Lloyd, Albert Lancaster


Lloyd, Albert Lancaster
(1908-82)
   Orphaned in his teens, he emigrated to Australia and spent nine years working on farms and outback sheep stations. By the mid-1930s he was back in England, and after spending some months on a whaling factory ship, settled down to making a living as a journalist, scriptwriter, broadcaster, and, later, folklorist and folk-singer. He worked for the influential Picture Post from 1940 to 1950, and for BBC radio and television from 1938 till just before his death, specializing in drama-documentary programmes. Lloyd was a confirmed Marxist, and this is strongly in evidence in all his work, which did not endear him to the broadcasting establishment of the day, but he was well known and respected in left-wing intellectual circles.
   Lloyd had encountered traditional songs in his travels, particularly in Australia, and even before the Second World War he had begun to research into the history and morphology of the genre. Each of his four major books in the field was extremely influential in setting the agenda for the post-war folk-song 'revival in which he and others like Ewan 'MacColl played a crucial founding role. The Singing Englishman (1944) was a much-needed introduction to the genre; Come All Ye Bold Miners (1952; revised edn. 1978) was the first to recognize the existence and importance of industrial songs; The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs (1959, with Ralph 'Vaughan Williams) became the staple songbook for the new folk club movement; and Folk Song in England (1967) was the first real attempt at an overall synthesis of traditional song since Cecil 'Sharp's English Folk Song: Some Conclusions (1907), and far surpassed that work in its historical and social perspective. Coupled with Lloyd's numerous articles, lectures, programmes, song performances, recordings, and the sleeve notes which he wrote for Topic Records (for whom he was Artistic Director for many years), these books were a major inspiration for the new generation of song researchers and academics which emerged in the 1960s. He also undertook major fieldwork expeditions to Eastern Europe, where his political beliefs and generally acknowledged skill with languages made him ideally suited for the task, and he became an internationally known expert in this field.
   In retrospect, Lloyd's work has many of the faults of the pioneer, and his work is now treated with caution by most serious researchers. His early editorial methods were often unscholarly, as the poet and singer in his nature often overshadowed the scholar, and his view of history proved essentially romantic. Most authorities comment on how his undoubted talents and the many roles he tried to play, were often incompatible - journalist, communist party activist, scholar-folklorist, singer/entertainer, teacher, and poet - but there is little doubt that the postwar revival could hardly have managed without him. Nevertheless, it could be argued that his most important and longest-lasting contribution to folklore was his work in the Balkans, and he was working on a study of Albanian instruments at the time of his death.
   ■ Ian Russell, Singer, Song and Scholar (1986) (includes bibliography); obituary by Dave Arthur, FMJ 4:4 (1983), 436-9; Michael Grosvenor Myer, Folk Review (Sept. 1974), 4-6.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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