Stan Rogers


I found out about this guy yesterday. He was a famous Canadian folk singer1 who died in the accident that led to planes having a special section for people who’re supposed to help out in emergencies (with extra legroom as a nice perkquisite).

His 2 most famous songs got stuck in my head: Northwest Passage and Barrett’s Privateers2.

One verse from Northwest Passage stuck out especially:

How then am I so different

From the first men through this way?

Like them, I left a settled life

I threw it all away

To seek a Northwest Passage

At the call of many men

To find there but the road back home again

I once listened to an interview Tyler Cowen did with a Portuguese economist, and they talked about the spirit of adventure. Listening to this song brought that back, along with a weirdly strong desire to visit the ‘Stans.

All these folk songs that talk about the frontier made me think of the people who already lived on that frontier: the natives.

I don’t know why, but of all things, this was what made me fully realize the enormity of how many of them were wiped out. There are so few natives today, even though they used to be the dominant group from Nunavut to Patagonia. Now, in every country in the Americas, they’re barely there.

One day they were everywhere, and now they aren’t. And basically nothing was done about it, or will be.

  1. Tom Lehrer’s preamble to Irish Folk Song has made it a lot harder to enjoy folk music, but somehow I still do. 

  2. I like The Real McKenzies’ version of Barrett’s Privateers better. 

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