Skip to comments."Farewell To Tarwathie" by Judy Collins, For the 'Whale Hunter' in All of Us.
Posted on 06/08/2014 4:14:54 PM PDT by lee martell
Decades ago, during the summer of 1976, I was a sophomore in an art college. The School, Columbus Col. of Art and Design was in Columbus, Ohio, a few miles south of OSU campus where Woody Hayes reigned supreme for years.I usually completed my home assignments with music playing in the background. I had grown tired of the biggest hit for that summer, "You Light Up My Life", by Debbie Boone, daughter of singer Pat Boone. It was and is great recording, but I'd heard it everywhere. I left the AM radio dial and switched to FM .I heard the long version of George Benson's White Rabbit, done with acoustic guitar and full orchestra, using his distinctive Jazz tonalities and dissonance of harmony.
After that finished I heard Judy Collins singing "Farewell To Tarwathie" done almost acapella except for the sounds of the Humpback Whales interspersed throughout her song. I believe the song was written by a Scottish miller in 1850. It speaks in first person as a young man has decided to leave his farm in Tarwathie, Scotland for the purpose of hunting whale in Greenland. I have had nothing in my life compare to the extreme risk this kind of person decided to take, but I have taken my share of risks with rewards looming both small and large. Most of us have a 'Marco Polo Moment' or an "Astronaut's Gamble" at some point in our lives, when we risk the predictable comfort and security presently available to us, and move on, with great expectations, with the tantalizing hope that we are finally ready to meet any test or challenge. Think of the size difference, a mere man trying to catch and conquer a sea mammal bigger than most houses, and doing so mostly with hand held tools?
In my untrained opinion, Judy Collins was in her best voice during this time. Later on, after her hit "Send In The Clowns" , Judy began doing more yelling than singing, to me anyway. I enjoyed her interpretation. The song opens as a personal note to his homeland; "Farewell to Tarwathie, Adieu Mormond Hills, And the dear land of Crimond, I bid ye farewell. We're bound off for Greenland and ready t sail, In hopes to find riches in hunting the whale."
...and even a few years ago, she STILL sounded pretty darned good.
I agree that this was and is a performance of the most exquisite beauty.
Just listened to it for the first time, a beautiful song. When I was in college a professor of mine played us a recorded song of the humpbacks and said this would be the last time you will ever hear this as the whale is almost extinct. Not true, it is doing very well now. Little did I know in my naive mind this guy was a rabid enviro-wacko. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qV29xK2xyZ4
As a side note, it is superbly engineered and the Steve Hoffman remastered version has amazing sonic quality!
Sonic Quality? That’s close to the what the whales use for communication, I think. I have been told whales emit distinct voices that their mates or their pod can recognize.
That area of the earth produces harsh, uncompromising weather conditions for any fisherman.
One of the reasons we moved to Kerrville was the music/ songwriters that come through every year. We got to see Peter, Paul & Mary before Mary passed away. Robert Earl Keen got his first break here when he entered the 'New Folk' songwriting contest and won. He lives here now as well.
This song emerged at about the time when the whaling industry was at its peak--and when Herman Melville's Moby Dick (New York: Harper, 1851) was a bestseller.
Funny thing is, even though the character in this song is a man, I have no problem at all enjoying the song as sung with a woman’s voice. This type of song, is so far from our day to day experience, that we are more willing to accept it as delivered by a Storyteller. That is what Judy does hear, she relates the man’s story to us. I don’t really know if this theory works in reverse. I tend to doubt it.
A beautiful voice. Look at photos of her from the 60s. Judy Blue Eyes was/is dazzlingly beautiful, too.
Judy’s clear, pure voice was superbly recorded....the whales not so much. Any harshness of the latter was mitigated in the mastering process.
Sheesh.....let’s have a little common sense.
Judy Collins gone country on the Smothers Brothers...
This one will make me cry so I won’t be listening to it right now...
Another very fine version sung by a real Scotswoman:
Also,"Suite:Judy Blue Eyes" singlehandedly kept me from going AWOL during BCT in '69 (long,*long* story).
I recall a Judy Blue Eyes by Crosby Nash and maybe Young. It was a showpiece of three part harmony open composition, very joyful in its essence. It came out in the winter of 71’, I believe. Do you mean this song?
My remarks about harsh conditions had only to do with the fog and the cold making life uncomfortable for any fisherman under constant exposure to the elements. I was not implying her voice was effected. My fault for choppy writing, and thinking out loud.
Suite:Judy Blue Eyes...by Crosby,Stills & Nash...released in 1969 (not sure what month).Yes,it was heavy on harmony and very upbeat.IIRC it was a pretty big hit but I was busy with other things at that time (like the Army) so I’m not sure *how* big.I’m sure we’re talking about the same song...your dates are a bit off and mine are clear only because the song played a role in my life that’s so vivid it’s almost as if it happened yesterday.
I first heard Suite: Judy Blue Eyes at Cam Ranh Bay on return from R&R in late August ‘69.
Its the type of song, or pastiche of analagous songs that stays with the listener long after the performance ends. You don’t really even need to know all the lyrics, so long as you recall the key, or when to expect a chorus.