Obituary: Burl Ives

Though Pete Seeger is most usually described as the father of the folk revival on both sides of the Atlantic, in many ways that honour belongs to Burl Ives, despite his having fallen out of favour with the po-faced revivalists for his unashamed pop songs like ``A Little Bitty Tear'' and ``Just My Funny Way of Laughin' '', writes Karl Dallas [further to the obituary by David Shipman, 15 April]. His high tenor, flute-like voice was too sweet for some, but it carried with it memories of his Irish- American forebears and can still be heard, as an influence, in the singing of a leading British traditionalist, Cyril Tawney.

Ives's Coronation-year concert at the Royal Festival Hall was an epochal event, and marked a total break with the effete mannerisms of the previous Peter Pears/John Jacob Niles school of self-styled minstrelsy.

In those early days, repertoire was hard to come by, but the Burl Ives Songbook was to be found in every folk-singer's guitar case, and much of the present-day fascination with sea shanties can be traced back to an excellent supplementary volume of sea songs which followed in paperback. Bob Dylan got the tune for ``With God on Our Side'' from his version of ``The Nightingales Sing'', as did Dominic Behan - an old friend - for ``The Patriot Game'' (though Dominic always claimed Dylan stole the tune from him, rather than from Burl Ives).

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