How It’s New York: Written with the wistful reflection of an expatriate in the Big Apple
How It’s Irish: Traditional music knows no boundaries.
Tony Horswill recalls meeting Ian Campbell, folk music icon, and wearing tights at a Birmingham banquet.
His reputation among traditional and folk musicians was legendary, but his fame to me and the wider public at that time was for being the father of Ali and Robin Campbell in the groundbreaking multi-racial band UB40. They were not just one of the rare examples of a successful fusion of pop and reggae but were also had a Top Ten hit with a protest song for God’s sake – “I am a One in Ten” like the UB40 moniker referred to the unemployment of the late ’70s. On the surface of it these two aspects of Ian had nothing in common, but in retrospect they are both part of the his legacy. For Ian, folk music was more than the record company genre has become – it embodied a belief in humanity, community and a striving for social justice.
“It didn’t hit her mate. It was these w**kers. I don’t miss – I nailed the bloke every f**king shot”.
Ian’s recounting of this tale had us in stitches for days. Ian was a very funny man and a natural raconteur and storyteller as we appreciated when the musicians/comedians/bruised tumblers got to hang out together in the “outer hall” whilst the troglodytes were temporarily pacified with greasy lamb chops and cheap mead. One now bittersweet memory of such occasion was when some music rag had reported him dead and he got to deliver the line “Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated”, and he delivered it perfectly. On rare, delightful occasions we persuaded him to sing for our little private party.