Folksong - A Protest


Australians have been criticized and cautioned by foreigners— mainly Americans—for their disregard of their formal literature. It is time now for you to be criticized and cautioned for your disregard of your informal literature. The debilitating pommification of the Australian university has created so many problems for those who want this country aussified that so small a matter as folksong may well go untended. Even I, as a folklorist, would be quite willing and eager to trade all Australian folk expression for the elimination of the Leaving Examinations that condemn so many of your young people to dead-end jobs with the G.P.O. But if some attention could be spared from the main problem of giving a university education to every student able to afford the time to take it, I should like to have you consider a proposition: that American folksong, topical song, and popular song are a most vital development in music and literature (perhaps the two could be combined into a dihybrid art), far more important than the conventional literature currently taught in your English classes and ours. By any standards, sexual or literary, Elvis Presley reduces Edward Albee to negligibility. In the Empire at large I should be able to accept Sir Ringo Starr easier than I could Sir Colin Wilson. In your Commonwealth the same proposition obtains: let Joan Sutherland indulge her subvened tantrums elsewhere; give your support to Ernie Sigley. Ernie and his mates have vitality, the real wealth of your country and mine. All they need is appreciation.

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Published 1 June 1966 in Volume 2 No. 3. Subjects: American (USA) culture, Australian culture, Folk music, Music.

Cite as: Greenway, John. ‘Folksong - A Protest.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 2, no. 3, 1966, doi: 10.20314/als.98f62653f6.