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Obit: Eric Levine, 1957-2008

Suffet 11 May 08 - 11:29 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 12 May 08 - 10:33 AM
GUEST,Anne Price 12 May 08 - 05:08 PM
GUEST,Philip Bennett 13 May 08 - 01:33 PM
GUEST,Chris 14 May 08 - 04:53 PM
GUEST,Good Friend Gone 16 May 08 - 10:49 AM
GUEST 16 May 08 - 02:50 PM
GUEST,2 in harmony 18 May 08 - 02:09 AM
GUEST,Philip Bennett 18 May 08 - 10:40 PM
Suffet 20 May 08 - 09:05 AM
GUEST,a friend 21 May 08 - 09:01 PM
GUEST,Anne and Sidney Emerman 21 May 08 - 10:42 PM
Suffet 22 May 08 - 09:08 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 22 May 08 - 10:22 AM
Suffet 22 May 08 - 11:07 PM
GUEST,Eric Levine 23 May 08 - 04:00 PM
Suffet 23 May 08 - 05:46 PM
GUEST,Eric Levine Memorial Celebration 28 May 08 - 11:57 AM
Suffet 12 Jun 08 - 08:14 AM
GUEST,Gina Tlamsa 13 Sep 10 - 06:28 PM
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Subject: Obit: Eric Levine, 1957-2008
From: Suffet
Date: 11 May 08 - 11:29 PM

ERIC LEVINE 1957-2008

Folk musician and disability rights activist Eric Levine passed away at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City the night of May 7-8, 2008. The cause of death was apparently septicemia. Eric had just recently turned 51 years old.

Eric's maternal grandfather was Camp Woodland founder Norman Studer, and Eric knew first hand many of the people from near and far away who shared their songs with the Woodland campers and staff. Eric, for example, was present as a young camper when a Cuban born singer taught Pete Seeger the song Guantanamera. With that background, it is no surprise that Eric grew up to become active in New York City's progressive political folk music community. He was the musical director of the Disabled in Action Singers, one of the directors of the New York Coalition of Choruses, the producer of Topside Records, an organizer of the Hey Brother! Hey Sister! Coffee House, a contributor to Broadside magazine, a member of the People's Music Network steering committee, and a member of the Peoples' Voice Cafe collective. He was also a fine songwriter, guitarist, and banjo player, as well as a member of the folk group MacDougal Street Rent Party.

Eric's last public performance was at the Seventh Annual Woody Guthrie Birthday Bash at the Bowery Poetry Club on July 8, 2007. Clicking here will take you to a page from which you can download MP3 files of that performance. He had been booked to return to the Bowery Poetry Club this coming July 13 for the Eight Annual Woody Guthrie Birthday Bash. That evening will now be dedicated to Eric's memory.

Unfortunately, Eric was sick all his life. At the age of 14 he underwent the first of three kidney transplants, each of which eventually proved unsuccessful. In addition to chronic kidney failure, which required Eric to have dialysis three days a week, Eric suffered from amyloidosis and arthritis, and was susceptible to serious infections. He was in pain most of the time, and over the past year he had lost the ability to play his instruments.

Eric is survived by his parents Norman and Joan Levine, his brother Mike Levine, and his life partner Ellen Nuzzi. A private funeral was held on May 11, and a public memorial event will take place at a later date.

--- Steve

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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric Levine, 1957-2008
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 12 May 08 - 10:33 AM

I am so sorry to hear of Eric's passing. Eric's passion for music and using it to create change was very evident in his work.

Earlier in the week Bob Norman passed, and now Eric. We are losing some of the vibrant activists who have kept the music alive and thriving.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric Levine, 1957-2008
From: GUEST,Anne Price
Date: 12 May 08 - 05:08 PM

Eric was a special person. Despite all his physical disabilities, he was always cheerful and ready to help others. He did whatever he could and rarely complained, though he sometimes got angry at the health system, and the lack of physical accommodations for the disabled. He worked for good causes including civil rights and the rights of the disabled. He was generous and kind and a sweet man. He was a pleasure to sing with and to know. I will miss him.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric Levine, 1957-2008
From: GUEST,Philip Bennett
Date: 13 May 08 - 01:33 PM

