Thursday, July 19, 2007
A DOZEN "HIGHWAYMAN" ROBBERY SONGS
The image of "The Highwayman" is romantic, largely because of the Alfred Noyes poem (most sucessfully mated to music by Phil Ochs). In reality, most highwaymen were just robbing hoods. Anyone riding by was "fair game" to them, and that led to the formation of the Horse Patrol in 1805.
The year before, William Brennan was hanged. The Irish highwayman is still one of the most famous of his profession, a romantic figure before the arrival of his rivals Jesse James in America, or Ned Kelly in Australia.
Brennan may have been one of the few to practice "sharity," since the earliest broadside ballads about him (circa the 1820's) paint him as a hero, a rebel targeting British nobility and the RIAA (Royal Idiots and Aristocrats). "He robbed from the rich, and gave it to the poor," is a line from "Brennan on the Moor."
When the actual Brennan died, it was without much fanfare or notoriety...or a catchy melody. As the song about him grew in popularity over the years, few could actually state where he was born (probably Kilmurry) or why he became an outlaw. Some said that he joined the army where he rebelled against its discipline and deserted. Others said he was already a crook and stole a watch from a foppish officer and had to flee after the crime was discovered.
It's up to the Clancy Brothers to give an authentic, and brief version of "Brennan on the Moor." Other versions go on for stanza after stanza, filled with his exploits.
Also here, in two versions (one male, one female) is "The Newry Highwayman." The other highwaymen are not named, but their personalities, exploits and attitudes are vividly brought to musical life by: Blue Cheer, the Brotherhood of Man and Tinsley Ellis.
The choice here for a musical setting of the Noyes poem is not the least bit noisy; it's Loreena McKennitt. She's not the only blonde on the bill, though. You also get "The Highwayman" as sung and described by Stevie Nicks. And yes, that odd song about reincarnation, whether it's a criminal or a damn builder, is on this download too, "The Highwayman" as written by Jimmy Webb and performed by The Highwaymen (led by Johnny Cash).
One of the most famous phrases in all of crime belongs to the highwayman: "Stand and Deliver!" That bold demand yields two very different songs, one from Wishbone Ash and the other from Adam Ant.
It would've been an unlucky 13 to include "Dennis Moore," the Monty Python song about the man who stole from the rich...but largely confined himself to pilfering lupins. "Lupins??"
Stand & Deliver! 12 Highwayman Songs Folder