Friday Folk Musings


I haven’t seen the Coen Brothers film, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” but I will, when it comes on cable. I’ve read many reviews and many opinions of the film, but they do not matter to me since I am just so happy that the music from the film will, hopefully, gain momentum and bring folk music (or “Americana”) to a new high that it hasn’t had in over 40 years. I did see the Town Hall Concert on Showtime (Another Day, Another Time) that presented the artists in the movie and it was so beautiful.  The Coen Brothers are Baby Boomers like me, in fact, they are one year younger. It is inspiring and uplifting that they, along with T Bone Burnett, felt or knew that a story about Greenwich Village in the 60s warranted a movie. I don’t fault them for inaccurate facts, portrayals of folksingers, dates or locales, it’s a movie, it’s fiction. Elijah Wald’s book, The Mayor of MacDougal Street may have impacted them and propelled them to make a movie, but we all know the real Dave Van Ronk is not represented in this movie. Perhaps a movie about Dave Van Ronk and the other folkies who walked the streets of Greenwich Village and played in the clubs will be on the horizon due to “Inside Llewyn Davis,” I can only hope. Recently folksinger Happy Traum weighed in with his opinion after seeing the movie: “In the end, it was a Coen Brothers movie and there were enough flashes of humor, creativity and artful filmmaking that it won me over. It was the story of one guy and his misadventures, and it didn’t have to represent an entire musical community. Best of all, how wonderful that Elijah Wald’s excellent book, Dave Van Ronk’s music, and the phenomenal music scene that had its birth in ‘60s Greenwich Village were given such a huge platform, and generated such heated discussion.”

As for me…I’ve been singing “Dink’s Song” as I drive to mom’s each morning this week. It’s a song I first learned when I took a couple of singing lessons from folksinger Ed McCurdy, probably in the early 70s. Ed was living on the Upper West Side with his wife. He wrote the legendary song, “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream” and was a character in his own right. Ed was a huge man physically and wasn’t in the best of health when I met him. I liked him, he was bold, brash and held nothing back. The folksingers of the 50s, 60s, early 70s still impact our lives whether we know it or not. The words, the messages of the songs are true to this very day in 2014. Music is understood all over the world and hasn’t lost its power to transform or heal.



“There’s Nothing to Prove; Ev”rything’s Still the Same.”-Bob Dylan, Farewell Angelina


“My concern has always been for the people who are victimized, unable to speak for themselves and who need outside help.”-Joan Baez

Today I so celebrate the beautiful Joan Baez and all of her humanity in her 73rd year. Joan has “Nothing to Prove” and luckily for the world, she’s “Still the Same.”  I have been listening to Joan and following her doings for over 50 years, yes 50 years!  I know some of you out there have been doing the same for as long. Joan Baez has been in the forefront of so many issues that have plagued the World. She’s marched with Dr. King; inspired Vaclev Havel and others around the world to do better by their citizens; Joan stood alongside Nelson Mandela; She walked with Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo or sometimes known as Los Madres in Argentina,  mothers and grandmothers whose children and grandchildren suddenly disappeared from their lives and killed by the “Dirty War” (1975-1983), which began in the last year of government rule under Isabel Peron. (Folksinger, Richard Shindell wrote a haunting song for these Mothers and Grandmothers titled: Abuelita. If you’ve never heard it, try to listen on itunes, I couldn’t find it for free on You Tube). Through her commitment to Human Rights, she worked with Cesar Chavez in the fields and helped bring the working and living conditions of migrant workers to the forefront. Joan Baez has ceaselessly been a Citizen of the World. I Thank YOU Joan and Happy Birthday. Please Keep On Singing!














“Glad All Over” –Dave Clark & Mike Smith

“At the height of their fame the Dave Clark Five rivaled The Beatles as Britain’s most popular band.”JJ Anisiobi, Daily Mail, 5/13

 On November 1st, 1964, The Dave Clark Five sang, “Glad All Over” on the Ed Sullivan show. When they made their first tour of the U.S., they came to Brooklyn! The group came to the Walker Theater on 18th Avenue in Brooklyn, NY, can you imagine? That was a favorite movie theater, huge, grand and next door was a delicious Chinese Restaurant where my family and I ate many a meal…usually on Sundays.  I must’ve been about 12 years old and saw them jump on stage after their film, “Catch Us If You Can.” Like everyone else, I wanted to see this British group as they left to board their bus, so there I was being literally stampeded on by the exit door. I was lucky I wasn’t hurt and it was an experience that I’ll never forget. I don’t think I felt, “Glad All Over” at that exact moment.

