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Obit: Utah Phillips (1935-2008)

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GUEST,TJ in San Diego 27 May 08 - 12:02 PM
GUEST,Franz S. 27 May 08 - 12:59 PM
GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz 27 May 08 - 02:34 PM
Big Mick 27 May 08 - 04:06 PM
kendall 27 May 08 - 04:34 PM
Pistachio 27 May 08 - 06:40 PM
Brian Hoskin 27 May 08 - 07:42 PM
GUEST 28 May 08 - 12:22 AM
astro 28 May 08 - 01:29 AM
Joybell 28 May 08 - 02:40 AM
Fortunato 28 May 08 - 10:37 AM
GUEST,Dani 28 May 08 - 10:54 AM
Amos 28 May 08 - 11:05 AM
MikeT 28 May 08 - 11:38 AM
Dan Schatz 28 May 08 - 01:17 PM
kendall 28 May 08 - 01:25 PM
JedMarum 28 May 08 - 02:22 PM
lefthanded guitar 28 May 08 - 02:24 PM
George Papavgeris 28 May 08 - 02:45 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 28 May 08 - 04:44 PM
kendall 28 May 08 - 04:59 PM
Big Mick 28 May 08 - 05:19 PM
GUEST,Dan's laptop 28 May 08 - 05:49 PM
Mike Regenstreif 28 May 08 - 06:05 PM
Roger in Baltimore 28 May 08 - 06:18 PM
Jim Dixon 28 May 08 - 08:53 PM
GUEST,George Mann 28 May 08 - 11:01 PM
Franz S. 28 May 08 - 11:37 PM
Amos 28 May 08 - 11:45 PM
Franz S. 28 May 08 - 11:47 PM
GUEST,George Mann 28 May 08 - 11:49 PM
Amos 29 May 08 - 12:06 AM
Haruo 29 May 08 - 01:01 AM
jacqui.c 29 May 08 - 07:04 AM
kendall 29 May 08 - 07:10 AM
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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 27 May 08 - 12:02 PM

I know of Utah Phillips only by recorded music and reputation. He was "old school," as they say; an activist and seeker of social justice in the tradition of the 1930's, but very much a contemporary man. I have a tune running through my head - Tom Paxton's "Last Hobo." "...The last hobo, ridin' the last boxcar, on the last freight train - leavin' here." I imagine he will be stirring the pot in the Celestial Kingdom, as I write this.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: GUEST,Franz S.
Date: 27 May 08 - 12:59 PM

To my mind one of his greatest monuments---no, there must be a better word---works---was the Loafer's Glory programs. They were and are great entertainment, but more important they were an amazing education. After every program I would go off to the library with a list of things I wanted to know more about. Later I could go to the Internet for more information.    They are worth more than any college course I ever took.

And, as did his songs and performances, the songs, rants, poems, stories he presented moved us listeners to deep feelings and social and political action.

I hope some way can be found to make use of the archived programs, both to aid his widow and to spread the word.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: GUEST,Bob Ryszkiewicz
Date: 27 May 08 - 02:34 PM

What to say...This is a sad one. Rest in Peace Bruce.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: Big Mick
Date: 27 May 08 - 04:06 PM

Received from my friend, Len Wallace, who performed at the benefit for Utah at The Ark in Ann Arbor on May 14, 2008:

The Things I Learned From Utah Phillips

from Len Wallace

I am still stunned by the news of Utah's passing and figuring out ways on how to respond to this loss. So I thought I'd take pen in hand and jot down some of things Utah taught me over the years. Here they are transferred to computer.

1. Utah was correct. Computers suck. They rob you of the ability to write and read.

2. Mean people suck. Nice people can suck too sometimes.

3. Bertold Brecht had the right idea when he said that the barrier between the performer and audience must be abolished.

4. When you're performing with other musicians adjust your microphone stands at an angle where you can see both the audience and the other performer. You want to work off that other performer, see them perform and look them in the face, see their movements and hands. It's not all in the listening.

5. You can drink out of your hat if you must, but only by necessity.

6. The past and remembering the past is a very subversive thing. It points to the not now. The powers that be want us to think that the way things are are the way they have always been and always will be.

