2 a person who sings
3 any bird having a musical call [syn: songbird]
- A man who sings songs, especially as a profession. A male singer. A male songbird.
The term "songster" is most often used to denote an African American wandering musician, of the type which first appeared in the late 19th century in the southern United States. However, it can generally be applied to either a writer or singer of any type or genre of song.
Songsters in African American cultureSongsters generally performed a wide variety of ballads, dance tunes, reels and minstrel songs, a repertoire that overlapped that of white rural singers. Initially, they were often accompanied by non-singing "musicianers", who often played banjo and fiddle. Later, as the guitar became more widely popular, the songsters often accompanied themselves.
Songsters often accompanied medicine shows, which moved from place to place selling salves and elixirs. As entertainers, songsters had the task of enticing a public, to whom the concoctions were then offered. As these shows declined, and listening to recorded music and dancing in juke joints became more popular, so the older songster style became less fashionable.
Songsters had a notable influence on blues music, which developed from around the turn of the 20th century. However, there was also a change in song styles. Songsters often sang composed songs or traditional ballads, frequently about legendary heroes or characters such as "Frankie and Johnny" and "Stagger Lee". Blues singers, in contrast, tended to invent their own lyrics (or recycle those of others) and develop their own tunes and guitar (or sometimes piano) playing styles, singing of their own lives and shared emotional experiences.
Many of the earliest recordings of what is now referred to as the blues were made by songsters who commanded a much wider repertoire, often extending to popular Tin Pan Alley songs of the day as well as the "authentic" country blues. There is a growing view among scholars that the distinction made by experts such as Alan Lomax between "deep" blues singers and "songsters" is an artificial one, and that in fact most of the leading archetypal blues artists, including Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, performed a wide variety of music in public, but recorded only that proportion of their material which was seen by their producers as original or innovative.
Examples of Songsters
- Blind Blake
- Mississippi John Hurt
- Papa Charlie Jackson
- Jim Jackson
- Furry Lewis
- Mance Lipscomb
- Frank Stokes
- Henry Thomas
The Salvation ArmyThe Salvation Army use the term songster to refer to those members who are commissioned to sing in Salvation Army choirs, which are called 'Songster Brigades.' When a soldier (member) of The Salvation Army wishes to become a songster, he or she signs an agreement and is subsequently 'promoted' to the rank of 'songster.' The brigades are led by a Songster Leader, assisted by an Assistant Songster Leader. The songster brigades are helped administratively by a Songster Secretary, Songster Treasurer and a Songster Sergeant who all assist the Songster Leader in the organisation of the brigade.
songster in German: Songster
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