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Earl Robinson stories?

Related threads:
Lyr Add: Black and White ('The ink is black...) (39)
The Ink is Black (24)
Happy! - July 2 (Earl Robinson) (1)
Help: What became of Earl Robinson (12)


Deckman 18 Dec 07 - 03:47 PM
Stewart 18 Dec 07 - 07:09 PM
GUEST,booklynrose 18 Dec 07 - 09:13 PM
Deckman 19 Dec 07 - 01:18 AM
Jon Bartlett 19 Dec 07 - 06:04 AM
Deckman 19 Dec 07 - 06:45 AM
Mark Ross 19 Dec 07 - 09:57 AM
GUEST,Ken Brock 20 Dec 07 - 09:25 AM
GUEST 20 Dec 07 - 09:29 AM
johnross 20 Dec 07 - 06:35 PM
Deckman 20 Dec 07 - 06:58 PM
Alonzo M. Zilch (inactive) 21 Dec 07 - 10:17 AM
Stewart 21 Dec 07 - 03:30 PM
Stewart 22 Dec 07 - 03:00 PM
Deckman 22 Dec 07 - 03:34 PM
Stewart 22 Dec 07 - 04:57 PM
Deckman 22 Dec 07 - 05:10 PM
Stringsinger 22 Dec 07 - 05:18 PM
Amos 22 Dec 07 - 05:22 PM
GUEST 23 Dec 07 - 11:48 AM
Deckman 23 Dec 07 - 12:27 PM
GUEST,Franz S. 23 Dec 07 - 08:35 PM
DADGBE 23 Dec 07 - 09:07 PM
toadfrog 23 Dec 07 - 09:15 PM
GUEST 23 Dec 07 - 09:43 PM
Deckman 23 Dec 07 - 10:59 PM
GUEST 24 Dec 07 - 08:16 AM
GUEST,Tanya 24 Sep 11 - 10:32 PM
Stringsinger 25 Sep 11 - 11:42 AM
Cool Beans 26 Sep 11 - 08:24 AM
GUEST 27 Dec 12 - 09:27 PM
Thomas Stern 10 Nov 15 - 06:54 PM
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Subject: Earl Robinson stories?
From: Deckman
Date: 18 Dec 07 - 03:47 PM

I only met Earl Robinson once, in 1953, but his music had a strong impact on me. He was the composer of "Joe Hill", "The House I Live In", "Black And White", and many, many other pieces of music, including operas.

I attended his memorial service and by chance ran into another folksinger who also valued him, we sat together during the service.

I'm wondering if any other musicans in this folk community have rememberences about Earl and his music. I'd love to hear to stories. CHEERS, Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: Stewart
Date: 18 Dec 07 - 07:09 PM

I've written a short article on Earl Robinson for the Victory Review, which will come out in January. I'll post a link to that in a few weeks.

There's a very interesting autobiography, co-authored with Eric Gordon (see below) published in 1998. I got my copy from the U. Washington Music Library. A very interesting account of his life and also that dreadful anti-communist McCarthy era which he lived through.

In 1994 Jean Bullert did a one-hour video documentary (aired on Seattle PBS station KCTS). Very well done and well worth viewing if you can find a copy (I got mine from the Seattle Public Library).

Bibliography
1. Earl Robinson with Eric A. Gordon, Ballad of An American: Autobiography of Earl Robinson (Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 1998)
2. Earl Robinson [videorecording]: Ballad of an American; a documentary produced by Bette Jean Bullert in conjunction with KCTS Television, Seattle, 1994.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: GUEST,booklynrose
Date: 18 Dec 07 - 09:13 PM

I never met Earl Robinson, though I grew up listening to the songs that Deckman named.
I believe Ray Korona knew him, but I don't know whether Ray Korona is on Mudcat.


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: Deckman
Date: 19 Dec 07 - 01:18 AM

I attended Earl's first presentation of the opera "Sandhog", in 1953 (I think). It was held at the Women's Centuary Club, which was a very large theatre on Capital Hill, in Seattle. It was a fascinating presentation.