7. Be careful of the garp you put in your brain from reading newspapers, listening to radio and watching TV. If you stuff your brain with garbage then garbage will come out.

8. You can teach an old dog new tricks but the old tricks are still the best.

9. Old age and treachery will always overcome youth and passion.

10. You too can be a part of the hidden agenda.

11. You can reinvent yourself as often as you like. You still are who you are and can be what you want to be.

12. Direct action does get the goods. Not only that, it forces us to be creative and have some fun.

13. You don't know where you're going unless you know where you come from.

14. Never empty your pockets on stage in the middle of a performance. Embarrassing things can pop out.

15. You don't need to reinvent the wheel in order to change the world. Our elders gave us a lot of good wheels we can still use.

16. We gotta wise up.

17. The revolution will happen and it will be humorous.

18. Don't put yourself or your music down. There are enough idiots around who will do that for you.

19. Be careful singing your heart out and devoting yourself for the cause because the organisations behind it can break your heart.

20. Repackage yourself in a way that sells. Then, when they hire you, sing what you want.

21. We are artists and we must hone our craft.

22. Men should wear hats. Baseball hats worn backwards and sideways do not cnnstitute hat wearing or any fashion statement. If you don't have a Stetson then a Borsalino fedora will do.

23. Most people don't know the difference between a spad and a gat.

23. Otter water truly is a delicacy.

25. Good stories should be based on objective reality but should never be hampered by the facts.

26. We can build a fundamentally better world.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: kendall
Date: 27 May 08 - 04:34 PM

Some years ago, Utah called me, and he was having a hard time. Among other things, he said "Oh well, it's better to write one Kendall than to curse the dark".

He dearly loved to lead you down the primrose path, and then when you were hooked, he would say something that let you know you were had and dealing with a master.
That show we did in Grass Valley CA. on April 8 2006 was just great. He even got to me with a wild story, and he was so pleased with himself he was giggling like a kid. He exclaimed, "I have just reached the "Pinnocle" of my career! I put one over on Kendall Morse.
Anyone who has a copy of the DVD we made knows what I mean.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: Pistachio
Date: 27 May 08 - 06:40 PM

What wonderful tributes - condolences to his Family and all who miss this remarkable human being. H.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: Brian Hoskin
Date: 27 May 08 - 07:42 PM

A true legend. I'm sure the very mountains mourned as he left the Earth.

Heartfelt condolences to all his family and friends.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
Date: 28 May 08 - 12:22 AM

Utah lived a true life. He told the truth and lived by it. His truth was in the songs he wrote and the stories he told, in the the way he lived his life and in the people he helped along the way. His wasn't the smile for the camera and then tell it a different way later kind of truth - it was the honest, get your hands dirty, look a person in the eye and let them know the facts type of truth. He could weave a great tall tale and lead you on with laughter and a wicked light in his eyes but in the end it all boiled down to truth. We were lucky to have him around.

Take care my friends,


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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: astro
Date: 28 May 08 - 01:29 AM


We have your DVD and do really appreciate it, only wish we could have been there to see it live...thanks for the pleasure...


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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: Joybell
Date: 28 May 08 - 02:40 AM

I only knew of him from afar. I found one of his records back in the 70s. Played it so much I almost wore it out. I'm so very sad too. I felt close to him even though I never met him.
My thoughts to those of you who knew and loved him.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: Fortunato
Date: 28 May 08 - 10:37 AM

Dear Dad, A Note From Utah. Here's one of the last things he
wrote. And I thought it a pretty fitting goodbye that
shows his character and where he was at even near the
end. Matt (my son)

Dear Friends,

Utah here, with a rambling missive pandect and organon
regarding my current reality. At no time should you
suspect me of complaining (kvetching); I am simply
grepsing (Yiddish word for describing the condition of
that reality).

