By Stewart Hendrickson
Recently I was looking at the web site of another folk music society and was surprised to find a piece written for the Victory Review by my co-columnist Don Firth. Don was listed as the author, but the source and permission were not acknowledged. I emailed the web master, Don and the Victory Review editor. It turned out that the web master was unaware of the source and had no permission from the author or the Victory Review. But more on that later.
Now with the current concern over accuracy in the media and copyright it seems quite surprising that an editor or web master would overlook such an obvious omission. One might say that this is just folk music and attributions and other legalities are unnecessary. But this is the 21st century, and with the internet and Google it is not hard to get this information. Besides, it is just common courtesy to ask for permission and acknowledge sources.
This led me to think about songs, both traditional and contemporary. How many times do singers neglect to acknowledge the authors or sources of the songs they sing? And how many song books, particularly older ones, lack attributions for the songs therein?
With the two CDs that I have produced, I have been very careful about obtaining copyright permission for songs that are not in the public domain. Failure to do so might result in an expensive lawsuit.
Aside from the legalities involved, why is it important to give proper attribution to the songs you sing in public? And do you even know the sources of all the songs you sing? This information can be very important in how you interpret and perform your music, and how your audience receives it.
When I learn a new song or tune I try to research its source. My original motivation is simply out of curiosity. Where did this music come from, how old is it, and is the author known or is it simply anon? Often I find that this information plays an important part in how I interpret and perform the music. It may also be important for the listener to know something about the music in order to better understand and appreciate it.
An example is the song “Smile In Your Sleep,” a.k.a. “Hush, Hush, Time To Be Sleeping.” It has at least two different titles and is often referred to as “traditional.” It is set to a traditional tune called “The Mist Covered Mountain.” However, there are two tunes known by that name – one is a jig and the other a slow air.
The tune of this song is from the slow air, also known as “The Mist Covered Mountains of Home.” This air is from an older song in Scots Gaelic “Chi Mi Na Morbheanna” (I will see the great mountains). And it turns out that “Smile In Your Sleep” is not traditional, but was written about 40 years ago by Jim McLean, a Scottish songwriter, and published by Carlin Music.
The song has been recorded by many singers, some of whom have changed the title, words and even added extra verses. As McLean says, “I don't really get to know all the recordings until I get my MCPS statements and sometimes the recordings slip through their net as knowingly or unknowingly artists change the title and register it as trad.”
Now that we know the origin of the tune and the song’s author, what do the lyrics mean?
Hush, hush, time to be sleeping
Hush, hush, dreams come a-creeping
Dreams of peace and of freedom
So smile in your sleep, bonny baby

Once our valleys were ringing
With songs of our children singing
But now sheep bleat till the evening
And shielings lie empty and broken

We stood with heads bowed in prayer,

While factors laid our cottages bare,
The flames licked the clear mountain air,
And many were dead by the morning.

 Where is our proud highland mettle
Our troops once so fierce in battle
Now stand, cowed, huddled like cattle
And wait to be shipped o'er the ocean

 No use pleading or praying
For gone, gone is all hope of staying
Hush, hush, the anchor's a-weighing
Don't cry in your sleep, bonny baby
The song is a lullaby. It tells the story of the Highland Clearances, when in the  late 18th and early 19th centuries England decided to evict the small landowners from the Scottish Highlands in order to make way for large-scale sheep farming. This was a very sad part of Scottish history, and the tune matches the mood of the song.
Now the song makes sense, and I can sing it with the proper feeling, phrasing and emphasis. A couple of the words still need to be defined. Factors were the agents or rent collectors, and shielings were little rough huts on the hillside where farmers lived during the summer months when their animals were in pasture.
Songs are like stories, and the listener needs to know what the song is about in order to better appreciate and understand it.
Back to the original problem. Don sent a lengthy email to the web master saying that his piece was part of a larger work and was subject to copyright. “The last time, when an article of mine appeared in the [organization’s monthly publication] without the editor asking my permission or even notifying me that they were using it, I got pretty steamed,  But at the time I decided to just let it go.  However, as Goldfinger said to James Bond when their paths crossed for the third time, ‘Once is happenstance.  Twice is coincidence.  But three times is enemy action!’ ” 
Don then told him of the legalities of copyright and the consequences of copyright infringement. After the web master was reminded of these legalities and courtesies, Don graciously gave permission to reprint his piece, and the editor of the Victory Review also gave permission. Let that be a lesson!