“The Times They Are A-(STILL) Changin’”- Bob Dylan

“If you take whatever there is to the song away – the beat, the melody – I could still recite it.”-Bob Dylan 1965LA Free Press Interview

Today, in 1963, a young Bobby Dylan  (Phil Ochs referred to “Bobby” Dylan this way in his song, “Ringing of Revolution” as he described casting the song as a movie where Phil Ochs was cast as “Bobby” Dylan.)  was in the recording studio laying down tracks for his album, “The Times They Are A-Changin’” with such emotionally charged tracks as the title song, “When The Ship Comes In,” “Ballad of Hollis Brown,”  “With God On Our Side,”  “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” and beautiful ballads such as “Boots of Spanish Leather.”  I was 10 years old; I had an older brother and so, of course, we bought that album and all of Dylan’s albums. The album was released in 1965 before Dylan’s infamous electric guitar fury during his Newport Folk Festival performance that summer. When you read the lyrics of Dylan’s songs, they still more than hold up today. A great poet/thinker is timeless. Long Live Bobby Dylan!!!!

A Man of Words: Poet, Writer, Songwriter

“Music is the Emotional Life of Most People.”-Leonard Cohen

A man great with words was born today and still going strong. I remember writing to Leonard Cohen as a very young teenager in the 60s. He wrote back from Greece on one of those Par Avion blue air mail letters that you write on and just fold and mail. (Does USPS produce those anymore?)  His message was written in a circle and said, Dear Ilene, I really don’t know where I’m going.” Unfortunately I don’t have that letter anymore, but I still remember it! Happy 79th BD, Leonard Cohen!!!!

All Around Me

My brother was born today in 1948, he would’ve been 65 years old! 65 years old! He was 4 and a half years older than me. He died in 1993 at age 45 after battling AIDS that progressed rapidly for the last 2 years of his life. I miss him, but he’s all around me. He’s in the music I write about and listen to; He’s in the news tidbits I read about musicians and concerts; He’s in my son’s demeanor, gait and face; He’s in my heart and memory. My mom, my hero, took care of him, physically, mentally, emotionally; she was amazing during that time. “In the English language there are orphans and widows, but there is no word for the parents who lose a child.”JodiPicoult, My Sister’s Keeper. The 60s, an era that I love, also wrought havoc on families through drug usage and that’s how my brother probably contracted HIV. I remember being angry with him when he was last in the hospital and telling him I was angry and he could’ve had a good life; I don’t think he heard me or understood me; He had a form of dementia and was blind and looked 80 years old when he succumbed quietly. So sad. My eyes are tearing right now remembering this. I know my husband, son and daughter remember my brother and loved him very much. At his funeral, my husband referred to him as “an innocent,” my 8-years old son got up to speak (a complete surprise) and said how much he loved his uncle. My brother was the funniest person, a brilliant comedian, truly! He took me to see my first Richie Havens concert on 2nd Ave. in NYC at the former Anderson Yiddish Theater; my first Peter, Paul & Mary Concert at Carnegie Hall; my first Bruce Springsteen concert at the former Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center where the row he was sitting in with friends collapsed and sank!!!!!   Surely a night to remember!   So, this morning as I write this, my brother is all around me; in fact, has never left me and never will. RIP Bro’

We Remember Them…

 In the rising of the sun and in its going down,

We remember them;

 In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,

We remember them;

 In the opening of buds and in the warmth of summer,

We remember them;

 In the rustling of leaves and the beauty of autumn,

We remember them;

In the beginning of the year and when it ends,

We remember them;

When we are weary and in need of strength,

We remember them;

 When we are lost and sick at heart,

We remember them;

 When we have joys we yearn to share,

We remember them;

 So long as we live, they too shall live

For they are now a part of us as

We remember them.

 from Gates of Prayer,

Judaism Prayerbook









“Welcome Back Baby, To the Poor Side of Town.”-Johnny Rivers

I was 13 when “Poor Side of Town” by Johnny Rivers was released today in 1966. Oh did I love this song! Though born in NYC, Johnny Rivers had a southern twang learned while living in Louisiana where his dad had gone to find some work when Johnny was 5. “My dad and uncle used to get together and play these old Italian folk songs on mandolin and guitar.” As John started playing, he listened to R&B on the late-night radio, megawatt stations like WLAC in Nashville. However, R&B was a way of life in Baton Rouge. “When I went to Baton Rouge Junior High, Fats Domino, Jimmy Reed and guys like that used to play at our dances,” Rivers says.Johnny Rivers Official Web Site

While researching “Poor Side of Town” I discovered a beautiful cover by a group I never heard of…EELS So… I’ve included an older Johnny Rivers singing his original song in 2006 and EELS with Strings singing it live, unplugged,  at NYC’s Town Hall in 2006. Enjoy both!