David Campbell, Ian's son, has kindly sent us his euology to his father which was read out at Ian's funeral last Tuesday.
"Good Morning and Welcome! Thank you all for coming. We meet today to mark the passing, and celebrate the life, of my father Ian Campbell.
Ian was born in Aberdeen, the first child of Dave and Betty Campbell, who were well known in their community for various reasons including the fact that they were communists and Dave was a prominent trade union activist. It was as a consequence of those activities that Dave became unemployable in Scotland and the family moved to Birmingham.
Ian was a clever, high-flying pupil. He was Dux of his primary school and won a scholarship to the prestigious Aberdeen Grammar School, but wasn't there long before the move to Birmingham, where he completed his schooling at Yardley Grammar School. He continued to succeed there, but it's reasonable to suppose that he relied more on his considerable native ability than on effort. Sharing his parents' political views, he naturally had other things on his mind.
During his teens, he joined the Co-op Youth Club, the Young Communist League, and Unity Theatre, where he met Pat Weaver, a Birmingham girl only a month younger than him, who was to become his wife and the mother of their four sons.
Another thing the Campbells were known for was singing. A party at Dave and Betty's meant a sing-song. Dave and Betty and their daughters Billie and Lorna were great singers. Ian was not considered a singer, as he didn't have a remarkable voice compared with the others. Yet it was his singing, songwriting and musicmaking that eventually would bring the family to the attention of the public.
Personally, I regard him as the most underrated singer of the British folksong revival, largely because it was not as a singer that he was principally known. However, if you'd asked him how he wished to be remembered, he probably would have said 'as a songwriter', and there's no doubt that some of his songs will be remembered when there's no one left who ever heard him sing. Some of them appear to have entered tradition already, and are frequently sung by people who are unaware of their composer.
One of his early songs was of special importance to Ian. A cause supported by most progressive people in the late '50s and early '60s was the campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Ian wrote the first lyric song for that cause, as opposed to the marching anthems like H-Bombs Thunder. Let us listen now to Simon and Garfunkel's recording of
The Sun is Burning
Of course, Ian wrote that song for Lorna to sing, and Luke Kelly also made a hit record of it, but it's thanks to Paul Simon that it yielded royalty payments to Ian for the rest of his life. As Ian himself said many times, thanks Paul.
Although he had his greatest success during the '60s, Ian was not a man of the '60s. He was only eight years older than Dave Swarbrick, and Martin Carthy, and Bob Dylan - but it was an important eight years. Those who led the development of the folksong revival during the '60s were of an age to have had their lives changed by the arrival of Elvis Presley during their adolescence. Ian, on the other hand, had already served his apprenticeship as a steel engraver. He'd already done his national service in the army, where he rose quickly to the rank of teaching sergeant. He was already a married man with two children. His reaction to Presley was more along the lines of 'why is this man celebrating his decidedly dubious sexuality in public?'. I'd like to say that that he much preferred Chuck Berry - which isn't true, but I'm confident that it would be, if he hadn't just been bemused by the whole thing. That anyone should want folk music to be more like rock and roll was simply puzzling to him. He had no interest in rebels without a cause. He had a cause, thank you very much, and never wavered in his allegiance to it. The model for his folk group was The Weavers, who had developed their approach during the 1940s. As a Communist and a fervent admirer of fellow Communists Bert Lloyd, Ewan MacColl and Pete Seeger, Ian really believed that the folksong revival was the cultural front of the revolution, and that rock and roll was merely the latest version of US cultural imperialism.
None of which means that he was untouched by the youth movements of his time. In place of rock and roll, there was of course what he liked to call The Great Skiffle Disaster. Ian and Lorna both joined socialist community choir The Clarion Singers, where they formed the clarion Skiffle Group, which evolved in due course into the Ian Campbell Folk Group.
I once remarked to the folklorist Reg Hall that Ian Campbell was probably unique amongst Ewan MacColl's acolytes in being both talented and working class. Without missing a beat, Reg added 'and popular'. Which pretty well sums up Ian's place in the British folksong revival. He converted a minority-interest ideological movement into a genuinely popular entertainment. If the purpose of the revival was to create a working class popular music, Ian Campbell, and his group, and their folk club, came closest to it.
By 1963, when they released their first LP record, the Ian Campbell Folk Group was already the the most popular and influential folk group in the country, and the Jug of Punch folk club, which the family ran and the group hosted, was the country's biggest and most enjoyable, not to say riotous. All of that was achieved while Ian was making his living as an engraver. The rest of the group were younger than him, and probably thought they could do a lot worse than being professional performers. Ian, however, had resisted turning professional. He was, after all, a master craftsman with what was considered a good, secure position, and a married man, now with four children. And we lived in a house rented from his employers. In 1963, the group was invited to appear at the Edinburgh Festival. Ian asked his employers for a fortnight off, and they refused, no doubt confident that he would not jeopardise his position for such foolish nonsense as singing at the Edinburgh Festival.
So the Ian Campbell Folk Group turned professional - which was a far more significant event than you might suppose. Many of those who had considered them proletarian champions now decided that they had sold out to showbiz, fame and fortune. As late as the 1990s, I performed at folk clubs where people made a point of introducing themselves as old friends of my father's, just so that they could go on to say how disappointed they were when he went professional.
The real audience, of course, couldn't have cared less - and the establishment certainly didn't imagine that Ian had joined them. The phone continued to be tapped, and he continued to be persona non grata with the BBC. Even after he'd done a degree in theatre studies at Warwick University and become a tv professional, he never had any chance of working at the BBC. So he had some difficulty taking it seriously when he was finally acknowledged in this year's Radio 2 Folk Awards. The latest generation of folkies in the audience were highly amused by his self-deprecating acceptance speech, in which he pointed out that UB40's first album, in its first year, had far outsold his entire recorded output.
The Campbell group's fame hardly outlived the '60s. They struggled through the '70s, in the face of personnel changes, divorces and deaths, and eventually gave up. Ian went to university, became a producer and presenter at TVAM, and finished his working life as a Community Arts Officer in Dudley.
In 1993, he decided to record some of the songs he'd written since the group's retirement, and made the CD And Another Thing. Let's listen now to a song from that album which reflects his own work experience and demonstrates his continued loyalty to the ideas which had motivated him from the start.
Them and Us
I'm going to finish by singing a traditional song which Ian sang on the Campbell group's first album. He said then that it was his favourite English song, and I always thought it a pretty good choice.
The Unquiet Grave"