Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Why do I play folk music?

Why do I play folk music?

Good question! It's not for the money. As Peter Yarrow says, "you play this music because it's the only thing that satisfies your soul...".

I play it because it's the best way I can teach the really important lessons. People today have gotten totally involved in getting theirs. They don't have time to think about what's happening in the world like they did before cable television. Their view of the world consists of corporate sponsored sound byes designed to increase ratings rather than disseminate information. But, before we talk about that we need to know what folk music is.

The first thing you have to grasp is that folk music is not a single genre like blues or bluegrass. It includes the best music of all of the popular genres. Put simply, folk music is the people's music. It includes songs that have stood the test of time. They are the songs the people sing, whistle, and tap their feet to.

Much of music has something important to say. Take Woody Guthrie's Plane Wreck at Los Gatos and how it makes us empathize with the poor migrant workers. Then there is Hank Williams' Lost Highway that warns us against life in the fast lane. Bob Dylan's Masters of War indicts the war profiteers while Buffy Sainte-Marie's Universal Soldier warns soldiers that they have a moral responsibility to wage peace. Or, take John Lennon's Imagine which calls for a world without war and greed. Of course, there are love songs too!

There is no shortage of life lessons one can teach by singing folk music. My vocation is teaching Computer Science to undergraduate students. I find it less rewarding than I once did.

There are lots of students too busy chasing the American dream to take time to see what is really important in life. They are uninformed in current affairs. They accept the party line because that's what they see on cable television. I worry about these kids and I wonder, "Who is giving them an alternative point of view? Do they even know they have important choices to make?"

Peter Yarrow's mother was right when she said, "you don't make money playing folk music." At least most people don't. Otherwise I just my throw in my academic towel and hit the road.


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