My most vivid memory of Eric was July 1992 when he was scheduled to perform at a celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act. He spontaneously gave a chunk of his performing time away to a Black disabled woman who was not on the schedule but wanted to address the crowd anyway.
The last time we spoke he said he would vote for Ralf Nader. Although I'm a Hillary (and future Barack) supporter, I share this information with you in case some folks would like to vote for Ralf in memory of Eric. I think he'd like that.
One final note: please, let each of us be kind to one another every day. Never stay angry. We never know if any meeting we share with another will be the last.
The show will go on!
Be good to yourselves.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric Levine, 1957-2008
From: GUEST,Chris
Date: 14 May 08 - 04:53 PM

Eric Levine put up with more heavy duty shit than 99.99 percent of the people on this earth could even imagine, and still he led a productive, joyous, and meaningful life. Most people in his circumstances would have folded like cheap cameras, but not just Eric. He kept on fighting right up to the end, and not just for himself. Let the battles that he fought, the friends that he made, the love that he shared, and the good cheer that he spread speak for him. No wonder his signature song was called "Don't Stop Laughing."

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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric Levine, 1957-2008
From: GUEST,Good Friend Gone
Date: 16 May 08 - 10:49 AM

Sad day. Eric was a good friend, always in the fight, a kind and understanding soul. He was generous with his time, knowledge of "the" system, navigating the labyrinth of community groups and organizing efforts and with his music/song writing.

Eric taught hundreds of people to play guitar, banjo, recorder and to become real performers. He was very supportive and encouraging to his students. Eric taught music at the Langston Hughes Public Library in Corona, Queens and was one of the founding members of the now defunct LACE (Local Artists Collaborative Exchange) along with Suzie Tannembaum in Jackson Heights Queens, NY where he coordinated open mics and outdoor performances designed to reach a broad and diverse audience. Eric led a rally of poets and musicians outside the Langston Hughes Library on Northern Blvd when their funding was threatened . Thanks to the protest the money was found to keep the library open.

He had plans to archive his videos on YouTube and to direct a choral group of disability rights activists.

Eric was an inspiration to all he came into contact with. He was in constant extreme physical pain due to his long term medical conditions but never complained or whined. He soldiered on in a spirit of service despite facing discrimination due to his physical disabilities.

He had performed at the People's Voice Cafe after the event mentioned above and had performed in April 2008 with Barry Kornhauser at Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY.

When I had visited Eric in the hospital he said, "I love all my friends."

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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric Levine, 1957-2008
Date: 16 May 08 - 02:50 PM

Thank you all for your kind messages. We have been overwhelmed by the number of people from so many groups and places who have come together to mourn the death of our son. As we are activists too, we must make one correction. Eric was for Obama. He was horrified by the intrusion of Ralph Nader in the 2000 election and was still mad at him in 2008.

Our love to you all.

Joan and Norm Levine (Eric's parents)

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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric Levine, 1957-2008
From: GUEST,2 in harmony
Date: 18 May 08 - 02:09 AM

Dear Eric was my hero. When friends think of Eric many of the same sentiments come up again and again. Eric inspired; Eric was a leader; Eric was gentle, generous, caring always trying to bring comfort to others (the "folkdoctor"), deflecting attention from his own physical pain. Eric was a model of loving life and living each day to the fullest, perhaps living in the now as some say. He played the hand this life dealt him with smiles as often as possible and goals, and dreams very many of which he fulfilled.

The last thing Eric said to me in the hospital was, "Don't worry, don't worry. I'm ready."

I loved hearing Eric on the 12 string guitar and banjo. Though in recent years, with severe arthritis in his fingers, Eric would tell me he was sort of faking it, Eric faking the banjo was pretty darn good! He was not only a performer but the musical director of the annual Woody Guthrie Birthday Bash and as such his musicality helped us all.

My heart goes out to Ellen as I know how very much in love Eric and Ellen were and how much happiness they brought one another.

As a mother, my heart knows no words strong enough to comfort Joan and Norman Levine. Over time you will get to hear more and more stories of how many lives were touched by your exceptional son.

Eric, I miss you very, very much.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric Levine, 1957-2008
From: GUEST,Philip Bennett
Date: 18 May 08 - 10:40 PM

To Norm and Joan:
Thanks for the correction. Sorry I misunderstood Eric about whom he supported for president. Now I can tell everyone to vote for Barack and not Ralf, the bastard!

And thanks for treating me so kindly at the Shiva.

I love you all.

