Friday, February 27, 2009

UrbanEye: Memorial for Odetta -

Thousands gathered at Riverside Church to pay their respects to Odetta,

...the folk singer whose voice was the soundtrack of the Civil Rights era.

Legendary Folk Singer Pete Seeger Wins Freemuse Award 2009

Legendary Folk Singer Pete Seeger Wins Freemuse Award 2009

American singer, songwriter, activist, environmentalist, and peace advocate Pete Seeger has been nominated by the award committee for his “commitment to musicians' freedom of expression in an illustrious career which spans over sixty years. His voice has been one which has constantly been on the side of the oppressed and which has refused to remain silent in even the darkest hours. He remains an inspiration to those musicians who seek to use their work for the greater benefit of mankind.”

Although Seeger does not believe in awards, he accepted the Freemuse Award. In a statement Pete Seeger quotes an old Arab proverb: ‘When the king puts a poet on his payroll, he cuts off the tongue of the poet!’ Pete Seeger adds: “But throughout history, songwriters have found ways to get around this problem by putting together songs that people like to sing and teach to their friends.”

Grandson Tao to attend award ceremony with censored artists

Pete Seeger does not like to travel far these days, so he has requested his grandson Tao, an established artist in his own right, to travel to Stockholm and receive the Freemuse Award on his behalf.

The Award Ceremony will take place on 3 March at Stockholm’s Concert Hall marking the Music Freedom Day.

The concert includes performances by Chiwoniso from Zimbabwe, Ferhat Tunc from Turkey, and Mahsa Vahdat from Iran – artists who have experienced censorship and repression in their home countries.


Pete Seeger faced censorship for decades in his music career for promoting peace, justice, and equality in his music. In 1955 Seeger was blacklisted from work when he was subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee and he refused to testify citing his guarantee to freedom of expression.

Boycotted by commercial venues and media, Pete Seeger continued performing for young people at universities and rallies and created a boom of folk music. His songs played an essential role in the civil rights movement. It was his variation of an old spiritual, which Seeger called "We Shall Overcome," that has become an anthem of the crusade for equality in America.

Cut by network censors

The Vietnam War deeply and personally offended Seeger, who used his network television return on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour to air a scathing attack on Lyndon Johnson's war policies, "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy."

The song was cut by network censors, but Pete Seeger made a second appearance on the program and sang the song without interruption. When folk-rock band The Byrds recorded his legendary song ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’ Seeger’s music reached millions of young people all over the world.

Co-operation with Bruce Springsteen

Seeger has never stopped. He recently joined his grandson Tao-Rodriquez Seeger and old friend Bruce Springsteen at president Obama’s inauguration performing for hundred of thousands.

In 2006, Bruce Springsteen recorded `We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions´, reinterpreting 13 songs from Seeger's songbook.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Folksingers Honor Bruce “Utah” Phillips with New Double CD

Read related post ~

Saturday, February 21, 2009 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more information, contact Anna Kapechuk or Susan Tanner
at Righteous Babe Records – phone 716-852-8020 /
label website:
Album release date: February 24, 2009

Folksingers Honor Bruce “Utah” Phillips with New Double CD

In his life, Utah Phillips was many things – soldier, hobo, activist, pacifist, union organizer, storyteller, songwriter. He was an oral historian who documented the events of the working class and turned them into stories and songs. And in the folk tradition, he passed them on to others.

On February 24, Righteous Babe Records continues that tradition with Singing Through The Hard Times, a two-CD set that celebrates the music that Utah sang and loved. Included are performances from Emmylou Harris and Mary Black, Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton, John McCutcheon, Rosalie Sorrels, Gordon Bok, Ani DiFranco, Magpie, Jean Ritchie and many others – folksingers whose music springs from the same rich vein of the people’s history that Phillips chronicled throughout his life.

Of the thirty-nine songs on the album, all but ten are brand new recordings, and many of the older recordings are rare. While most of the songs were written by Phillips, some, like “Dump The Bosses Off Your Back” (sung by fellow songwriter and labor organizer Si Kahn) are folksongs relevant to Phillips’ life and passions. A few have never been recorded before, including the title track, which Utah wrote in 2003 for his local Peace Center in Grass Valley, California. The song’s lyrics, about facing hard times together, ring strongly in the face of current events:

And when the war clouds gather it’s so easy to get angry
And just as hard not to be afraid
But you know in your own heart no matter what happens,
You just can’t turn your back and walk away.

So hand in hand together we help each other carry
The light of peace within us every day
And if we can learn to live it – to walk and talk and give it
That world of peace won’t be so far away

We are singing through the hard times, singing through the hard times,
Working for the good times to come.

The project itself started as a way to help Utah through his own hard times. Last year, folksinger Dan Schatz spoke with fellow musicians Kendall and Jacqui Morse at a musicians’ gathering about putting together a CD to help Phillips defray medical expenses. Phillips had been ill for some time when the project began, and died in May of 2008. “It was a blow to lose Utah,” said Schatz. “It gave the project a wistful feeling, knowing that he would never hear the final result of so much love, or hold the CDs in his own hands. We do know that he was very pleased and excited about what was going on. It meant a lot to him that his songs would continue to live for years to come.”