Earl did a solo performance, sitting mostly at the piano, and singing ALL the major parts: Bass through Soprano. He would narrate the story line, playing the music to each part, and sing his way through the opera. At times he would leap from the piano stool and demonstrate the choreography. He gave a very strong and passionate performance, one that I clearly remember today. Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 19 Dec 07 - 06:04 AM

I sang with him at Expo '74 in Spokane, where I was one of the three Hosts of the Folklife Festival (Dianne, now Rosemary, Campbell and Utah Phillips were the others), and he stayed with me when he came to do a concert I was organizing in Vancouver the following year for the 60th anniversary of the death of Joe Hill. I recall how at Spokane he taught us all the words to his song about revolution, the chorus of which he said (and I've never checked this) came from Lincoln's 2nd inaugural speech:

"This country, with its constitution, belongs to the people who inhabit it.
This country, with its institutions, belongs to us who live in it.
Whenever we shall grow weary of the existing government,
We can exercise our constitutional right of amending it,
Or our revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it."

This was in the middle of the last days of Watergate: Nixon resigned later in the year, and Spokane was stone Republican territory. I remember me and Utah Phillips and Al Grierson walking around with enormous cigars the day he quit, while people around us were in tears - so you can see the song didn't go over especially well.

I still have a couple of albums he gave me then - one called "A Strange Unusual Evening" and another German one whose title I forget.

He was very warm to me (but much warmer to the women in the organizing crew) and he certainly enjoyed singing (and playing - he was a fine piano player) with us.

Jon Bartlett


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: Deckman
Date: 19 Dec 07 - 06:45 AM

Thanks for the posting Jon. Your reflections jibe perfectly with what I've read in the book that Stew mentions. You might get the book from the library, I think you'll find it very interesting.

I went to his memorial service at the University Unitarian Church, in Seattle. As I walked in, Maggie Savage also walked in, so we sat together. We had many stories to tell about him but more about the impact his music had on us.

Another note: I sang his "What is America To Me" at my high school graduation. This was shortly after Frank Sinatra made the top of the charts with that song. Bob


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 19 Dec 07 - 09:57 AM

I met Earl in New York at a concert he did at the Folklore Center, I guess it must have been in '72. Having grown up with his music(my parents had the 78 of Robeson doing BALLAD FOR AMERICANS), I sat there entranced watching just him and a guitar. I got to work with him at the Joe Hill Memorial in Salt Lake City in 1990. What a treat to be on stage with him, Utah Phillips, Faith Petric, Joe Glazer, and Pete Seeger singing JOE HILL. There's a picture of us together in Earl's autobiography. A fine musician, a true gentleman, he is sorely missed.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: GUEST,Ken Brock
Date: 20 Dec 07 - 09:25 AM

Frank Hamilton played in a concert with Earl Robinson circa May, 1970 that was issued (in modified form with some apparent additional songs) on lp by the California UAW.


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Dec 07 - 09:29 AM

The name of the Earl Robonson lp (with some assistance from Frank H.) is "Strange Unusual Evening / A Santa Barbara Story"


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: johnross
Date: 20 Dec 07 - 06:35 PM

I met him several times during the last few years of his life, at concerts and festivals, mostly. I have tape of him at the Smithsonian Festival singing "Old Abe Lincoln" (the song Jon quote upthread), "Joe Hill," and "The House I Live In," all in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol (!).

He also appeared at the Folklife Festival in Seattle several times after he moved back to the Northwest.

My memory of him was that he was always very accessible and happy to talk to a young admirer who must have been asking the same questions that he had answered hundreds of times before. He knew that he had accomplished something with his music, but he wasn't one of those folks who wantede everybody to know how important he was.

Toward the end of his life, he got caught up with some kind of mystical thing that I never quite understood -- I never asked about it, becasue I really didn't want to know. But a few of his last songs were influenced by that philosophy.

Alas, I was out of town when he died, so I missed his memorial.


