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I Wonder as I Wander: The Life of John Jacob Niles (review)

I Wonder as I Wander: The Life of John Jacob Niles (review) American Music, Spring 2012 I Wonder as I Wander: The Life of John Jacob Niles. By Ron Pen. Foreword by Rick Kogan. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2010. ISBN 978­0­8131­2597­8. Hardcover. Pp. xv, 371. $35.00. ISBN 978-0-81312598-5. Ebook. $35.00. In a 1974 review essay on albums of Anglo-American folk song recorded by collector-performers and folk revival interpreters, Norm Cohen wrote of The Ballads of John Jacob Niles: "The questionable authenticity of the versions notwithstanding, Niles is a highly skilled singer who, if he presented himself as an art singer rather than folksinger, would earn my full support and enthusiasm."1 This typically dismissive gesture explains the dearth of scholarly work on Niles (1892­1980). The questionable construct of authenticity aside, Niles deserves serious consideration for having composed wildly popular songs ("Go 'Way from My Window," "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair"), establishing working relationships with a host of tradition-bearers, and being a pervasive presence in the popular press during his long career. At the outset of Ron Pen's biography of Niles, I Wonder as I Wander, the author acknowledges that "Niles's transgression and subversion of the imagined boundaries articulating traditional, normative, and elite culture confounded critics and http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png American Music University of Illinois Press

I Wonder as I Wander: The Life of John Jacob Niles (review)

American Music , Volume 30 (1) – Oct 24, 2012

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Publisher
University of Illinois Press
Copyright
Copyright © University of Illinois Press
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1945-2349
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Abstract

American Music, Spring 2012 I Wonder as I Wander: The Life of John Jacob Niles. By Ron Pen. Foreword by Rick Kogan. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2010. ISBN 978­0­8131­2597­8. Hardcover. Pp. xv, 371. $35.00. ISBN 978-0-81312598-5. Ebook. $35.00. In a 1974 review essay on albums of Anglo-American folk song recorded by collector-performers and folk revival interpreters, Norm Cohen wrote of The Ballads of John Jacob Niles: "The questionable authenticity of the versions notwithstanding, Niles is a highly skilled singer who, if he presented himself as an art singer rather than folksinger, would earn my full support and enthusiasm."1 This typically dismissive gesture explains the dearth of scholarly work on Niles (1892­1980). The questionable construct of authenticity aside, Niles deserves serious consideration for having composed wildly popular songs ("Go 'Way from My Window," "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair"), establishing working relationships with a host of tradition-bearers, and being a pervasive presence in the popular press during his long career. At the outset of Ron Pen's biography of Niles, I Wonder as I Wander, the author acknowledges that "Niles's transgression and subversion of the imagined boundaries articulating traditional, normative, and elite culture confounded critics and

Journal

American MusicUniversity of Illinois Press

Published: Oct 24, 2012

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