All purchases of Singing Through the Hard Times continue the folk tradition of creating community through music. All proceeds from sales of Singing Through the Hard Times directly benefit Utah’s family.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Political rapper talks about 'dark side of revolution'

Political rapper talks about 'dark side of revolution'

02/17/2009 @ 12:03 pm
Filed by Larisa Alexandrovna

Part 1 Part 2

Felipe Coronel is, all at once, a Peruvian-born student of history, a thickly-accented New Yorker, a child of Harlem, and an incredibly well-read man. Better known by his stage name – Immortal Technique – he writes and performs some of the most politically saturated and emotionally charged music to appear in the work of any American artist since perhaps Bob Dylan, only darker and more raw.Tech does not create music that is peace-oriented or anti-war. He does not create music about gang violence or the need for racial equality. Instead, he explores the history of all of these issues and shows, rather than tells, his listener why he believes we – humanity, America, African Americans, Latinos, et cetera – are where we are.In a song called The 4th Branch from his second album, Revolutionary Volume 2, for example,

Tech sings:
Media censorship, blocking out the video screens
A continent of oil kingdoms, bought for a bargainDemocracy is just a word, when the people are starvin'
The average citizen, made to be, blind to the reason
The song is an exploration of how the United States got into the Iraq war, rather than something as overly simplistic as a call for peace.

Who is responsible? How could this war have happened? Tech places the blame for the selling of this war on the shoulders of the fourth estate, the press. Tech expresses his frustration with the whole concept of "fair and balanced" reporting, telling Raw Story that facts don’t always have another side to them nor should two sides always be portrayed as equally balanced and equally legitimate. "What if there is no other side of it?" he asks. "That is not enough for [the media]. They feel that they are supposed to present two sides of a story, which is great most of the time, or should be most of the time. But when it comes to the balance of those two sides, they take great care in making them equally balanced when they are not always equally balanced or even equally true.

They give credence and legitimacy to ideas that deserve no legitimacy."Tech was born in Lima, Peru in 1978 and first came onto the New York underground Hip-Hop scene as a battle rapper in 1999. In 2001, he released his first album, called Revolutionary Volume 1, and in 2002, his second album, Revolutionary Volume 2. With hardly any marketing campaign, he has become an underground international folk hero of sorts, from South America to the Middle East and, of course, on his home turf in Harlem. Tech says that he uses imagery to explore complex issues."I think putting together historical facts to rhymes and metaphors helps people to understand what it is I am talking about and it gives people a direction if they want to look up something in a particular discipline. Like putting a bookmark into music and saying 'Look over here.'"In a song called "Peruvian Cocaine," for example, Tech presents the narrative from the viewpoint of each of the participants along the route of drug trafficking, from the poor South American farmer, to a political leader, to a drug distributor, to an undercover cop, and so forth. Each point of view, each persona, shows the listener their motivations.

The Peruvian leader shows one face of this saga:
Yo, it don't come as a challengeI'm the son of some of the foulest
Elected by my people...the only one on the ballot
Born and bred to consult with feds, I laugh at fate
And assassinate my predecessor to have his place
In a third-world fashion state, lock the nation
With 90% of the wealth in 10% of the population
The Central Intelligence Agency takes weight faithfully
The finest type of China white and cocaine you'll see

Tech's interview with Raw Story was wide-ranging, extending from the Ottoman Empire to European colonialism in South America. He brings off conversation with the ease of a professor in front of a graduate level history class. "We still emulate the European oppressor in everything: In terms of the standards of beauty; in terms of governmental structure or even in terms of religion," Tech says. "Contemporary America would look at Aztecs as savages for sacrificing people to their God. But you would not look at Europeans in the same light, even though they used to burn people alive as heretics to honor their God."Tech also speaks about the side of him that was involved in petty theft and assault, running with a rough crowd in Harlem and eventually doing time in Philadelphia.

While in college at Penn State, Tech was sent to jail for a year, after getting into a altercation with crack dealers. He was paroled to his father’s home, on the condition that he attend school at least part time and work. This time, he excelled, until his music career took him away from formal study. He says he read everything he could get "his hands on" as he joined the battle rap scene.

The complete Raw Story interview follows.####

Larisa Alexandrovna: Where does the name Immortal Technique come from?

Immortal Technique: Originally I battled under the name Technique. But I always felt like a person’s spirit is immortal, you know?

LA: Yes

IT: … [It’s] not simply what we just do in this life, but how we are remembered, and how we affect the world around us. In that sense, some people enjoy a sort of immortality based on their contributions. Technique is what you need to accomplish anything. So the combination of the two can change the world, you know? Besides, I feel like a man who walks with God can walk anywhere.

LA: You were born in Lima, Peru. Are both your parents Peruvian?

IT: My mother’s father is black, from the Caribbean. His family bought their freedom from slavery and moved down to South America and lived there ever since.

LA: How did that affect you as a child?

IT: You know, I grew up with my mother being very honest and candid about that, and with some of our people had a certain amount of racism ingrained in them. You are going to find many Latino people who are in denial about their African blood.

LA: And you are not?

IT: No, I have never been like that. I look at my grandfather and by all means and standards he is more black than people that consider themselves black in America. They don’t consider themselves Black or “Indio” out there because they cling to nationalistic titles rather than embrace cultural and racial origin. An interesting way to discount a majority and create a Eurocentric ideology by not acknowledging that such a thing exists.And the people in these countries didn’t want to maintain a relationship with their ex-colonial powers. The people who ran the countries were in themselves all European and not of any indigenous background until the late 1980’s early 1990’s.

LA: The cycle where the victim becomes the oppressor.

IT: Yeah. If you’re less than indigenous, it is because you are in some part African. So people avoid that like the plague. It’s terrible. We still emulate the European oppressor in everything: In terms of the standards of beauty, in terms of governmental structure, or even in terms of religion. Contemporary America would look at Aztecs as savages for sacrificing people to their God. But you would not look at Europeans in the same light, even though they used to burn people alive as heretics to honor their God.

LA: You don’t even have to go back to Europe. You can look at the Salem witch trials in America. Your family moves from Peru to the United States, Harlem in particular. Why do you move?

IT: The economy had collapsed. There was massive inflation. Of course there was a war going on between the Shining Path and the US-backed government [of Peru]. At this point it was violent, there were no jobs and my father was looking for opportunity.