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: Deckman
Date: 20 Dec 07 - 06:58 PM

Thanks for your posting John. Let's have a "Kuppa", as the Finns say, and talk about the end of his life and the memorial service. It was quite startling. Bob


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: Alonzo M. Zilch (inactive)
Date: 21 Dec 07 - 10:17 AM

I met Earl Robinson once at the Vancouver Folk Festival. It must have been in the 1970s or '80's. He was very gracious in talking with me.


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: Stewart
Date: 21 Dec 07 - 03:30 PM

Here's a poster from his 1953 concert in Seattle, where he presented his folk opera "Sandhog" (see Deckman's post above).

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: Stewart
Date: 22 Dec 07 - 03:00 PM

And here are some pictures of Earl Robinson taken from his autobiography. The photo on the left is from the frontispiece, taken by his son Jim.

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: Deckman
Date: 22 Dec 07 - 03:34 PM

Stew,

As you know, I've been remembering and re-visiting those old times in Seattle in the 50's. This was the time and the place where some much was happenning in folk music and politics. The communist witch hunts were active, the blacklist was active, and folks like Earl Robinson were active.

When I read his autobiography, I was surprised to learn that another person that influenced me greatly, Keve Bray, also moved in the same circles. Keve and I, and several other Seattle folkies, wrote and performed several plays that today, would lead you to believe that Earl Robinson wrote them!

It's a shame that, at 16, I hadn't the wisdom I have at 70. If I had, I'd have listened more and kept better diarys. CHEERS, Bob


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: Stewart
Date: 22 Dec 07 - 04:57 PM

Interesting connection. First from Robinson's autobiography:

"Right at the beginning of my [FBI] file appears a letter (April 26, 1941) from old J. Edgar himself to Assistant Director E. J. Connelley in New York, stating that I am being considered for "custodial detention," in other words, a round-up of supposed subversives without benefit of trial. Curious, right at the height of my popularity with Ballad for Americans. The timing can actually be traced to President Roosevelt, who extended these fact-gathering privileges to Mr. Hoover in light of the clear and present wartime danger. But from the beginning the FBI concerned itself far more with the left than the pro-Nazi right." p.103

And from an article today in the New York Times:

Hoover Planned Mass Jailing in 1950
By TIM WEINER, Published: December 23, 2007

A newly declassified document shows that J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had a plan to suspend habeas corpus and imprison some 12,000 Americans he suspected of disloyalty.

Hoover sent his plan to the White House on July 7, 1950, 12 days after the Korean War began. It envisioned putting suspect Americans in military prisons.

Hoover wanted President Harry S. Truman to proclaim the mass arrests necessary to "protect the country against treason, espionage and sabotage." The F.B.I would "apprehend all individuals potentially dangerous" to national security, Hoover's proposal said. The arrests would be carried out under "a master warrant attached to a list of names" provided by the bureau.

------------------
One wonders if the current administration has a similar list today in case of a major terrorist attack. And how many innocent people are being held at Guantanamo without benefit of habeas corpus? Are these times much different?

Cheers, S. in Seattle


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: Deckman
Date: 22 Dec 07 - 05:10 PM

Kinda reminds me of Pete Seeger's song from the fifties: "Who's Going To Investigate The Man Who Investigates The Investigaors?" Bob


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 22 Dec 07 - 05:18 PM

I saw Earl briefly in Topanga Canyon before he passed away. He was upset
at having to ask his good friend Lee Hays to move from Earl's upstairs room
in Brooklyn Heights after Earl's wife, Helen, left the planet.
Earl claimed he was having conversations with the deceased Lee. He may have
been working out his feelings of guilt about having to let Lee find other quarters.

I remember Earl as being cheerful, optimistic and full of good vitality. For some
reason, he called me Frankie which I took as a compliment since it was a noble
working-class name. (Woody called me Frankie too.) Earl was fun to work with and I admired his steadfastness and courage during the dark ages of McCarthy.

