Minor Health Incident Interrupts Leonard Cohen’s Concert in Spain

Article written by on Saturday, Sep 19, 2009 in Opinion,People

A few years ago I was watching one of those depressing police or hospital shows when my attention was seized by a mournful song as the credits rolled. I was not alone, for many people called or went online to find out more about the artist and the song. Although I have followed some folk artists for years, there are others with whom I have not previously been acquainted. This episode was my first introduction to Jeff Buckley and my second hearing of Leonard Cohen’s music. As you may have guessed, the song was “Hallelujah.”

I already loved the song “Suzanne,” which I have on a Joan Baez album, but had not checked into Leonard’s writings further. At this point I decided it was high time I knew more, so I made an effort to find more of his music. To be honest some songs I have found so far, I love, and some I can easily go the rest of my life without hearing again. But I recently saw clips of Leonard performing his music live, and there is something mesmerizing about the way he sings. So I was concerned to see this morning’s story in the New Zealand magazine Stuff, about Leonard collapsing on stage.

As it turns out, this was a minor episode, but it reminds us of the health issues involved when a singer takes up touring again after thinking they could retire safely. You may already know the story, but if not you can read more in the article mentioned above.

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Petition to Nominate Pete Seeger for Nobel Peace Prize

Article written by on Friday, Mar 23, 2007 in Opinion

Long-time civil rights activist and co-founder of the Freedom Song Network, Eleanor Walden has organized a petition to urge the American Friends Service Committee to nominate Pete Seeger for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Pete Seeger has been a crusader for Peace and Social Justice over the course of his 87 year lifetime. As a prominent musician his songs, messages and performance style have worked to engage other people, particularly the youth, in causes to end the Vietnam war, ban nuclear weapons, work for international solidarity, and ecological responsibility. It is time that a cultural worker receives the recognition that this work has great influence and global reach, that it is not only a medium of entertainment but of education, compassion and fraternity.

Of course Pete has never been alone in this work. He is the first to affirm that. But his unique sense of purpose, decency, and ability, and the support of Toshi and his family gave him the opportunity to be all that he could be. He is a role model and a guiding spirit, we are fortunate to have had him in our world. We can be influential in getting him nominated for the honor he deserves.

As cultural workers we know the power of the arts, we also know how difficult it is to gain recognition for cultural creation. Pete Seeger has gained recognition without compromise! Carl Sandburg called Seeger “the living embodiment of America’s traditions….” When Pete was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 they said, “Pete Seeger’s contribution to folk music, both in terms of its revival and survival, cannot be overstated.” Pete was also honored by the Kennedy Center with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994. In 2001 they again paid tribute to Pete Seeger with a cross generational presentation. The program featured friends and family including Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, grandson of Pete Seeger, and Sarah Lee Guthrie, granddaughter of Woody Guthrie.” They described Pete as being, “Instrumental in popularizing the indigenous American song, his own compositions – among them ‘If I Had a Hammer,’ ‘We Shall Overcome,’ and ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone’ (and ‘The Big Muddy’ ) have served as anthems for an entire generation.

It is important to honor our forbears, we all stand on Pete Seeger’s shoulders in a manner of speaking. We have an opportunity to acknowledge him a “father” of a cultural, social, and political movement, which enriched us all and in which we all share, as much as we share our paternal DNA.

I posted a petition on a site named The aim is grassroots influence to the American Friends Service Committee to nominate Pete Seeger for the Nobel Peace Prize. I know there are many people interested in adding support. I’m asking everyone to circulate the petition information to at least 5 other people asking them to notify 5-10 other people.

Eleanor Walden

The petition can be found at

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Article written by on Thursday, Jun 29, 2006 in Opinion

It wasn’t looking good for the Oldsongs Festival this year. The weather forecast looked pretty awful then a family emergency kept us up until 2am the day before we were supposed to leave. We finally rolled in to the festival about 6pm on Friday which left us an hour to set up our tent and get to the main stage for the beginning of the evening concert.

It was worth it however. We had a blast. The weather held and the music was fabulous as usual.

Oldsongs falls solidly on the traditional side of folk but manages to represent a wide variety of styles from around the world. There were so many wonderful performances that it’s hard to pick favorites.

