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Kat Eggleston: Blog

A few days ago my father said, "history is written by the winners." 

I said, "dad, you should listen to more traditional music."

Well.  The understood context of this remark - whoever said it originally - is that the larger and more lasting voice belongs to those who hold money and power.  It opens up Pandora's box with the use of the word "winner," implying that the poor and powerless won't be heard and remembered.  Traditional music is my favorite example of why this idea is a clever sounding lie.

Many years ago I was lucky enough to find myself sitting across a kitchen table from the great Scottish singer Sheila Douglas, trading old songs and forgetting that we'd come to the kitchen an hour before with the intention of making tea.  The electric kettle kept boiling and shutting itself off, and we kept on singing the saddest songs we knew for each other.  There are lots of big, sad songs.  I think the tea was eventually accomplished, but I don’t remember that.  In my memory, I don’t even hear the beauty and strength of her voice, although I know it was there.   What sticks with me is really bigger than all of that, because her singing was full of the voices of working people from centuries past.  Those people were alive again for the duration of the song.  I knew a little more about their lives than I had before.  Tea be damned. 

This is the substance of my love for traditional music, the reason I love the big ballads and such.  Singers like Sheila Douglas have brought history to the kitchen table. 

History is written by everybody, really.  But it's also sung, and by voices that aren't asking the question of who wins or loses, but are only doing their level best to tell the story. 


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