After the Blacklist fell, he tried to make it as a film composer in Hollywood at the encouragement of Gerry Fried, (already a successful film scorer) but it was a bad fit for Earl who really I think preferred his oratorio style of writing about significant topics.

Joe Hill is a classic tune. I grew up on Ballad For Americans and the Lonesome Train,
his most famous oratorios. He wrote Sandhog with one of the great American
screenwriters, Waldo Salt who did Midnight Cowboy and Serpico.

Waldo was a terrific guy and I owe him so much for encouraging me when I was young.

Earl was great to be around because he was always so enthusiastic about everything.
I will remember him fondly. The song Joe Hill will live on. He will be remembered as one of the significant composers of the Progressive movement of the late 40's and early 50's.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: Amos
Date: 22 Dec 07 - 05:22 PM

No, they are not.

Arbitrary and capricious violations of the normal protections under law, justified by rationalizations claiming necessity, are being promulgated by the mad and the powerful where the two groups intersect. Sic semper tyrannis.

A


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Dec 07 - 11:48 AM

I think it was 1989 when Earl, Utah Phillips, Joe Glazer, and John Handcock did a concert at Foothill College near Palo Alto CA as part of the Western Workers Labor Heritage Festival. I took my dad, an old Red, and the two of us sang our hearts out. He cried, did my dad.

A couple of years ago at the WWLHF in San Mateo I brought my dad along again, and in the singaround he told a story of being a young father in 1941 casting about for lullabies to sing to his infant son (me). He said the only song he knew then was "Joe Hill" so he sang that. Then he said, "I can't sing any more, so...son?" So I sang my lullaby (which I have sung to my daughters)with all the good workers there.

" ...for their work continueth, greater than their knowing"


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: Deckman
Date: 23 Dec 07 - 12:27 PM

Very moving. Thank you.Bob


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: GUEST,Franz S.
Date: 23 Dec 07 - 08:35 PM

The guest above was me. Lost my cookie again.

Franz


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: DADGBE
Date: 23 Dec 07 - 09:07 PM

When I was in school in Los Angeles and hanging out at Marie Poll's wonderful musical evenings, I ran into Earl. It was perhaps 1977-8 and Marie would gather musical friends to hang out and make music.

I was a grown up red diaper baby and had lots to ask him but he was too busy unsuccessfully trying to get int Marie's pants to spend much time talking with me. He did answer my question about the name 'Al' in his song, 'Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?'. He said that it was selected for the rhyme and didn't refer to anyone specific.

I have fond memories of him sitting at the piano and singing 'Black and White'.

Thanks, Deckman, for starting the thread and bringing the memories back!


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: toadfrog
Date: 23 Dec 07 - 09:15 PM

Hi, Deckman, you may remember me, although I do not much hang around the Forum any more. I heard Robinson talk at Reed College, and I believe that was in 1957. He talked about composing Joe Hill (I think he composed the tune but not the words) but the main point was that folk music was polished through time and the source of the best music--a point he made well enough to make me rembember the talk for 50 years. He said that was why Bartok is a greater musician that Schoenberg, a point where I'm inclined to agree with him.

[And at the risk of being slapped silly for mentioning something that is already in a thread, I enthusicatically recommend Musikas, The Bartok Album (Rykomusik 1999), as containing some of the finest fiddle tunes I ever heard, as B�rtok collected them and as replayed by contemporary musicians.]


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Dec 07 - 09:43 PM

"He talked about composing Joe Hill (I think he composed the tune but not the words)..."

Alfred Hayes wrote the words.

http://www.fortunecity.com/tinpan/parton/2/joehill.html


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: Deckman
Date: 23 Dec 07 - 10:59 PM

My goodness ... Franz and Toadfrog on the same thread. Will wonders never cease. Hauskaa Youlaa Paiva! Bob


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Dec 07 - 08:16 AM

When I was in school in Los Angeles and hanging out at Marie Poll's wonderful musical evenings, I ran into Earl. It was perhaps 1977-8 and Marie would gather musical friends to hang out and make music.