LA: So why Harlem?

IT: [laughs] My father was trying to find a place less violent than Peru, right? So we move to Harlem, New York in the 1980s.

The Fourth Estate

LA: Let’s talk about "The 4th Branch," from Revolutionary Volume 2 (The song is available to listen to below). You take the 4th Branch – the media – to task for failing to do their job in the lead-up to the Iraq war. Do you think it is a matter of systemic corruption, a trade-off of truth for access, or do you think it is more based on wanting ratings and churning out sensational stories?

IT: Oh they did their job. They did their job.

LA: Do you think it is yellow journalism?

IT: It was their job to do what they did. That is their real job.

LA: When you say that is their real job, what does that mean?

IT: Their real job is to sell an agenda, not the news. I can see parts of the news on the news, you know? It is like when democracy is not fully a democracy. As soon as one aspect of it is betrayed, it stops being what it is. In this case it stops being the news.

LA: So once the ethics of it are violated, once a little is traded off for expediency or for ratings, it all becomes suspect?

IT: More like when I look at it from that perspective, it is as though I am capable of telling everyone what is going on, in telling 100 percent truth. I have that ability, right? But because I cannot present another side of it, for example, then I cannot tell any of it? What if there is no other side of it? That is not enough for them. They feel that they are supposed to present two sides of a story, which is great most of the time or should be most of the time. But when it comes to the balance of those two sides, they take great care in making them equally balanced when they are not always equally balanced or even equally true. They give credence and legitimacy to ideas that deserve no legitimacy. And not just from the right either. They give people legitimacy from the progressive side who deserve no legitimacy, just to have out there as an example of how radically left someone is, when they don’t represent the left at all. Instead of finding someone logical enough to express themselves, they find people who are ignorant enough to just get by on the topic. That bias really exists no matter what the topic is. We could be talking about Iraq, or we could be talking about the Israeli-Palestine conflict, you know?

LA: So where do you get your news?

IT: I am not saying that I don’t watch the news or read the news. It is just that I will see it or read it and supplement that with what I have read about the history of the country or issue and I will talk to people who are there. So if I want to hear something about Gaza, for example, I can call someone there. I know people there, I can call them or they can call me, you know? I can be in contact with them and be like yo, what is really going on over there?

LA: But what do you say to your listeners who do not have the benefit of knowing someone in Gaza or in any other place?

IT: Hopefully they could read stuff on The Raw Story.

LA: [laughs] Thank you for the plug. Who else?

IT: Democracy Now is a very good program. There is also the Real There is plenty of independent media and although they may not have maybe the legitimacy in the market of a CNN or something like that, I think they are a lot less filtered.

Click here for part two: Immortal Technique discusses faith, college and jail

Larisa Alexandrovna is Raw Story’s Managing Editor for Investigative News. She can be reached at

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Changes in the air for WUMB weekend live programming?

Since the switch from "folk" to "music mix" AAA format some 12 months ago, to me the best remaining live programming is on the weekends. And I am not alone, I understand the Arbitron ratings of "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Celtic Twilight" are WUMB's two top rated live programs.

I sure wish WUMB had a blog where the public could post comments, as tonight I heard news from an impeccable source that an action has been taken that may affect some or all live weekend hosted music programming (I'm not sure how the change will affect Commonwealth Journal, or Dick, who is salaried from his weekday gig, or why Joan is listed, as she left the station a couple years ago). Since public-funded stations serve the community, it follows they should provide a forum where the official news release can be posted and public opinion recorded.

So why WUMB has taken this action is beyond me, I'm waiting to hear management's explaination. I am not going to publish any details of what I believe to be in motion here, yet. Let's give WUMB management a day or so to break the news themselves on their home page or in their "Folk Ripples" newsletter, or by email to members, or leak it, as they did the demise of the Boston Folk Festival, through a Globe gossip column.

Weekend shows that may be affected.


Beale Street Caravan
5:00 am-6:00 am

Member Concert
6:00 am-7:00 am

Guest Mix With Dick Pleasants
7:00 am-8:00 am

Highway 61 Revisited Wtih Barnes Newberry
8:00 am-12:00 pm

WUMB Music Mix - Saturdays With Dick Pleasants
12:00 pm-2:00 pm

Mountain Stage
2:00 pm-4:00 pm

Celtic Twilight With Gail Gilmore
4:00 pm-8:00 pm

Downeast Ceilidh With Marcia Young Palmater
8:00 pm-9:00 pm

Traditional Folk With Sandy Sheehan
9:00 pm-12:00 am

WUMB Blues
12:00 am-6:00 am

WUMB Blues
5:00 am-6:00 am

6:00 am-7:00 am

Art Of The Song
7:00 am-8:00 am

Acoustic Sunrise With Bob Cannon; Filling-in Today Is Brian Quinn
8:00 am-12:00 pm

American Routes
12:00 pm-2:00 pm

Folk Odyssey With Dana Westover
2:00 pm-6:00 pm

Black History Month Specials
6:00 pm-7:00 pm

Commonwealth Journal With Host Janis Pryor
7:00 pm-7:30 pm

7:30 pm-8:30 pm

Latino USA
8:30 pm-9:00 pm

Brazilian Hour
9:00 pm-10:00 pm

Midnight Special
10:00 pm-12:00 am

12:00 am-2:00 am

American Routes (repeat)
2:00 am-4:00 am

Grateful Dead Hour
4:00 am-5:00 am

Program details - source

Acoustic Images Specials

Joan creates emotional landscapes with her particular blend of music and lyrical commentary. Her Acoustic Images Specials will air at days & times to be announced a month in advance.

