The great English chanteur just turned 84, and talked by phone from London on “Rise When the Rooster Crows”
From a full immersion in the early British “folk revival” (four albums with The Galliards from 1960-62 and two with The Three City Four, which included Martin Carthy, 1965/67), as well as in the beginnings of British television satire (That Was the Week That Was, hosted by David Frost, ran from 1962 to 1963 and featured some of his early satirical songs), Rosselson emerged out of the 60’s as one of the English-speaking world’s preeminient “topical” songwriters. His wit, passion, intellect and radical politics combined with a well-honed musicality and songcraft to produce a large body of work that has provided an inspiring soundtrack to several generations of the politically and socially engaged.
Coming from a musical Jewish family (his parents were refugees from Tsarist Russia, his father a musician), Rosselson says his acute social conscience came from being brought up to believe that Jews should always be on the side of the oppressed. That radical social conscience is evident on many of the 317 songs that he has crafted in nearly 60 years of songwriting, including his most famous and widely-covered, “The World Turned Upside Down,” about the English Diggers of the 17th Century (Billy Bragg actually charted with his version in 1985).
With such a body of work, it’s difficult to decide which to play, so you’ll only get a small but tantalizing taste on this morning’s show, along with a rare chance to hear from Rosselson himself, on the phone from his home in England.
His most recent (and he says his last) recording is “Where Are the Barricades?”, released in 2016 by PM Press, which also put out a four-CD retrospective box set in 2011, “The World Turned Upside Down.” He has also published 17 children’s books and five songbooks. For more information and how to obtain his recorded and published work, please visit the following sites:
Songs heard on this program:
History Lesson by 3City4 on Smoke & Dust
Don’t Get Married Girls, sung by Elizabeth Mansfield on And They All Sang Rosselsongs
Perspectives on The World Turned Upside Down: Rosselsongs 1960-2010, Disc 2
The World Turned Upside Down on RosselSongs
I’ m Going Where The Suits Will Shine My Shoes on Where Are the Barricades?
The Ballad of Rivka & Mohammed on Where Are the Barricades?
The Ghost of Georges Brassens on The World Turned Upside Down, Disc 4
The Power of Song on The World Turned Upside Down, Disc 4