I was a grown up red diaper baby and had lots to ask him but he was too busy unsuccessfully trying to get int Marie's pants to spend much time talking with me. He did answer my question about the name 'Al' in his song, 'Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?'. He said that it was selected for the rhyme and didn't refer to anyone specific.


Yeah, right.

Earl Robinson had nothing to do with writing "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime." It was by E.Y. (Yip) Harburg and Jay Gorney.


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: GUEST,Tanya
Date: 24 Sep 11 - 10:32 PM

Just came across this and, though it's a few years late, would like to add my memory.

Earl stayed at my house in Detroit when I was a kid, probably 8 years old. I don't know specifics except that my parents were members of The Detroit Jewish Folk Chorus singing The Lonesome Train at the Masonic Temple.

I remember my mom set up a card table for him next to our baby grand piano with a large bowl of fruit, a shot glass, and a bottle of liquor. He was composing "Black and White." As I remember, he would play a chord, write it, down a shot, play another chord, write it or erase and rewrite, and take another shot.


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 25 Sep 11 - 11:42 AM

"Black and White" according to Earl was based on Percy Grainger's "Country Garden" as a stimulus for the music. Earl had a classical music background and was conversant with many composers.

Earl must've known Yip Harburg as we all met him in New York, he was accessible and a fine person. He could have gotten information from Yip about "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime".   Al is a generic Al, not a specific one but I think there was an expression called "Just call me Al" that was popular at one time.


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: Cool Beans
Date: 26 Sep 11 - 08:24 AM

A friend of mine who grew up in Brooklyn Heights was in a children's chorus Earl Robinson organized in the early 1950s. He says there's a movie of the chorus somewhere but he's never seen it.


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Dec 12 - 09:27 PM

Anyone know where I could get the lyrics/ chords to earl's Abraham Lincoln


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Subject: RE: Earl Robinson stories?
From: Thomas Stern
Date: 10 Nov 15 - 06:54 PM

on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgCxN3pkQx0

Earl's recording of the song for Folkways is available as a download or a CD-R of the Album. Notes to most Folkways albums, which usually include song texts are available as pdf file on the Smithsonian Folkways site (free).

http://www.folkways.si.edu/earl-robinson/old-abe-lincoln/american-folk-struggle-protest/music/track/smithsonian


SIDE I, Band 4: ABE LINCOLN
Music: Earl Robinson Chorus words: Abraham Lincoln Verse words: Hayes & Robinson
Now old Abe Lincoln a great big giant of a man was he Yes sir! He was born in an old log cabin and he worked for a living Splittin' rails Now Abe he knew right from wrong, for he was honest as the day is long And these are the words he said,

REFRAIN: "This country with it's institutions belongs to the people who inhabit it" This country with it's constitution belong to us who 11 ve in it "Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government They can exercise their constitutional right of amending it Or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it."
Now Abe once ran a little country store in Salem Town Illinois! And a woman she paid him six pence more than she ought to've done A mistake So off thru' the storm old Abe went He paid that woman back every cent For Abe was an honest man.
Now Abe was close to the ground tho' he towered up six foot four Bare feet! And his heart was big as the whole country with room for more Blackfolks too He never forgot from whence he came Tho he landed in the White House and got great fame For Abe was a workin' I18n
(REFRAIN)
Now old Abe's eyes were set way back deep in his head A thinkin' man But you didn't need learnin' to understand what old Abe said Listen to this! "This Republic will never be free 'ttl the black man's out of slavery." And that made the Civil War.
Now sometimes Abe he wavered and shook like a great tall tree That's true For he wanted peace between the States in this country Like the Bible said! But Abe never crawled when the show down came Like some people now who take his name He beat those slave men down
Now old Abe Lincoln's dead and gone these eighty years A great man And every year the party he made says Lincoln's theirs No Sirl For if old Abe were l1vin' right now To the man at the bench and the man at the plough These are the words he'd say
(REFRAIN)

Best wishes, Thomas.


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