The Decemberists in August: The day the music died

Jem Baggs (The Wandering Minstrel), Punch, 1892/Project Gutenberg

Jem Baggs (“The Wandering Minstel”), from Punch, 1892. The Gutenberg Project


Tim Brown of Oregon Live has this brief
but fascinating report of the Decemberists‘ recent troubles in the great state of Michigan.

The Portland band’s crime? Busking on a street corner. The shock! The horror! The upgrade in the quality of buskers!

Musicians have long resorted to singing for their supper (and, if they manage to get on American Idol, the silver and the dining chairs, too). And the tradition of the wandering minstrel is long and storied: Remember the golden-voiced Alan a Dale, the lovelorn troubadour of Robin Hood’s Merry Men? Of course, considering his known associates, the Sherwood strummer probably would have been not just ticketed but also hanged from the neck if he’d unloosed his lute on the streets of Michigan.

For shame, Decemberists. Know ye not that the keeping of the peace is the primary of American freedoms? Know ye not that the rabble of America must not sit or lie on sidewalks, or assault the uncovered ears of decent burghers with the sweetness of unbidden sound?

Besides, you only pulled in two bucks before you were collared. And in America, the failure to turn a handsome profit is the chiefest of crimes.