Friday, January 31, 2014

Banjo Paterson: is he still the bard of the bush?

The man who wrote Waltzing Matilda was born 150 years ago on 17 February. The Australian myth he helped create is fading

Thursday 30 January 2014   
An Australian ten-dollar note featuring Banjo Paterson
Banjo Paterson: honoured on the $10 note. Photograph: Guardian Australia
Best known for the folk song Waltzing Matilda and the ballads The Man from Snowy River and Clancy of the Overflow, Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson is the most famous – certainly the most publicly performed – Australian writer who has ever lived.

One hundred and fifty years after Paterson's birth (the anniversary is 17 February), the poet looms as a giant in Australian culture – albeit one viewed increasingly from a distance. The once strident national myth that his verse did so much to create these days is subdued, though it continues to influence the way many Australians view themselves and how they are viewed from overseas.

In addition to serving as the unofficial national anthem, Waltzing Matilda – a song about an itinerant farm worker who steals a sheep and kills himself to avoid being arrested for theft – has been recorded by artists as various as Bill Haley and his Comets and André Rieu.
In 1981 the Australian country singer Slim Dusty's cover version became the first song to be played from space by astronauts
Other artists have appropriated and quoted from it, such as Tom Waits in his song Tom Traubert's Blues and Eric Bogle in And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda – which was covered by many acts including the Pogues.

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