Hosted by Joan Orr

Acoustic Sunrise With Bob Cannon
Sunday 8:00 am

Acoustic Sunrise is just the kind of program to wake up to on a Sunday morning-and then keep listening! Acoustic Sunrise is a unique blend of solo singer-songwriters with a touch of acoustic instrumentals.

Hosted by Bob Cannon


Ceili is a Celtic dance set featuring jigs and reels from Ireland and the British Isles, Saturdays at 6:30pm (part of Celtic Twilight.).

Hosted by Gail Gilmore

Celtic Twilight With Gail Gilmore
Saturday 4:00 pm

Celtic Twilight features contemporary and traditional music from Ireland and the British Isles, including a cultural events calendar and Ceili segment.

Hosted by Gail Gilmore

Commonwealth Journal With Host Janis Pryor
Sunday 7:00 pm

Commonwealth Journal is an award-winning program featuring interviews with scholars, writers, public officials and others, examining the current issues important to the people of Massachusetts.

Hosted by Janis Pryor

Downeast Ceilidh With Marcia Young Palmater
Saturday 8:00 pm

For over 30 years, Marcia Young Palmater has been the host of Downeast Ceilidh, a popular program of traditional and contemporary music from Canada's Atlantic provinces. You'll enjoy lots of fiddle music, especially from Cape Breton, plus songs in Scottish Gaelic, Acadian French, and English!

Hosted by Marcia Young Palmater

Folk Odyssey With Dana Westover
Sunday 2:00 pm

WUMB's Folk Odyssey features music from just about everywhere, from Albania to Zimbabwe!

Hosted by Dana Westover

Highway 61 Revisited Wtih Barnes Newberry
Saturday 8:00 am

Highway 61 Revisited is a fond look back at the classic folk and folk rock of the 60's and 70's that defined a generation, with contemporary artists contributing to the spirit of that era.

Hosted by Barnes Newberry

Traditional Folk With Sandy Sheehan
Saturday 9:00 pm

Every week, the deeply knowledgeable Sandy Sheehan explores the roots of American and Celtic folk music...blues, bluegrass, old time, jigs and reels, and cajun music abound!

Hosted by Sandy Sheehan

WUMB Blues
Sunday 12:00 am

Blues from the library of WUMB.

Hosted by Brian Quinn

WUMB Music Mix - Saturdays With Dick Pleasants
Saturday 12:00 pm

Dick adds a unique twist to the usual weekday mix of contemporary and traditional Folk, Roots, Acoustic, and Americana music for a special Saturday afternoon show.

Hosted by Dick Pleasants

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dave Van Ronk, 6/30/1936 - 2/10/2002

Today marks the passing of folk artist extrordinair Dave Van Ronk.

I'd like to share part of a recent message from David Massengill . Back in the day, Dave took a young Massengill under his wing as his driver/road buddy.

"Thanks for remembering Dave. I think of him so often. He always had time for me. Roy Bookbinder admired many things about Dave, one being his ease at being a gracious celebrity. I thinks the world of his artistry but also personally his brotherly concern for his many, many friends and admirers. I will pass on your remembrance to Dave's wife Andrea Vucollo. Last year the People's Voice Cafe in NYC had a Dave Van Ronk night that I hosted and we are repeating it this year .... I'll send more info later....."

Dave Van Ronk was a catylist in the creation of Jack Hardy's "Fast Folk ". Jack tells the story of some trickery used for the first meeting. Jack told all other artists that Dave was aboard, and all the others that Dave was aboard. When Dave heard so many others were aboard, he said "sure" (I'd love to have the exact wording, sure it was much more colorful).

The rest is history.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


From Jerry's Justice Journal

Sunday, February 8, 2009


For 32 years, United Methodist minister Richard Deats worked for the organization with which I will be travelling to Iran next week, the Fellowship of Reconciliation. FOR is an interfaith and international peace movement begun by pacifists in 1914. I am proud to have been a member of FOR since the 1960’s.

Recently Deats wrote a short article in FOR’s monthly magazine about a phone conversation with folk singer, Pete Seeger. In that conversation, Seeger lifted up the hope that he has at this moment for the human family. Here is some of what Deats wrote:

I recently phoned Pete Seeger at his home in Beacon, New York. He immediately recognized me, but said, “At 89 my mind is going and if you walked in the door you might have to identify yourself. Things are totally hectic now since that movie came out about my life. [The Power of Song was released in 2007, chronicling Seeger's life and influence on American folk music.] The phone doesn't stop ringing. But I stay active in peace and environmental things especially around Beacon.

“On August 3 there will be a morning swim in the Hudson, ending with corn on the cob late morning. On the 10th is an afternoon Corn Festival all afternoon and nearby - about a mile - on the eastern end of Beacon is a Peace Festival for children, with children's drawings, poetry, etc. I'll be singing around 2 at the Corn Festival, near the railroad station.

“You know, Richard, I am far more hopeful than I was 60 years ago when I really thought that there'd be a nuclear holocaust. I think we humans may have enough sense to learn how to cooperate rather than fight. The agricultural revolution lasted 1000 years, the industrial revolution a few hundred, but the information revolution we are in has only been with us a few decades. Life is changing very fast and it can be a great blessing if we let it.

“We are in the midst of the biggest movement in the history of the world, the movement of little people and little things. People are taking their destiny in their own hands and making things better. There are 800 community gardens in New York City. There are green guerillas cleaning up New York. There are all kinds of initiatives by the people, determined to save the planet. My parents were Unitarian churchgoers. I never was. But in recent years, especially, I've discovered people of all kinds of religious belief working together for peace and justice.

And in the midst of the conversation he broke into song twice!

Deats ended his article, “For Pete's sake, let's join him in this movement of hope.” I couldn’t agree more!

