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Posts Tagged ‘the weavers’

Died On This Date (January 27, 2014) Pete Seeger / American Folk Singer and Activist

Posted by themusicsover on January 27, 2014

Pete Seeger
May 3, 1919 – January 27, 2014

pete-seegerPete Seeger is regarded by many as the single most important figure of the American folk music revival of the late ’50s/early ’60s.  Just as important to many, he used his talent and popularity to shine a light on social injustice, poverty, environmental issues, anti-war movements, and more.  Born into a highly academic  and musical family in New York City, Seeger was exposed to music at a very young age.  Educated primarily in boarding schools, he was very well-educated and somewhat withdrawn until he found his spotlight while entertaining classmates with a ukulele he picked up on his own.  By the late ’30s, he switched over to the banjo, the instrument he would help popularize three decades later.  As the years went on, Seeger went from small festival folky to cultural hero thanks in part to his songs that would become the soundtrack to the ’60s Civil Rights Movement and beyond.  Tunes like “If I Had A Hammer” written with Weavers band mate, Lee Hays), “Turn, Turn, Turn,” and “Where Have All The Flowers Gone” have become folk standards as well as part of the fabric that is American music.  They, and many others, have been recorded by a who’s who of pop, rock and folk singers throughout the past half century.  To name just a few of his honors, Seeger has received the National Medal Of Arts, the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award, a Kennedy Center Honor, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a George Peabody Medal, and multiple Grammys, including one for Best Children’s Album in 2010.  To list those who could rightfully say “if it wasn’t for Pete Seeger…” would take days, but two in particular were Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. It was Seeger who urged Columbia’s John Hammond to produce Dylan’s first album.  Springsteen meanwhile would devote much of his career paying tribute to Seeger, including naming his 2010 album, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, which ironically, included no songs penned by Seeger, but whose influence can be heard throughout.  With an astonishing career that spanned 75 years, Seeger remained active up until his final days, including a September 2013 performance at Farm Aid at the age of 94.  Pete Seeger was nearly three months shy of his 95th birthday when he passed away on January 27, 2014.

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Died On This Date (August 26, 1981) Lee Hays / The Weavers

Posted by themusicsover on August 26, 2010

Lee Hays
March 14, 1914 – August 26, 1981

Photo by Robert C. Malone

Photo by Robert C. Malone

No doubt effected by the lynchings he witnessed as a child, Lee Hays grew up to become a voice of the people, first as a union activist and later as a folk singer who co-founded the Weavers in 1948.  With the Weavers, Hays co-wrote such classic folk songs as “If I Had A Hammer,” “Wimoweh” and “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine.”  Because of his connections with radical groups during his days as an activist, the group was targeted as “communist sympathizers” during the McCarthy era.  In 1950, they were blacklisted, and when brought before the House Committee Of Un-American Activities, Hays pleaded the 5th when questioned about his perceived connections with communism.  No longer able to perform publicly, the Weavers disbanded in 1952.  Hays performed and recorded periodically over the years, most notably on children’s albums as part of Alan Arkin’s the Baby Sitters.  The Weavers reunited in later years for special concert events.  Lee Hays died of heart disease attributed to diabetes on August 26, 1981.  He was 67.  Thankfully, Morgana Kennedy and her team at Vanguard keep finding new ways to celebrate the wonderful music of Lee Hays and the Weavers.

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Best of the Vanguard Years - The Weavers

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Died On This Date (December 6, 1949) Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter

Posted by themusicsover on December 6, 2009

Lead Belly (Born Huddie Ledbetter)
January 20, 1888 – December 6, 1949

leadbelly

Huddie Ledbetter, or as he was better known, Leadbelly (which he spelled, Lead Belly) was a Louisiana-born folk and blues singer, songwriter and musician whose catalog of songs included many that have since become folk and blues standards.  That list includes, “Cotton Fields,” “Goodnight Irene,” and “Midnight Special.”  Those and others have been recorded by such divers artists as of the Weavers, the Beach Boys, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Johnny Cash, the White Stripes, Ministry and Nirvana.  From an early age, Lead Belly honed his skills by absorbing the field songs he heard as he traveled the southern states for work.  He also had first hand experience learning prison hollers by spending two separate terms incarcerated, once for murder, and the second, for attempted murder.  Each time he was pardoned by the governor by literally singing his way to freedom.  While in Angola Prison for his second crime, he was recorded by musicologists, John Lomax and Alan Lomax, who helped facilitate his pardon.   Lead Belly then moved to New York where the Lomax’s helped him land a contract with Columbia Records.  Although he found plenty of press as the “singing convict,” his records never sold much initially.  He did, however find an audience in Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie who helped introduce his music to new audiences during their careers.  Lead Belly continued to struggle financially, and in 1939, he found himself in jail for stabbing a man during a fight.  Alan Lomax again helped him by raising money for his defense.  He ended staying in jail for a couple of more years.  By the middle of the ’40s, he found himself immersed in New York’s blossoming folk scene, playing with the likes of Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry.  In 1949, Lead Belly, 61, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease of which he died on December 6, 1949.

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Where Did You Sleep Last Night: Lead Belly Legacy, Vol. 1 - Lead Belly

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Died On This Date (November 22, 1988) Janet Ertel / The Chordettes

Posted by themusicsover on November 22, 2009

Janet Ertel
September 21, 1913 – November 22, 1988

Janet Ertel was an original member or the pop vocal group, the Chordettes.  Formed during the late ’40s, the group initially considered themselves as more of a folk group like the Weavers, but soon went in a pop direction.  In 1952, the group performed on the popular Arthur Goddfrey Talent Scout program and handily won due to their beautiful harmonizing.  That lead to a regular spot on the show as well as a recording contract with Cadence Records which had recently been started by Archie Bleyer.  The went on to record numerous records, thirteen of which landed on the pop singles charts.  Their biggest hits were “Lollipop” and “Mr. Sandman.”   In 1954, Ertel married Bleyer that same year.  She died of cancer on November 22, 1988.

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The Chordettes

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Died On This Date (October 1, 2008) Nick Reynolds / The Kingston Trio

Posted by themusicsover on October 1, 2009

Nick Reynolds
July 27, 1933 – October 1, 2008

nickreynoldsNick Reynolds was a founding member of the Kingston Trio, one of the premier groups of the ’60s folk revival.  Formed in northern California in the late ’50s, the group were a direct descendant of the Weavers, but thanks in part to their youthfulness, they were able to bring folk music further into the mainstream.  Their harmonies would, in turn, heavily influence such groups as the Beach Boys in years to come.  The Kingston Trio won two Grammy’s during the early part of their career.  The group broke up in 1967 as harder rock music started becoming more popular with American kids, so Reynolds took some time off from music to enjoy his other love, auto racing.    He made a name for himself driving formula B and C cars along the Northwest circuit.  He reunited with the Kingston Trio in the early ’80s and played with them on and off until his retirement in 1998.  Nick Reynolds was 75 when he died of respiratory disease on October 1, 2008.

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The Kingston Trio



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