The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #98649 Message #1955968
Posted By: Armen Tanzerian
02-Feb-07 - 04:25 PM
Thread Name: Obit: Eric Von Schmidt RIP (1931-2007)
Subject: RE: Obit: Eric Von Schmidt RIP (February 2007)
It's hard to overstate how important Eric von Schmidt was to the folk revival of the 1960s. When he arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the mid-50s, he *was* the folk revival. He had been in the army, he played blues guitar, and he brought a raft of blues and folk songs to college-age musicians who had never heard anything like this music before. Before the Harry Smith collection, there was Eric von Schmidt.
He had a gruff charisma and immediately attracted a circle of younger musicians eager to get in touch with the roots sounds that Eric brought to Cambridge. When the folk boom was in full swing, Bob Dylan came to town, and it was no surprise that he credited the founding father on a cut from one of his first albums.
When Eric and Jim Rooney were looking for a title for their wonderful oral history of the folk boom in New England, they revived the name Dylan had given to the song he'd learned from Ric: "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down".
Eric von Schmidt came from a family of important artists and he was a terrific painter. In his large-canvasses of Women of the Blues, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Memphis Minnie escape the dusty world of old photographs and truly come alive.
There was a time when Eric was known for giving large get-togethers at his Westport, Connecticut home, one of which he dubbed Combined East Prussian Pride and Shame Day. He had a great keilbasa recipe.
Ric's last years were not easy ones, which brought sadness to all of those he had mentored and inspired. But the legacy of his art, his music, and most of all his pioneering example of how you put your whole self into a song will live a very long time.