Makin’ Stuff Up: The Circuitous Wobble Of “Wagon Wheel”
A seed of inspiration tumbles out of the ether, hoping to fall on fertile soil and germinate in the abundant imagination of its recipient. With encouragement and nurturing, that creative soul – or souls, in collaboration – cultivate the seedling and, with care and patient pruning, allow it to blossom into the familiar form we’ve come to know as the popular song. It’s a mysterious, miraculous process. Where only silence existed before, there now resounds a combination of notes, language, and rhythm that, with adequate rendering, packs the power to warm hearts, move feet, induce tears, provoke introspection and/or perhaps even tickle funny bones.
This has been going on for a very long time – at least since the late 16th Century, when some now-long-forgotten troubadour first picked and grinned “A New Northern Dittye Of The Lady Greene Sleeves” in verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure. In those bygone days, a tunesmith lacked access to recording devices – or even, in many cases, education – so one traveling player learned his repertoire aurally from another. Human memory, being imperfect and subjective as it is, only served to allow those hand-me-down arrangements to imitate their prototypes, not to duplicate them exactly. And surely, many performers would deliberately adapt a composition to suit their own styles – to “make it their own,” as’t were. Thus, we are the beneficiaries of a multitude of “Stagger Lees,” “Corrina, Corrinas,” and “John Henrys” – and even a couple-a “Louie, Louies,” for criminy sake!
To read the rest of the article, click here.