Norma Waterson is one of England's foremost folk singers.
In her album `The Very Thought of You', she links old-time tunes with contemporary ones.
After singing Blaze Away - a staple of Josef's repertoire - she sings a rather melancholy one
called Josef Locke, based on an incident in Covent Garden, between the UK folk group
Fairport Convention and a singer claiming to be Joe Locke.
Intrigued, I wrote to Norma asking her what she knew of the story, and here's her reply:
Dear Peter, I know only a little of the story behind the song. It happened to Fairport
Convention after a gig in Covent Garden.
Richard Thompson says the man came in and said he was Josef Locke, and that his music
was better than theirs. He proceeded to sing, and Richard says he wasn't bad, but he has no
idea if it was him or one of the many imitators of Josef in those days.
He finally got very drunk and was thrown out of the pub. I am a big fan of the man, as is my
mum Yours, Norma Waterson
UPDATE: December 2005 Richard Thompson recorded his song Josef Locke in 2005
especially for his upcoming box set RT The Life and Music of Richard Thompson. It's an
acoustic version with just the composer singing & accompanying himself on guitar. 2'48"
The liner notes say on page 135:
Joseph Locke (Thompson - exclusive recording for this set 2005) Previously unreleased Also
recorded by Norma Waterson "Never before released by Richard (though he plays lead guitar
on Norma Waterson's version), this song was inspired by a real event.
RT:"It was an incident which made a real impression - one of those late night/early mornings in Covent Garden that we talked
about... that curious mix of people; there was this character who claimed to be Josef Locke.
I don't know if it was...or if we believed he was. That's not what's important".
The scene is the all-night pub, open at unearthy hours for the Market Workers and Middle Earthly hours for the underground
Add opera-goers into the mix, and an Irishman, somewhat worse for drink, making this amazing claim and proving his point by
singing (RT: "As I recall, he wasn't bad").
Eventually, he became too drunk and was evicted.
"And there he was, gone". Richard wanted to turn his recollections into an appropriate musical form and so wrote an aria, in
which his character tells his life story, just as a character in an opera might introduce himself or reveal his innermost thoughts to
the audience. He briefly quotes from a piece by Scarlatti".
God bless all here and state your pleasure I
f you'll refill my glass I'll sing Ave Maria
I'll sing The Old Bog Road
or A Shawl of Galway Grey
and I've been gone from you for some while
those English taxmen they've cramped my style
and if you think I'm some fraud upstart
just let my voice be my calling card
it melted hearts, and royal teardrops fell
they loved me well,
they loved me well
My name is Josef Locke ladies and gents,
now on your honour this is a damn poor show
you'll not call me a drunkard
I've sung for kings and princes
how the memories still glow -
O cessate di piagirmi *
O lasciate mi morir
O lasciate mi morir...
all the applause, all the cheers and cries
how many times did that curtain rise
and now you dare mock the Singing Bobby
I'll find the door, take your bullies off me
a sweeter age it was that loved me well
they loved me well
*A friend of mine, Gwynne Newton, has kindly supplied the
following information regarding the Italian verse: O cessate
di piagarmi Text by Nicola Minato Set by Alessandro Scarlatti
(1659-1725) O cessate di piagarmi, O lasciatemi morir
Luc'ingrate, dispietate, Più del gelo E più del marmi Fredde
e sorde a' miei martir. And the translation would be: O stop
hurting me O let me die ..
Norma Waterson sings about Josef
a song by Richard Thompson
performed by Norma Waterson on her
album The Very Thought of You
released June 1999