Ordinary Man: Christy Moore and the Irish Protest Ballad

Michael Anthony INGHAM

    Research output: Other Conference ContributionsConference Paper (other)Researchpeer-review


    In his critical study 'The Long Revolution' Raymond Williams identified three definitions of culture, idealist, documentary and social. He conceives of them as integrated strands of a holistic, organic cultural process pertaining to the 'common associative life' of which creative artworks are an inalienable part. His renowned 'structure of feeling' construct is closely related to this theoretical paradigm. The longstanding ballad tradition of popular and protest song in many ethnic cultural traditions exemplifies the organic interaction and integration of Williams’s argument: it synthesises the ideal aesthetic of the traditional folk song form as cultural production, the documentary element of the people, places and events the song records and the contextual resonances of the ballad's source and target cultures. The ballad’s longevity and persistence as a vital form of cultural resistance to prevailing orthodoxies, hegemonies and power abuses is epitomised by the performances and recordings of contemporary Irish singer Christy Moore. In my paper I will analyse and discuss several examples of Moore's proclivity for fusing traditional ballads, modern classics by Guthrie and McColl, contemporary ballads and self-penned songs of protest and social critique. These include Viva La Quinta Brigada a moving tribute to Irishmen who resisted Franco in the Spanish Civil War and his ballad on the infamous Bloody Sunday massacre, Minds Locked Shut. The singer’s distinctive vocal interpretation reconciles the aesthetic, documentary and social facets of the ballad tradition in the persona of the ‘ordinary man’ - to reference one of the most popular protest songs in Moore's repertoire.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2016
    EventICPSONG´16: Canção de Protesto e Mudança Social - Universidade NOVA, Lisbon, Portugal
    Duration: 15 Jun 201617 Jun 2016


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