Power Of Just Plain Folk ~ Tom Paxton Humbly Garners Life Grammy

I became aware of the Washington Post article yesterday through Tom Paxton's Myspace bulletin but had an appointment in Cambridge with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and 1165 other fans at Sanders Theatre. Having not enough time to post here, just a quick link in NEFolknRoots was made.

Read the bulletin (note: this is a copy and paste, we all know what MySpace does with links, so they probably do not work - that doesn't matter anyway because the links are given elsewhere in this post. Why MySpace does this is beyond me, and subject for further research and publication, but I digress) and full article below.

An aside. During the drive to Cambridge I listened to Brad Paul's "Folk on WGBH" (Saturdays, 3pm–6pm, WGBH 89.7, streaming at Brad was playing selections of the folk, roots and world musicians nominated for Grammys, including Tom and Ladysmith. Wish he had this news at that time, but, knowing Brad, I am sure he will mention it over the course of his next show. He made a comment that hit home. There is something like 115 Grammy categories, not enough time to TV broadcast all, so just the most popular are televised at night. All others are awarded in a three hour ceremony during the afternoon. All are equally deserving (and the folk, roots and world more talented, in my biased mind), guess this is another manifestation of our popular culture, I suppose.

Read about Grammy nominations related to folk and roots (NEFOLKnRoots, 12/4/08).

Read about all nominations at the Grammy website

From: Tom Paxton
Date: Feb 7, 2009 4:45 PM
Subject: Article in Washington Post (Grammy Honor)
Body: link

Power Of Just Plain Folk
Tom Paxton Humbly Garners Life Grammy
By J.
Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 7, 2009; Page C01

brief snippet:

"Paxton, 71, will receive a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award today in Los Angeles as part of the Recording Academy's Grammy Week festivities.

The award, which honors artistic contributions to the field of recording, will be announced on tomorrow night's live Grammy telecast and will place Paxton in pretty fine company. Previous Lifetime Achievement Award recipients include some of the most famous of all folkies: Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and the Weavers, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.

read more here.

Tom Paxton still riffs and writes often at his Alexandria home, where he keeps a framed copy of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land.
" (Photo by Linda Davidson -- The Washington Post)

read more here.

Note: the Grammy telecast starts tomorrow night (Sunday, February 8, 2009) at 8 PM Eastern Standard Time on the CBS television network (and on ITV2 on Monday 9th February at 9PM in the UK).

The Washington Post article

Power Of Just Plain Folk
Tom Paxton Humbly Garners Life Grammy

By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 7, 2009; C01

Tom Paxton, an icon of the 1960s folk music movement, is riffing in a coffeehouse. Perfect!

Of course, it's a Starbucks near Paxton's townhouse in Old Town Alexandria -- nothing like the small, homey cafe in New York's Greenwich Village where he landed his first singing job nearly 50 years ago after crash-landing in the creative center of the American folk scene.

"It was happening right as I got there," Paxton says of the folk revival that was underway when he moved to the Village from New Jersey's Fort Dix, where he'd been posted with the Army. "On weekends, you couldn't move on the sidewalk, and all the coffeehouses would be crammed. It was the tail end of the Beat generation, and the Gaslight actually featured some of the Beat poets; the folk singers were kind of interspersed between them. But that didn't last long. Pretty soon, it was folk singers, period. It was exciting to be part of that."

Paxton never really moved on: The "small-town yokel from Oklahoma" who as a kid favored Woody Guthrie and the Weavers over the pop stars of the day has been almost singularly focused on folk music for the entirety of his adult life. For his efforts -- for five decades of writing, recording, performing, straw-stirring, self-editing, influencing, hamming, mentoring, teaching and rewriting -- Paxton, 71, will receive a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award today in Los Angeles as part of the Recording Academy's Grammy Week festivities.

The award, which honors artistic contributions to the field of recording, will be announced on tomorrow night's live Grammy telecast and will place Paxton in pretty fine company. Previous Lifetime Achievement Award recipients include some of the most famous of all folkies: Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and the Weavers, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.

"One of the things with Tom Paxton is that while he might not be as much of a household name as some of the people we've honored, his music has been really influential," says Bill Freimuth, vice president of awards for the Recording Academy, which gives out the Grammys. "He's very much considered a mentor to many, many musicians; he's been an inspiration to so many other folks who've continued the tradition of making great music.

". . . And Tom always stuck to his heart, sometimes perhaps at the cost of his wallet. He did not go the commercial route. People really respect that about Tom."

Paxton's take? "The English have a word for it: gob-smacked. It's recognition I never thought I'd get. You think of the Grammys as billion-selling artists. I've never had a hit record myself; other people have had hits with some of my songs, but I haven't. Not even close. I'm stunned."

For the uninitiated (basically, anybody who doesn't have a subscription to Sing Out! magazine), Paxton's catalogue is filled with both satirical songs and serious songs, almost all of which have choruses constructed for sing-alongs. They're songs about adult relationships, children's songs and pointedly topical songs. Lots and lots of those, including "Lyndon Johnson Told the Nation," "The Ballad of Spiro Agnew" and "I Don't Want a Bunny Wunny," about Jimmy Carter and the "killer" swamp rabbit that the president said attacked his fishing boat in 1979. (That one still gets requested in concert, though Paxton is down to about 40 dates per year. Loves the interchange; hates the travel.)

There was also "I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler," about the controversial 1979 federal bailout, and the recent update/sequel, "I'm Changing My Name to Fannie Mae." Also: "The Bravest," a poignant song about the heroic efforts of the 9/11 firefighters, and "Sarah Palin," a silly song about, well . . . you know.

