The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #158762   Message #4202513
Posted By: GUEST,Reid Cramer (by email to Joe Offer)
14-May-24 - 09:25 PM
Thread Name: 2015 Obit:Sonya Cohen Cramer-Penny Seeger daughter
Subject: RE: Obit: Sonya Cohen Cramer, Penny Seeger's daughter
Hi Joe,

I wanted to share with you and the Mudcat community news of a new Smithsonian Folkways record that features the singing of my late partner, Sonya Cohen Cramer (1965-2015).

Sonya was raised in a family committed to revitalizing the oldest songs of the American musical canon. Like her father John Cohen of The New Lost City Ramblers, Sonya shared a belief in the transformative qualities of folk songs and traditional ballads. You’ve Been a Friend to Me is the first collection featuring Sonya’s singing, and it reveals the full arc of her musical life through collaborations with her aunt Peggy Seeger, uncle Pete Seeger, Elizabeth Mitchell, Daniel Littleton, and the folk-fusion group Last Forever.  While shaped by the roots of her family tree, the radiating and clear sound of Sonya’s voice is distinctly her own, and you can hear that on this record of her singing an array of folk songs and traditional ballads.

You’ve Been a Friend to Me is the first-ever collection dedicated fully to her music. Like her family, Cramer cared about where the old tunes and stories she heard came from, and she valued the contributions of the music makers and the keepers of culture. In addition to her work with Last Forever, she also recorded with her relatives throughout her career. A musician who mostly practiced the craft for her own enjoyment and fulfillment while she worked as, among other things, a graphic designer of over sixty Smithsonian Folkways record packages, Sonya was a true “singer’s singer” whose musical admirers included Jeff Buckley, Loudon Wainwright III, Joe Boyd, and Meredith Monk.
A lifelong student of traditional folk music and reinterpreter of classic old-time ballads, her performance of the title track of the collection, “You’ve Been a Friend to Me,” reveals the emotional integrity she championed through each song she recorded. Originally published as sheet music in 1858 and made widely known through a 1936 recording by the Carter Family, “You’ve Been a Friend to Me” first provided a theme for Cramer’s recording sessions with Mitchell and Littleton (who feature prominently on the track) in 2014, and then it evolved into a personal anthem as she navigated the challenges of cancer in her last year. A few months before she passed away in 2015, she sang it to a large group of friends assembled to celebrate her fiftieth birthday.

Here is a link to a crankie that Sonya's daughter Dio made of the traditional ballad Oh the Wind and Rain.


Reid Cramer