Alan Jabbour and Ken Perlman (Appalachian fiddle and banjo tunes), Lian De Cubel ( celtic music from Asturias in Spain ) and Paul Geremia stood out mostly because I hadn’t seen any of them before. Not to mention Finest Kind, Beppe Gambetta, Debby McClatchy, Brian Peters and a few more who don’t come to mind right now. We had to leave before the end of the last concert which meant there were a number of great performers we never got to see.

Life has been more than hectic lately and the festival offered a welcome respite. I can hardly believe it’s been almost over almost a week already. Oldsongs is on my calender pretty much every year and if you like traditional music it ought to be on yours.

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Family of Solomon Linda to Finally Receive Royalties

Article written by on Saturday, Feb 18, 2006 in Opinion

According to an article in The Scotsman, The Disney Corporation Abilene Music has reached a settlement with the family of Solomon Linda, the author of ‘Wimoweh’ or ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’.

Hopefully with this settlement some measure of justice is finally achieved. Seldom has a song made so much money for so many people with so little compensation going to its original author. Solomon Linda died penniless in 1962 a year after the song toped the charts in the US for the third time.

The song’s journey from underground South African hit to worldwide pop hit is long and fascinating. With Pete Seeger and the Weavers being largely responsible for it’s initial popularity.

Linda and the Evening Birds recorded “Mbube” in South Africa in 1939.The song’s original Zulu lyrics based from Solomon’s boyhood experiences chasing lions away from the family cattle. The record sold nearly 100,000 copies in South Africa during the 1940’s but under apartheid black artists could not collect royalties. Eventually a copy found it’s way to Alan Lomax who passed it on to Pete Seeger.

Intrigued by the songs driving chant and high harmonies, Seeger transliterated the refrain “uyimbube” into “awimoweh” shortening it eventually to “wimoweh”. The Weavers recorded the song in 1952 and again in 1957.

The English lyrics were written in 1961 by George David Weiss and producers Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore for an RCA recording by The Tokens. Something 170 different artists have recorded the song and Disney used it in the hit movie the Lion King.

Seeger has long regretted his part in the song’s appropriation. He sent the Linda family what he thought he owed them in royalties and has continued to push for Linda to get credit for the song.

The original version of “Mbube” recorded by Solomon Linda and the Evening Birds was re-released by Rounder Records on Mbube Roots — Zulu Choral Music from South Africa, 1930s-1960s. You can hear a clip from the original at the Rounder Records site.

Update: March 23rd. More than a month after the story broke it’s finally hit the use press in a big way with a front page article in the New York Times yesterday. Some updates and corrections are in order. Although the first article I found in the Statesman said that Disney corporation was involved in the settlement most sources say the settlement was with Abilene Music. Disney’s usual response is similar to this one in the times.

A representative for Disney would not discuss the circumstances behind the lawsuit, but the company said in a statement that Walt Disney Pictures had licensed ” ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ in good faith” and was pleased that the litigation had been resolved “to everyone’s satisfaction.”

‘Wimoweh’ as recorded by The Weavers and ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ are under separate copyright. It was the for the latter, more lucrative song that the recent settlement was made. The copyright to ‘Wimoweh’ is controlled by the Richmond group. The Richmond group settled with the Linda family earlier.

You can find several versions of the song including a full length recording on Mube at the Friday Fishwrap blog.

The background above comes primarily from these articles if you’re interested in reading further.

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Things I’ve learned from British folk ballads

Article written by on Monday, Sep 19, 2005 in Opinion

This post on Making Light has been making the rounds and for good reason – it’s hysterical.

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Patrick Costello: the Creative Commons and the Folk Process

Article written by on Thursday, Jun 09, 2005 in Opinion

Patrick Costello explains why he released his Banjo Instruction books under a Creative Commons license. As usual with Patrick that involves a story…

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The Mammals Censored at Festival International

Article written by on Tuesday, May 24, 2005 in Opinion

Stories about attempts at censorship by venues seem to turn up with disturbing regularity these days. Last fall I pointed out this article (prompted I think by stories circulating on various folkvenu email list). Now comes this article in the Lafayette Independent about The Mammals being asked not to preform their song The Bush Boys at the Festival International.

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Ghanaian Goverment Nationalizes Folklore

Article written by on Saturday, Apr 23, 2005 in Opinion

In a rather bizarre move the Ghanaian government has passed a new copyright law which nationalizes folklore and penalizes Ghanaians who commercially use, sell or distribute Ghanaian folklore or translations without a Government permit.

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