Over the past half-century, other artists have recorded plenty of Paxton's songs -- none more frequently than the regretful lover's farewell, "The Last Thing on My Mind," which has been recorded by something like 200 artists, from Baez and Judy Collins to Neil Diamond and Charley Pride. It's been performed so many times, by so many artists around the world, that some people apparently think it's a traditional folk song of unknown origin, as Paxton's youngest daughter, Kate, discovered at a pub in Scotland.

"True story," he says. "A musician at the pub sang 'The Last Thing on My Mind,' and during the break, Kate went over to him and said, 'Thank you for singing that song; my dad wrote it.' He said: 'No, he didn't. . . . He couldn't possibly have written it. That's an old Scottish folk song that I learned from my dad.'

"And she said: 'I'm telling you, it was my dad!' 'Who's your dad?' 'Tom Paxton.' He thought for the longest time and then said, 'Well, he might have written it.' "

He laughs. "I've decided to settle for that: I might have written it."

Paxton still sits down to write several times each week at home in Alexandria, where there's a framed manuscript of "This Land Is Your Land" -- in Woody Guthrie's own handwriting! -- on a living-room table. (It was an anniversary gift from Midge, Paxton's wife of 45 years. They moved here in 1996, from East Hampton, to be closer to their brood: Kate lives a few doors away in Old Town, oldest daughter Jennifer is in Bethesda with her husband and three children.)

So how many Tom Paxton songs might there be?

"It's a meaningless statistic," he protests. "I could say a couple thousand. But it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is how many songs you'll admit to having written. That could be 500."

The first one worth owning up to was "The Marvelous Toy," a whimsical, oft-covered children's song written during his stint as Pfc. Paxton. "I wrote it on an Army typewriter," he says. "I was in the clerk typist school at Fort Dix, New Jersey. But I was bored out of my mind because I could already type!"

Paxton became a folk artist because, he says, "I couldn't not."

Explain, please.

"I was always a sensitive child and young man, and I was very passionate about the things I was passionate about. One of those things was music in general and folk music in particular. There was something about folk music that spoke to me very personally, even when the songs were nothing about a life I knew. They seemed to be a window into a broader soul. They made me feel connected somehow."

He'd been born in Chicago and raised mostly in Bristow, Okla., and enrolled in the drama program at the University of Oklahoma because he'd always been in school plays and always loved to perform. But he became increasingly interested in folk music, eventually forming a group with two like-minded classmates. "We had our own little imitation Kingston Trio/Weavers trio, singing in a coffeehouse off-campus for no money," he recalls.

Listening to "The Weavers at Carnegie Hall" changed his life. "By the last track, I had undergone a chromosomal change. I had gone from somebody who loved this music to somebody who had to try to do it."

When he came to New York, courtesy of the Army, he'd found his spiritual home. "I began making friends right away: Dave Van Ronk, Noel Stookey from Peter, Paul and Mary. I stayed in the Village and slept on a lot of sofas and somehow began to make my way."

Pete Seeger took Paxton under his wing and sang "Ramblin' Boy," the young, still-unsigned artist's elegy to a lost friend, at a Weavers reunion concert at Carnegie Hall in 1963. Nice introduction. (It became the title track of Paxton's 1964 debut recording for Elektra and remains one of Paxton's best-known songs.)

More stories?

The owner of the soon-to-be-legendary Gaslight Cafe, where Paxton often performed, was convinced that the singer-songwriter with the Army haircut was an undercover cop. "But nobody really thought of me as an Army guy; I was one of them."

Paxton ran with Van Ronk and Stookey and Phil Ochs, and he talked shop with Dylan. "One night, in the Kettle of Fish, which was the bar above the Gaslight, a bunch of us were sitting around a table, as we usually did between shows. Bob was sitting next to me and said, 'Listen to this.' And I leaned over, and into my ear alone, he sang a new song called 'Gates of Eden.' I said: 'Bob, I really like that song. I really like that song.' He was really exploding creatively then."

Did the positive feedback flow both ways? "Oh, yeah," Paxton says. "We had a drink one night . . . and Bob told me that he loved my song 'Annie's Gonna Sing Her Song' and that he'd actually recorded it, though he didn't know if it was going to come out. He told me several times over the years how much he liked that song."

Funny thing about the scene, Paxton says: "We were all competitive and supportive at the same time, and there was no apparent dichotomy. We were supportive, but of course you wanted to do better."

Some did better than others, of course. Dylan took off like a rocket before plugging in to play rock-and-roll. Others became marquee stars, too: Baez, Richie Havens, Peter, Paul and Mary. That gave everybody hope. "Looking back, the thing that one is apt to forget is the insecurity of it," he says. "Nobody knew if they were going to be able to actually sustain a living doing this. "

Paxton, though, couldn't land a record deal during his first four years in the Village. "And it wasn't like now, where you can put out your own record; you had to wait until you got a contract," he says. He wondered if he'd ever make it.

But he had steady employment, performing at the Gaslight and elsewhere. And the songwriting was really working for Paxton, who had received his first big break in fall 1960. He'd auditioned for the Chad Mitchell Trio and was picked provisionally as the group's newest member, but it turned out that the voices didn't blend quite right. But he'd sung "The Marvelous Toy" for the group, which ultimately had its one hit with the song. More important, Milt Okun, the founder of Cherry Lane Music and the Chad Mitchell Trio's producer, wanted to publish Paxton's work. "That was the only good song I had at that point; I thought I had more, but I didn't," Paxton says. "But it was enough to let Milt know that I was already a songwriter. . . . And we're still together, damn near 50 years later."

At the time, Okun was producing for multiple artists, including Peter, Paul and Mary, and he wound up getting several of them to record Paxton's songs, such as "I Can't Help but Wonder Where I'm Bound." As a result, Paxton had a modest, steady income even before he was signed to Elektra in 1964. "And it was tremendously supportive morally," he says. "I knew that I was not kidding myself if other people liked the songs well enough to do them.