Philip Bennett

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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric Levine, 1957-2008
From: Suffet
Date: 20 May 08 - 09:05 AM


Eric Levine played banjo on both my two CDs. When he was working on the second one, just a little less than two years ago, I could see that his hands had been contorted by arthritis and that he was in a lot of pain. Still he managed to do a remarkable job. When he couldn't play full chords, he picked out individual notes, and it sounded wonderful. Eric was a class act all the way.

I have a demo recording of Eric Levine and Anne Price performing Malvina Reynolds' The Faucets Are Dripping in Old New York City, with Joel Landy and me singing along on the choruses. You can hear Eric's banjo playing at its best. I already sent a copy to Ron Olesko for broadcast on WFDU Traditions. If any other DJ would like a copy for broadcast, please contact me by e-mail and I will try to get a copy to you pronto.

Sorry, but I haven't yet obtained a mechanical license from Schroeder Music, the publisher, so this recording is not available for general distribution. I'm thinking, however, of putting it on my next CD as a bonus track, in which case I will pay the licensing fee.

--- Steve

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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric Levine, 1957-2008
From: GUEST,a friend
Date: 21 May 08 - 09:01 PM

I loved Eric, although i never thought about that till he died and was gone. He was so lovable.. warm with sparkle eyes. a beautiful fighter i am proud to have known and hung out with. i always remember the way he'd greet me at gatherings or concerts: with a warm, open smile, shining sparkling eyes and a very warm hug that i was always eager to share and give back to him. it always warmed me so. Peoples Music Network is like my musical family- Eric was such an integral part of that family and his greetings,and our talking, whether brief or extended, our comparing notes on a gig we shared, whatever it was, was so wonderfully warm and family like in the best sense.I am so sad thinking of going and him not being there. He was and i hope will continue to be an inspiration to me and probably to many others. i will miss you Eric and extend my deepest sympathies to his family and to Ellen. -adele

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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric Levine, 1957-2008
From: GUEST,Anne and Sidney Emerman
Date: 21 May 08 - 10:42 PM

Dear Eric,
   You brought joy, smiles, music, friendship, love, a passion for progressive politics and inspiration for action to all who had the privilege of knowing you. As a singer, songwriter, musician (guitar, banjo, mandolin) you shared your vast knowledge of musical gendres and songs with audiences of all ages and backgrounds. You inspired and lifted spirits.
   In the tradition of Pete Seeger, you got everyone singing, creating unity of voice, purpose, spirit. You connected people with each other, with groups, organizations, and movements.   You expanded and enriched many lives with your music, spirit, devotion and love. With humility, you often deflected credit for your successes onto others.
   Dear Eric, for years you sang and played with the Disabled in Action (DIA) Singers, and served as our musical director for 18 of those years. You lived daily with intense discomfort, and rarely complained. After dialysis sessions, you picked up your instruments and shared your music, bringing joy and hope to others. We think of you as a member of our extended family. We had the pleasure of sharing holidays and special occasions together, always singing. Thank you Eric for enriching our family's life, expanding our horizons, and always bringing a smile to our faces.
   Thank you Norman and Joan Levine for giving us Eric, and for all your great support that helped to keep him going years beyond his life expectancy.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric Levine, 1957-2008
From: Suffet
Date: 22 May 08 - 09:08 AM

Greetings again:

Eric Levine's family is in the process of organizing a memorial service for him on Sunday, June 15, starting at around 2:00 PM. It will take place somewhere in New York City, either in Manhattan or Brooklyn. As soon as the site is confirmed, I will post it to this thread.

Note that Ron Olesko and I are the only non-guests who have posted messages so far. I believe that's because of an unfortunate divide between what I call the "politicos" and the "traddies." Make no mistake about it: Eric Levine was a GIANT in the New York folk music scene. But in spite of the fact that he played and sang lots of traditional music (including African-American, Irish, and Old-Time), Eric saw himself and was seen by others as part of the strictly political folk music scene. And much of his comrades-in-song are either unaware of the Mudcat website, or else feel that it is unwelcoming and/or irrelevant.

Eric himself believed that the divide was unfortunate, but he had little time and sympathy for those traditionalists who he saw as stuck in the past. By that Eric meant those who wax ectstaic over a 19th century union song, but who would never listen to (or who had never heard of) Anne Feeney or Jon Fromer. Eric also meant those who somehow believe Irish history and music stopped in 1922, and react negatively when Lorcan Otway and Gina Tlamsa sing about contemporary issues (other than The Troubles). And he especially meant those who celebrated the political songs of both Pete and Peggy Seeger, but never those of David Rovics, Sue Jeffers, Pat Humphries, Ethan Miller, Kate Boverman, Evan Greer, Bev Grant, Matt Jones, Fred Stanton, Luci Murphy, Emma Graves, Charley King, Sarah Pirtle, the late Jolie Rickman -- well, the list can go on and on.

