I’ve just read that Lord David Steel found it necessary, in the independence debate in the House of Lords, to refer to Eddi Reader ‘Murdering Burns songs’.
Now let me say that I rather like some of Eddi’s Burns interpretations and don’t care too much for others. However it can’t be denied that she has, perhaps more than any other contemporary singer/musician, done her bit to bring the Bard’s work to a new audience. She is to be commended for that at least.
There are Burns snobs out there who think that his work should be preserved in formaldehyde. Some comments I have heard from fellow attendees at Burns Suppers illustrate my point. Last year I heard a great ‘Tam o’ Shanter’ at the Howff Club in Dumfries, delivered by one of the members who had obviously taken great care to learn the poem (story) and put in his own wee bit of humour (just brief gestures and looks). I thought it was terrific and it was generally well received. He didn’t need any prompts in the lengthy recitation, his clarity, timing and delivery were almost perfect. Afterwards I remarked to one of the other attendees how much I had enjoyed it. His answer? ‘Too long. Tam o’ Shanter should be nineteen minutes. His version was twenty minutes and fourteen seconds!’.
My jaw nearly hit the floor. It was as if this guy had been sitting in judgement with a fucking stopwatch! I wondered, as we sat it the hostelry where Rabbie stayed when he first moved to Dumfries and a few miles from where he wrote Tam o’ Shanter, what he would have thought of this piece of criticism of delivery of his work.
Now don’t get me wrong, some criticisms can be valid. I saw one guy last year delivering the poem the Twa Dugs with the aid of two dog puppets. Despite the fact that he knew the poem well, I didn’t think the puppets or the voices that the man affected added anything to his performance or to the poem.
Anyhoo, back to Lord Steel and Eddi Reader.
Here is Lord Steel commenting on his own brief foray into the world of popular music:
And here is Eddi Reader in the political fray:
Which may bring one to the view that one is sometimes better to stick to what one knows.
Here is Ms Reader’s spirited comeback to Lord Steel, delivered via social media (cut and pasted).
‘My name is Eddi Reader I’m a singer musician. Like my great grandfather did, I sung and enjoyed Robert Burns songs. He also felt bad enough about the elite lording it over and treating unfairly, the ordinary citizen, to want to help.
Tonight, I have learned that during the HOUSE OF LORDS debate on Scottish independence, the ‘Honourable’ ‘Lord’ David Steele (a real grown up experienced politician) chose to personally attack my take on Robert Burns songs.
“We have to endure Eddi Reader murdering Robert Burns songs”
Now .. I don’t mind him having a personal opinion on my work, badger him, he’s not my audience, so what? But, to choose to… attack my work in music, because I have the AUDACITY as a citizen, to question the status quo, I feel is unnerving…
I just had to scrabble around to find the money to pay an enormous personal Tax bill this month… Some of that goes into that guys pocket. He is MY servant, a servant of the people…
If anything has solidified my HELL YEAH!! Vote that dis-honourable birkie called a lord, who struts and preens and all that, COOF has made sure I will.
I couldn’t care if scots were scratching themselves after Indy.. That self regulating ignorant elite system that insults the electorate can bugger off.’
The verse to which she refers, in A Man’s a Man For a’ That, is as follows:
Ye see yon birkie, ca’d a lord,
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that;
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a coof for a’ that:
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
His ribband, star, an’ a’ that:
The man o’ independent mind
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.
I couldn’t remember if Steel had an ‘e’ at the end because much of the online debate on this had it spelled that way. Google auto complete came to the rescue…
Sutch a useful resource……