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Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Today, a death, Ronnie Gilbert of The Weavers passed away last week at the age of 88, and a birthday, Shirley Alston Reeves, who formed the Shirelles, today turns 74, my age.  All the original Weavers are now gone, including 94-year old Peter Seeger last year.  They paved the way for folk music.

I've of course covered The Weavers in this blog site.  Here is a clip from five years ago, linking the group to Hurricane Irene:

Well, watch the Weavers singing, Goodnight Irene at their last concert:

And Good Night Irene in their prime just about 60 years ago, where they gave credit to Huddie Leadbetter (who had just passed away, known as Leadbelly) for inspiring them with his 30's Irene Goodnight.  The song itself has amorphous roots leading back into the 1800's.

The Weavers lived a turbulent and checkered existence from their formation in 1948, having to deal with Communism, black listing and cigarette commercials.  However:

In February 2006 The Weavers received the Lifetime Achievement Award given out annually at the Grammy awards show. Represented by members Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman, they struck a chord with the crowd as their struggles with political witch hunts during the 1950s were recounted. "If you can exist, and stay the course – not a course of blind obstinacy and faulty conception – but one of decency and good sense, you can outlast your enemies with your honor and integrity intact," Hellerman said.

This quote from shewire says a lot about Ronnie's life:

In 1974, Holly Near, who had grown up with the Weavers’ music, released A Live Album, which she dedicated to Gilbert. “I had never heard of Holly Near,” Gilbert told interviewer Kate Weigand in 2004. “One usually asks permission of somebody when they’re going to do that. Holly Near never asked me for permission. Later, when I asked her, ‘How come you never asked me?’ she said, “Well, the truth is, I didn’t know you were alive.” Once Near found out Gilbert was alive and well, the two women began performing together frequently, starting in the 1980s. Their 1983 concert tour was recorded for the album Lifeline Extended, and a series of shows they did with Seeger and Arlo Guthrie is on the album H.A.R.P.: A Time to Sing.

Touring with Near, Gilbert was impressed to see women doing jobs she had always seen done by men previously — “running the electrical, doing the lights,” she recalled to Weigand. The tour personnel were almost all lesbians, and a friend asked Gilbert if she was coming out. “I remember the stupid thing I said to her,” she told Weigand. “‘I didn’t come out as a heterosexual. Why should I come out as a lesbian?’ I hadn’t been out. I hadn’t been out and I wasn’t at that point yet. I hadn’t yet met my love. But it was shortly after. What can I say about that? I didn’t care what I was thought about. That’s fine. They think I’m a lesbian? Good. It was like being on the team, you know, in a way. It didn’t matter to me. It mattered, but in a very positive way. I was really glad to be associated with these women.”

Five years ago I also blogged on the Shirelles:

The Shirelles, favorites of mine, was the first girl group to have a #1 hit on the Billboard 100.  Like the Ronettes named after Ronnie Spector, the Shirelles were influenced by Shirley Owens, now known as Shirley Alston Reeves.  We are the same age.  The group is 53 years old.  Shirley was great with Will You Love Me Tomorrow (WYLMT), which reached #1 on Billboard in 1960.

Rolling Stone selected WYLMT and the 1960 Tonight's the Night in its list of the greatest songs of all time.  In 1962 Soldier Boy hit #1.  While this was during a particularly punishing period when I was trying to survive Army basic training, I better remember the Chiffons' He's So Fine and One Fine Day, hits by a similar black female group of those times.  Anyway, WYLMT, HSF and OFD are in my personal all time Top 100


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