Come to think of it, how often are any of those musicians discussed here on Mudcat?

--- Steve

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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric Levine, 1957-2008
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 22 May 08 - 10:22 AM

Steve, I will be on the air the day of the memorial, but please express my sympathies. I anxiously await your CD's, which I will be playing in addition to some of the recordings that Eric gave me several years ago.

Your points about the lack of recognition by the "folkies" here on Mudcat is well taken. The previous week we lost Bob Norman, a former editor of Sing Out! during a very difficult time, and it was hardly noticed.

I'm not sure if it is a divide between "politicos" and "traddies", but I do see a disturbing lack of acceptance to the current music scene. It sort of reminds me of butterfly collectors. It always bothered me to see a lifeless butterfly pressed between pieces of glass. There is no beauty in looking at a lifeless representation. You don't see the glory that existed in the butterfly as it fluttered amongst the flowers and trees while sharing its work with us.   

Folk music is a living tradition, not a museum piece or a curio to be kept on a shelf, not to be touched and experienced.   Eric Levine lived the music. Traddies seem to forget that the original songs they collected served a purpose that each singer added to.   Eric recognized the power of a song and more than most people, he kept the tradition alive.   The world needs more people like Eric to keep fighting the good fight and to teach us lessons that we are too blind to see.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric Levine, 1957-2008
From: Suffet
Date: 22 May 08 - 11:07 PM


The package is on its way. I put together and assortment of songs (plus one 12-string guitar instrumental) from the Eric Levine Songbook CD plus his live performances.

--- Steve

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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric Levine, 1957-2008
From: GUEST,Eric Levine
Date: 23 May 08 - 04:00 PM

uhmmm Eric would be rolling over in his grave if you mentioned Pat Humphreys in the same breath as him.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric Levine, 1957-2008
From: Suffet
Date: 23 May 08 - 05:46 PM


I don't know who posted the message above, but while it may have been intended as humor, it is in really poor taste.

I am honored count both Eric Levine and Pat Humphreys among my friends and comrades. Eric and Pat worked together on many projects, and they served together on the People's Music Network steering committee. Did they sometimes have differences of opinion? Yes. Did they sometimes get on each others' nerves? Yes again. Were they drinking buddies? No. But Eric and Pat were comrades, and in the great struggles against war, against injustice, and for human rights they were always on the same side.

--- Steve Suffet

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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric Levine, 1957-2008
From: GUEST,Eric Levine Memorial Celebration
Date: 28 May 08 - 11:57 AM

Eric Levine's family and friends cordially invite you to attend a celebration of Eric's life and music on Sunday, June 15, 2008, at 2 PM at the Selis Manor, 135 West 23rd Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues, in New York City. Go to the auditorium on main floor. The site is fully accessible and is easily reached by public transportation.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric Levine, 1957-2008
From: Suffet
Date: 12 Jun 08 - 08:14 AM


In addition to the official memorial this coming Sunday (see message above), there was an impromptu memorial to Eric Levine, Carl Schwartz (long time Clearwater activist), and Utah Phillips at the People's Music Network Summer Gathering this past weekend. The outpouring of memories and good feelings for all three was enormous, but it seemed like the lion's share was for Eric. I would be easy to say that's because PMN was his home -- and it was. But Eric had many homes: Disabled in Action and the disability rights movement, the civil rights movement, War Resisters League, Peoples' Voice Cafe, the Irish music community, the Jewish music community, Hospital Audiences Inc., Camp Woodland, Camp Thoreau, Golden's Bridge Day Camp, the Langston Hughes Community Library, the Renaissance Charter School, Broadside magazine, and much more. He will be missed by all.

--- Steve

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Subject: RE: Obit: Eric Levine, 1957-2008
From: GUEST,Gina Tlamsa
Date: 13 Sep 10 - 06:28 PM

I was just thinking how great a spirit is Eric, how much wonderful music he made during his lifetime, how many people's lives he touched, and what a pleasure it was to have him as a friend for so many years. Not to mention the GREAT music we got to play together! He was one of the best performers of Irish music I have known.

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