Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b 22 June '34, London) Folk revival singer-songwriter, one of its most important political, often polemical, songwriters. Attended university at Cambridge '53--6. He recorded as an accompanist for British and international folk acts late '50s--early '60s incl. Zimra Ornatt's Israeli Songs '58 on Topic. The Ornatt connection led to his moving to Israel where he worked in various combinations. Contributed songs to the satirical BBC TV show That Was The Week That Was (the establishment-baiting show first transmitted live Nov. '62 but Rosselson's song for it which was to be performed by Lance Percival never got to air) and released EP Songs For City Squares '62 on Topic. Joined the Galliards, one of higher-billed acts on the folk scene, albums Scottish Choice and A-Roving both '62 on Decca and The Galliards '63 on EMI (work also appeared on Monitor USA). The Galliards also were bitten by the calypso bug and contributed to the craze with 'Bahnuah' b/w 'Black And White' single '61 on Topic. Rosselson worked with Martin Carthy and Roy Bailey among others in the 3 City 4 whose eponymous Decca album '65 and Smoke And Dust '66 on CBS mixed material by Rosselson, (some songs co-written with poet Adrian Mitchell), Bob Dylan, Sydney Carter and Pete Seeger.

His first solo album was Songs For Sceptical Circles '67 on Bounty (reissued on Acorn '70). A Laugh, A Song, A Hand- Grenade '68 on Transatlantic continued his association with Mitchell. The World Is Hugga Mugga Chugga Lugga Boom Chit '71 on Trailor (credited with Carthy and Bailey) was followed by That's Not The Way It's Got To Be '75 incl. his song 'The World Turned Upside Down', later covered by Billy Bragg, Dick Gaughan and Oyster Band, and Palaces Of Gold '75, a collection of older songs specially recut for the project, both on Acorn. Rosselson and Bailey's Love, Loneliness, Laundry '77 on Acorn incl. controversial and uncompromising 'Stand Up For Judas'. Further albums: If I Knew Who The Enemy Was '79 on Acorn, For The Good Of The Nation '81, Temporary Loss Of Vision '83 (accompanied by members of the Home Service, Carthy and Simon Nicol) and Bringing The News From Nowhere '86 all on Fuse. His 'Ballad Of A Spycatcher' '87 on Upside Down Records (with Bragg and the Oyster Band) addressed the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom while the Thatcher government foolishly tried to ban Peter Wright's silly book Spycatcher as part of the song appeared on Rosselson's I Didn't Mean It '88 on Fuse, one of his best and sharpest albums. Wo Sind Die Elephanten? ('Where Are The Elephants?') '89 fired off fresh squibs at topical and not-so-topical subjects, including the Mozart bicentennial ('Whatever Happened To Nannerl?'), the changing face of Communism caused by events in the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany ('Song Of The Old Communist'), and the anarchist Emma Goldman who was deported from the USA in 1919 ('Out Of The Fire And Smoke of History'). Rosselson's songs have often had a short shelf life because satire does not necessarily travel well away from its immediate inspiration (TW3, so controversial in '62, looks remarkably tame now); songs rather than albums stand out, the ones that captured universal verities, and RosselSonGs '90 was a superb collection from the preceding albums, sometimes recorded afresh, more frequently the original versions, incl. 'Palaces Of Gold', 'Whoever Invented The Fishfinger' and 'The World Turned Upside Down'. Displaying his trademark penchant for unsnappy titles, Guess What They're Selling At The Happiness Counter '92 was a further riffle through his back catalogue for choice items incl. 'Boys Will Be Boys' (on what makes little boys and girls, apart from sugar and spice and puppy dog tails), 'Across The Hills' (on 20th Century Weaponry), and 'Battle Hymn Of The New Socialist Party' (a reworked and updated version of a song that had appeared on TW3). His first children's book Rosa's Singing Grandfather was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal '91. Intruders '95 incl. Carthy, Liz Mansfield, Fiz Shapur, Chris Foster and Sianed Jones. Rosselson's fans see him as a Catherine wheel firing off sparks of wit and inventiveness, some of the sparks short-lived but illuminating while they last. Books of songs were published by Harmony Music, Sing and the Journeyman Press.