"It was exciting to think that, my God, I can actually do this."

Still can. Still is.

"I wouldn't be able to define success in folk music; it's almost an oxymoron," Paxton says. "It really doesn't fit. But I suppose one measure of success is that I'm still doing it nearly 50 years later."

Friday, February 6, 2009

Bon Jovi Added to 40th Anniversary Jazz Fest -truth in advertising, "" lives up to its web address

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Bon Jovi added to New Orleans Jazz Fest!

Bon Jovi joins Wynton Marsalis, Dave Matthews Band, James Taylor, Sugarland, Joe Cocker, Ben Harper, Tony Bennett, Earth, Wind & Fire, Kings of Leon, Neville Brothers, Wilco, Bonnie Raitt, Allen Toussaint, The O’Jays, Erykah Badu, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Dr. John plus hundreds of others previously announced to appear at the historic edition of the Festival.
Click here for the complete Day-by-Day lineup.

Caveat: I have nothing against the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (except maybe its korporate funding by the Shell Oil Company) and wish it all the success in the world. Just wish it would change its name.

This blog entry is made as a follow-on to one made here in December (Where's the Jazz - with all due respect to Clara Peller), which was cross-posted to the NorthEastFolknRoots group (Where's the jazz?), when the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival lineup was first announced. The intent then being to stir discussion of non-core music genres being brought into festivals that do not contain the all-encompassing words "pop" or just plain "music" in their names (such as Monterey International Pop Music Festival and Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival).

Do "folk" and "bluegrass" and "jazz" festivals have more of an obligation to stay closer to their music genre than generic "pop" and "music" festivals?

"On a similar note, in the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival announcement I see only one bonified jazz artist and a few New Orleans roots artists. The rest come from pop / soul / alt country / rock....all over the spectrum. One would think several stellar jazz artists would be featured at a jazz festival.

If a festival wants to be all things to all patrons, be my guest, just change the name to encompass what you are - like "New Orleans Jazz, Pop and Heritage Festival". But if the festival contains just the word "folk" or "bluegrass" or "jazz" or whatever, stay true to the genre."

New Orleans is expanding its tent again. Announced yesterday, "Bon Jovi has been added to the has added New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival." What's next, will Gathering of the Vibes be adding the Lawrence Welk Band ? Does the booking of a non-jazz, non-blues, non-Cajun, non-zydeco not consume budget resouces that would otherwise be spent on jazz and "heritage" musicians?

(an aside, I just noticed that the New Orleans website is "" - looks like they are fulfilling that billing).

I'm sure (and hope, as the line-ups have yet to be announced) the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival , New Bedford Summerfest (an international folk music and arts festival), the Bread and Roses Festival , the Lowell Folk Festival, the Clearwater Festival and all the other northeast folk festivals would have better taste and sense than to present artists that far away from the core genre as Bon Jovi is to jazz, Cajun, zydeco and the blues. The Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival line-up announced so far, does that, kudos to Chuck and crew.

My answer to "Do these festivals have more of an obligation to stay closer to their music genre than generic "pop" and "music" festivals?" is an emphatic "yes"! At least the ones that launch ticket sales before artist lineups are announced. As an example, Falcon Ridge tickets go on sale February 8, but the announced artist line-up are just two bands that will be playing in the dance tent, and the four "most wanted" artists (winners of the 2008 "emerging" artist competition). Full artist announcement usually comes in May or June, 3/4 of the way between ticket sale start and the festival itself. To some degree it's a matter of dollars and sense and blind faith. But I trust Anne Saunders (Falcon Ridge Artistic Director and "queen of folk"), encourage folk fans to make their purchases now and take advantage of discounted ticket prices.

I have nothing against Bon Jovi, or Madonna, or Justin Timberlake, and I am amused when one of their ilk has a wardrobe malfunction on national TV or paparatzi records their driving with an infant in their arms or display of public intoxication, but I just choose not to patronize their "art" (and secretly wish the "sheeple" who follow such childish behavior would themselves display better judgment, but I digress). Some say the folk "tent" is so big it covers all music forms. To that I say "balderdash", in their hearts the "big tenters" really don't believe that, they must draw the line somewhere.

Adding young and "edge" acts attracts new and younger patrons, which makes sense from the business side, and supports folk evolution, and festivals have every right to do so, as long as patrons have the opportunity to see "core" performers at other venue sites at the same time.

Brining in "edge" acts also needs to be balanced by other factors, such as the type of crowd and any associated negatives a specific artist draws, as was discussed in the Falcon Ridge discussion forum some weeks ago.

Assuming you are a regular Falcon Ridge or New Bedford or Grey Fox-type festival patron, how would you react if one of these festivals were to add an artist as far away from the core genre as Bon Jovi is away from jazz and Cajun/ zydeco / blues? In other words, where do you draw the line? Which of the following best describes your position?

I am a/an....

A. LEMMING - Artistic directors can add any artists they wish, I will attend anyway, watch and keep my mouth shut.
B. BIG TENTER - I would tolerate it, but find something else to do while the aritst in question performed on the main stage.
C. MIDDLE OF THE ROADER - I'd probably go anyway, but grumble privately to friends.
D. LIBERAL - I'd alert my friends, start a petition to the artistic director, then go anyway and politely applaude the artist in question.
E. ANARCHIST - Demonstrate and aggitate during the performance.


Thursday, February 5, 2009



FEST DATES: July 23, 24, 25, 26, 2009
First Enewsletter of the NEW YEAR, Happy Belated 2009, just a few items here.

