Sunday, September 04, 2022

Pete Seeger - "The Bells Of Rhymney" - Live in Australia 1964

This song began as a poem, "Gwalia Deserta XV", by Idris Davies. "Gwalia Deserta" translates as "Wasteland of Wales"; what became "The Bells of Rhymney" when Pete Seeger discovered it and set it to music was the fifteenth part of a much longer piece. Mr. Davies was born and raised in Rhymney, a town dominated by coal mining. He began work as a miner at fourteen, but at 21 he suffered an injury and went on the dole. He educated himself at the local library and began writing poetry, at which he found some success. His works were promoted by both Dylan Thomas and T.S. Eliot. Mr. Davies died of cancer at the age of 48.

Pete Seeger recorded "The Bells of Rhymney" in 1957. but the song remained largely unknown outside of folk music devotee circles until 1965, when the Byrds recorded their version, which was included in their debut album, Mr. Tambourine Man, and is driven by the jangle of Jim (later Roger) McGuinn's Rickenbacker guitar. The Byrds' version has one interesting lyric change. The line. "Who robbed the miner?" is replaced by "Who killed the miner?" I can only speculate that someone in the Columbia Records hierarchy thought that accusing "the mineowner" of having "robbed the miner" (as opposed to killing him) by denying him a living wage and better working conditions sounded a bit too socialist.


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