"Songs Of Our Time" Gary Shearston takes Australian contemporary song a
big step forward . . . right into the turbulent song world of Pete
Seeger, Bob Dylan and Ewan MacColl.
Australian songs join the great ones in today's folk and topical song
as Gary sings about love and hope, life and death in Australia, Britain
and America. This record - more than any other recently issued in
Australia - takes the singer, song-makers and audiences into the
worldwide activity around songs with a purpose, songs of urban life
today, an idiom that demands consideration of the realities of our
time, not just the romantic turn to yesterday. It is essentially an
urge to realism in song.
recently (as an awareness of their own rather short folk-culture has
made them tune into some of the unique musical influences around them)
have young and thoughtful Australians begun to look at this question of
song creation as something distinct from the products of the music and
entertainment industries in general.
influences have been in the Australian air but, until folk-song records
began to circulate, they had remained isolated: Folk-songs of lreland:
and Scotland that, for many years, remained in the Hibernian and
Caledonian societies without circulating among the less- Gaelic; the
song-making of the Aborigines and Torres Strait lslanders who have
passed Methodist and Anglican hymns into their own music, thus
re-fashioning work, boating and feasting songs into a popular music of
the far North Coast; and the unfortunately isolated songmen of the
awareness of the great crop of Australian songs of last century and the
balladry of Henry Lawson and "Banjo" Patterson has influenced some to
transplant the tradition complete with bowyangs and bush bass into
"industrurbia", while others have made it a starting point for the
increasing amount of song-writing now going on throughout Australia.
Of Our Time" are all songs of The Sixties. Each is a serious comment,
even a challenge to the apathy that would ignore the questions "Who
Killed Davey Moore?" and "Who Can Say?" In these days when television,
radio and newspapers bring people the news of events so quickly, do we
need in our lives a combination of the qualities of the Irish street
singers and the old broadsides of London at the time of Governor
Phillip's departure for Botany Bay? Is there a need for worthwhile
contemporary song today? Is the poetry, satire and humour and the
intensity of feelings generated by current events in the community
where the songs are made something which television, radio and
newspapers exclude from their reporting? Is there a need for the poet
as well as the professional politician and journalist to interpret the
events of our time?
treatment by Gary Shearston, singer and songwriter, of his own and his
Australian and overseas colleagues' songs gives the answer: Yes! In its
effect a song may be worth countless newspaper reports on the same
subject. It is hard to write a good song, but impossible to write a
good song that tells a lie!
SHEARSTON today holds an enviable place in the field of folk music in
Australia. His concerts, radio, television and theatre appearances,
recordings and songwriting have brought him the respect and
appreciation of audiences and fellow singers alike. He has travelled
extensively in Australia and brought hours of listening pleasure to
thousands of people. He is a keen student of Australian folk-lore and
wrote the historical notes for his first LP recording: "Folk Songs And
Ballads Of Australia" (BP233094). Leading Australian folklorist and
author Bill Wannan has described this recording as a "superb
introduction to Australian folk-song".
Gary's repertoire is international and a deep awareness of the
humanitarian value of contemporary song has led him to include
present-day songs of the world's best writers in his programmes.
Carrying his guitar onto a theatre stage, outdoor platform or into a
floodlit studio, he sings with a conviction and simplicity that draws
his audience into emotional involvement and personal participation. Of
his music he says: "In many ways, traditional folk-songs serve as the
best record of a country's history and- as these songs have done in the
past- so contemporary songs can do something toward changing that
history if it's heading in the wrong direction".