Monday, September 13, 2010

Irwin Silber, Folk Musician and Art and Social Justice Pioneer

Below are excerpts of the NYTime's obituary of Irwin Silber. To read the full obituary, click here.

Mr. Silber, an ardent leftist, found common cause with Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Lee Hays and others who regarded folk music as a form of political protest and a way of affirming the dignity of working people. In 1946, with other supporters, they founded People’s Songs Inc., which published a bulletin “to create, promote and distribute songs of labor and the American people.” Mr. Silber became its executive secretary in 1947.

First Edition of People's Songs, 1946
“He was one of a handful of people who can be called the architects of the folk revival, other than the performers themselves, and he helped move the music forward,” said Mark D. Moss, the current editor of Sing Out! “A lot of people thought of folk music as a white guy writing his own songs and playing guitar, but Irwin went deeper, presenting songs from different cultures in different languages. He always saw this as an empowering, people-up movement.”

May 1950 Edition of Sing Out!

He would later be brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee for questioning, but he managed to deflate the atmosphere of high drama. On being asked what subject he had taught at the Communist-sponsored Jefferson School of Social Science, he answered, truthfully, “Square dancing.” He left the Communist Party in the late 1950s.
Irwin Silber

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