The two best YouTube clips of the influential folk revival group The New Lost City Ramblers are from Pete Seeger’s program Rainbow Quest. It’s no coincidence: The autoharp player, Mike Seeger, is Pete’s half-brother. It’s interesting that Pete just introduces him as his brother on the clip above. Another member of the band, John Cohen, is Pete and Mike’s brother-in-law or, perhaps, half-brother-in-law. Or brother-in-law-and-a-half. It’s a bit confusing, but suffice it to say that the Seeger family was intensely musical.
Here is the most important paragraph of Wikipedia’s entry on The New Lost City Ramblers:
The Ramblers distinguished themselves by focusing on the traditional playing styles they heard on old 78rpm records of musicians recorded during the 1920s and 1930s, many of whom had earlier appeared on the Anthology of American Folk Music. The New Lost City Ramblers refused to “sanitize” these southern sounds as did other folk groups of the time, such as the Weavers or Kingston Trio. Instead, the Ramblers have always strived for an authentic sound. However, the Ramblers did not merely copy the old recordings that inspired them. Rather, they would use the various old-time styles they encountered while at the same time not becoming slaves to imitation.
Man of Constant Sorrow is above and Ragtime Annie is below.
The New York Times offers an interesting article on Woody at 100, a three-CD boxed set from the Smithsonian Institution. The story mentions Guthrie’s best known song, This Land is Your Land (originally This Land), includes the second verse of the song that isn’t often sung. The lyrics aren’t startling by today’s standards, but the stanza isn’t clearly the patriotic crowd-pleaser of the first.
Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger sang the song–including that second verse–at President Obama’s inauguration (here it is). It’s a bit ironic. Springsteen’s Born in the USA, like This Land is Your Land, often is mistakenly thought to be a blindly patriotic ode. Both are anything but.
Here is Guthrie’s transcription of This Land, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons:
This is from This Day in Music.com entry for July 10, 1987:
Producer and record company executive John Hammond died. He brought Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Leonard Cohen and Bruce Springsteen to Columbia Records. Hammond also worked as a producer with Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman and Count Basie.
From Bessie Smith to Bruce Springsteen.
There is more, courtesy of Wikipedia. The site says that Hammond also was involved with Charlie Christian, Teddy Wilson, Big Joe Turner, Pete Seeger, Babtunde Olatunji, George Benson, Freddy Green, Arthur Russell and Asha Puthli.
Of course, as a record producer he would have worked with many performers. The breathe of Hammond’s influence and his longevity are amazing, however.
Teddy Wilson plays Avalon in Austria in 1976.
Like Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen has managed to remain relevant as a musician and as a lyricist despite being a superstar. Being a superstar likely leads to an insular life — one that is quite unlike the life that person led before. Maintaining creativity probably is a difficult thing to do.
Like Young, Springsteen has two identities: Folk singer and rocker. Springsteen clearly revels in his links and debts to Leadbelly, Pete Seeger (the clip above is from “The Seeger Sessions”), Dylan, Woody Guthrie and others. He mentions them often.
Perhaps the synergies and tensions between the two overlapping worlds — rock superstar and folk musician with something to say — helps both Springsteen and Young (who recently released an album of folk and traditional songs) remain creative.
Happy Memorial Day. Here are some essential songs, including Grand Funk Railroad’s timeless classic We’re an American Band.
Among songs from folks wearing shirts are Jimi Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner and Marian Anderson’s historic performance of My Country ‘Tis of Thee at the Lincoln Memorial. Here are two versions of God Bless America: One by composer Irving Berlin and one by Kate Smith, who is most closely associated with the song.
Ragtime, perhaps because of the popularity of Scott Joplin, is associated with the piano. There also is a school of ragtime guitar, however. Elizabeth Cotten was one of its best known adherents. Other famous players are Blind Blake and Blind Willie McTell.
According to this bio, in the late 1940s Cotten migrated from Chapel Hill, North Carolina to Washington, D.C. (Other bios outline stops in between.) She took a job in a department store and, one day, returned a lost girl to her mother. That good deed had profound ramifications: The parents were the Seegers, who ended up hiring Cotten. They both were musicologists. Even more importantly, the lost girl’s stepbrother was Pete. This happy coincidence enabled Cotten, who early in life had shown talent–she wrote Freight Train when she was 11 years old–to become a musician full time.
Here are Washington Blues and I’m Going Away and the familiar Going Down the Road Feeling Bad. This tune is labeled Vastopol/Vestapol; another nice one is Buck Dance. Finally, considering the history, is seems right to end with Cotten as a guest on Seeger’s Rainbow Quest television program. There is a nice interview in which Cotten elaborates the story of how she got hired by the Seegers. The two then play the pretty Wilson Rag.
Creative promotion and collaboration is the key for Lain music, said presenters at Billboard’s 23rd Latin Music Conference…The great Pete Seeger is getting a “Distinguished Service” award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters…Good festivals = kids cutting school…Here comes the Xbox music service. Why am I not surprised?…Koss Corp. shows that we are getting closer and closer to online implants…Concert safety in the spotlight…Johnny Depp is remaking The Lone Ranger and Jack White is composing the music…I’m Still Hot, a video featuring Betty White, wins a Silver Telly…Bessie Smith was something, that’s all I can say…EMI Classics project sounds like an 800 number commercial waiting to happen…The Sandusky County Arts & Music Festival is coming to Fremont, OH May 17…The Galway Early Music Festival is set for Ireland starting May 17…Modern Family’s Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell will host the 2012 Billboard Music Awards on May 20…