing his songs; as well a cute college amateur uploading from her room.

The other song of his on the 'radidio' you might hear, is his history song on the centuries' search for the
'Northwest Passage'. We need more lyrical baritones. No tinny, thin voice with dithering diction; but deep, round clarity.
postscriptum: 9 September 2011. By chance, the BBC has run a story on the Franklin expedition, mentioned in the Northwest Passage.

Ah, for just one time I would take the Northwest Passage
To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea;
Tracing one warm line through a land so wild and savage
And make a Northwest Passage to the sea.

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