Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Folk Music: The Basics

by Ronald D. Cohen

In 1962 Sis and Gordon launched Broadside, a topical song magazine, which quickly published Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, Malvina Reynolds, Frederick Douglas Kirpatrick, Eric Andersen, Janis Ian, and so many others. They also issued a number of Broadside albums, in conjunction with Folkways Records, and continued to publish Broadside until 1988, although it lost much of its market and influence after the 1960s.

Sis Cunningham was involved as a performer, songwriter, and promoter/publisher of folk music and topical folk songs beginning in the early 1930s. She was a seminal figure in promoting women's music, and her achievements (along with her husband Gordon) have been crucial in stimulating and promoting singer/songwriters for countless decades. She died on June 27, 2004. The Best of Broadside 1962-1988: Anthems of the American Underground from the Pages of Broadside Magazine, a survey of recorded songs that appeared in the magazine, was issued by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings in 2000. The five CDs, with 89 songs, along with detailed liner notes, received two Grammy nominations, and serves as a monument to Sis and Gordon's vital role in promoting topical songs. Their book, Red Dust and Broadsides: A Joint Autobiography, was published in 1999, a wonderful story about their lives and hardships.

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