FIRST and foremost - WINTER SALES BLITZ - THREE DAYS - Sun/Mon/Tues Feb 8-10

LIMITED QUANTITIES OF 4 DAY CAMPING AND 4 DAY NO CAMPING TIX on sale at $100 and $70 avail at our toll free number, 866 325-2744. This pre-season sale is only advertised to our E list. Visa and MC accepted. I will be taking phone orders from 10A to 10P or until tix run out. Hopefully they will last for 3 days, usually camping ones don't. We have 400 all 4-day camping and 200 all 4-day no camping avail ONLY by phone with Visa or MC. Each caller may purchase up to 8 tix.

Updated info on all prices, dates, deadlines, artists booked so far are on NOT on our website YET, very late start this year due to the aftermath of last year's very severe weather that closed the fest early on Sunday. It was not until November we were sure we could continue.

Prices on 4-day tix go up 15 bucks in March when earlybird tix sales begin. All other tix categories avail at that time, single day and teen specials.

Our annual spring Preview Tour is not to be this year but there may be a few shows here and there featuring the 4 top voted 2008 showcase artists, Amy Speace, Blue Moose & the Unbuttoned Zippers, Abi Tapi & Lucy Wainwright Roche. We will post and E this info.

Very few artists confirmed so far, Clayfoot Strutters and Wild Asparagus. As mentioned, very late start BUT thanks to this community, artists who gave back their fee, volunteers who refused their annual stipend & many of you who donated to our Tornado Relief Fund, we are definitely good to go.

Thanks and Happy ALMOST END of Winter to all, Anne

Anne Saunders
Falcon Ridge Folk Festival
21 years of Folk Music & Dance in the Berkshires
July 23, 24, 25, 26, 2009 - Dodds Farm - 44 CR 7D, Hillsdale, NY

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

2008 Falcon Ridge / Grassy Hill "Most Wanted" artists announced

Received from Abi Tapia, 2/3:

Abi is Most Wanted

Falcon Ridge Folk Festival '09, Here I Come...

I just found out that festival audiences voted me o
ne of their favorites from the '08 class of emerging artists! This means I'll get to come back and play at the '09 festival along with Amy Speace, Lucy Wainwright Roche and Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers. Wahoo! We might do some other shows around the Northeast together, too. Stay tuned.

From a very stong pool of artists....

Jenee Halstead-Boston
Ashleigh Flynn-Portland OR
The Low Anthem-Providence RI
Katie Sawicki-Portland OR
Robby Hecht-Nashville
Gretchen Witt-NYC
Michael Tiernan-San Diego CA
Lucy Wainwright-Roche-Brooklyn NY
Brad Colerick-S Pasadena CA
Carrie Elkin-Austin TX
Blue Moose & the Unbuttoned Zippers-Boston
Abi Tapia-Austin TX
Emily Mure-NYC
Rj Cowdery-Columbus OH
Danny Schmidt-Austin TX
Brooke Brown Saracino-Northampton MA
Blind Willies-San Francisco
Anne Heaton-Somerville MA
Amy Speace-NYC
Luke Brindley-Vienna VA
Juliana Finch-Atlanta GA
Ian Fitzgerald-Somerville MA
Erin Sax Seymour-NYC

...the 2008 Falcon Ridge / Grassy Hill "Most Wanted" artists are:

Congratulations, Abi, Amy, Lucy and Blue Moose, see you at Dodds Farm in 6 short months, unless a "most wanted" tour is at hand?????

Update 2/4: As of 11am, official word from the festival itself has been posted to neither its website nor to its mail list. But the following appears on the "Camp Fruvous" Google group. Although quantitative, its source(s) are not cited, so regard as unofficial.

The votes are in and the people have spoken.

From a total of 440 surveys completely filled out this year, about a third of the usual since most were lost in the storm, the results are:

1. Amy Speace - garnering votes from 30% of the voting audience

2. Blue Moose & the Unbuttoned Zippers - a very close second at 29%

3. Abi Tapia and Lucy Wainwright Roche - just about tied with 22% and 21% of the voters respectively

They will be on the Most Wanted Song Swap in 2009. There is no official preview tour but some dates my be booked.

Edit 2/19: Falcon Ridge 2008 Emerging Artist Showcase Posted by Jake Jacobson to Facebook.

Monday, February 2, 2009

"but didn't we just have a big one?"

Inside Rolling Stone's Afternoon With Folk Icons Pete Seeger and Joan Baez

2/2/09, 3:09 pm EST

Photo: Celotto/Getty (Baez), Mazur/WireImage(Seeger)

...They reminisce about the civil rights movement, about singing with Woody Guthrie and Odetta, about the effect that the arts and technology have had on the struggle for human rights. "There have been a lot of little miracles," says Seeger.

"Yes," says Baez, "but didn't we just have a big one?"...

Read the full Rolling Stone article .

Pete Seeger Receives The Courage of Conscience Award

  • Pete Seeger Receives The Courage of Conscience Award

  • pete

    In 2004 the STONEWALK journey with September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows went through Norwalk Connecticut where the Stonewalkers gathered for a night of music with Pete Seeger. Connie and Bruce Taylor, longtime friends of Pete arranged the evening. The newspaper quoted Seeger as saying" "This is what life's all about. Retiring and watching the world go to hell is no way to stay optimistic. Every time I get a crowd singing with me, I get a surge of optimism." Later Connie nominated Pete for the Courage of Conscience Award. On January 19th, the day after the Washington pre-inaugural celebration at the Lincoln Memorial where Pete performed with Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger received the Courage of Conscience Award. It was presented by Dan Dick, Peace Chaplain and musician, who traveled with Peace Abbey volunteers Madeline Champagne and Brian Cron to Beacon, New York for the event. Pete signed a book for The Peace Abbey and of course Dan's banjo!

    Source - Peace Abbey newsletter