Let us now take a moment to praise John Dowland. The early music movement owes much to the famed English composer and master of the Renaissance lute song. He gave us a sizeable body of work that has come to function as a kind of soundtrack to the English Renaissance for modern listeners. As impressive, in his own time, Dowland was famous throughout Europe, not only as a composer of popular songs (nearly 90) but also for his solo lute music (nearly 90 of those works as well).
As a Catholic in late Elizabethan England, though, Dowland found it difficult to make a living in the early stages of his career. Although he was a trained musician with a Bachelor of Music from Oxford (apparently they gave out music degrees in the 16th century too), Dowland blamed intolerance against Catholics for his inability to get a position in the English court, eventually leaving England in 1594, to make his fortune abroad on the Continent. His exceptional talents took him far and wide, and he earned renown from Denmark to Italy. After nearly two decades abroad, Dowland finally returned to England as a lutenist in the Catholic court of James I. Although the well-travelled composer was a citizen of the world who, as the story goes, eventually came home to England, he has come to symbolize a particularly English sound for the music of his time.