First, medical: My heart, which is enlarged and very
weak, can't pump enough blood to keep my body plunging
forward at its usual 100 percent. It allows me about
25 to 30 percent, which means I don't get around very
much or very easily anymore. I'm sustained (i.e., kept
alive) by a medication called Milrinone, which is
contained in a pump that I carry around with me in a
shoulder bag. The pump, which runs 24 hours a day,
moves the medication through a long tube running into
an implanted Groshong catheter that in turn runs
directly into my heart. I'll be keeping this pump for
the rest of my life. I also take an extraordinary
number of oral medications, of which many are

My body is weak but my will is strong, and I keep my
disposition as sunny and humorous as I'm able. It's
hard enough being disabled without being cranky as
well. Though I'm eating well, my weight has gone from
175 to 155 pounds. I look like a geriatric Fred

We manage to get out a good bit, visiting the Ananda
(a local spiritual village and retreat center) flower
garden up on the San Juan Ridge and occasionally going
to lunch at various places around town. The bag is
always with me. Believe me, none of this would be
possible without my wife Joanna. She has the deepest,
most loving and caring heart one could ever imagine.
She's taken charge of all my medications and makes
sure that I'm well fed and don't fall into the
slovenly ways of a derelict. She also has enormous
physical beauty—I have never seen a more beautiful
woman in my life. She is endowed with intelligence,
deep insight, compassion, and a capacity for love that
passes all understanding.

Heart disease aside, I find that I have a hernia that
needs to be repaired. Someday I suppose I'll become
like Ernie Bierwagen, the old man who owned the
orchards outside town. He said to me once, "I know
that God wants me to say something, because the only
thing I have left that works is my mouth." But for
now, I'm enjoying my life and can think of no good
reason not to. Joanna and I both know that the
chemical regimen I'm on can't go on indefinitely. We
take things a day at a time, deriving joy and solace
from a solid, loving relationship.

I want to share with you something about where we
live. If you're reading this on the Internet, I've
sent Duncan some photos to show you what it looks
like. Our house is on a country lane right off Red Dog
Road, about a mile from downtown Nevada City. Nevada
City is an old gold-mining town in the Sierra
foothills with a population of about 2,800. The old
buildings are all still here, including the National
Hotel, one of the oldest hotels in the West that's
still doing business. The town is a quirky, mystical
sort of place, populated by poets, writers, artists,
misfits, and just regular folks. When you drive down
Berggren Lane where we live, you come to a brown house
with green trim, lap-strake siding, a steel roof, and
a high green fence around the front. The steel roof is
there because we live in an ancient oak and cedar
grove, which includes in the front yard a couple of
towering poplar trees. Sometimes the wind coming down
from the high Sierra breaks off tree limbs, and if it
weren't for the steel roof, we could well be eating
our salad by the roots.

When we first moved in here, the house was tiny. Using
her remarkable ingenuity and the prodigious skills of
our friend Steven Goodfield, a fine independent
carpenter, Joanna has added a hallway and two rooms
going up the hill, which gives us a bedroom and
bathroom, and me a study. The French doors in our
bedroom open out onto a dappled hillside with
hawthorns, cedars, pines, wild cherries, and oaks. The
lot itself is quite narrow, the result of a bad survey
many years ago. The old part of the house was built in
1912. When we bought it, there was a greenhouse along
the southern wall. It was rotting out, so we replaced
it with a new, insulated and thermo paned greenhouse
so that we could remove the interior wall and make it
almost part of the living room. Our house is a
beautiful, comfortable place to live, absolutely
surrounded by greenery.

Looking out the greenhouse windows now, I can see the
huge poplars in front, already in full leaf. The front
yard is Joanna's flower garden, a great splash of
color amid the green. As I look over my shoulder out
the greenhouse door, which is also the front door to
the house, I can see the hawthorn trees covered with
cascades of white blossoms, as though their limbs were
burdened with new snow. There's a brick patio just
outside the greenhouse with a fireplace and a small
pond crowned with a bronze frog who emits a stream of
water into the pond, which, when the weather is warm,
we can hear from the bedroom when we're going to

Opposite the greenhouse is the kitchen, with a
wonderful early 1930s gas range, one of those with a
two-lid firebox on one end. Outside the kitchen window
is a railed porch built by our friend Kuddie, which
overlooks another flower garden and an old apple tree,
still bearing, that was probably planted when the
house was built. The lot itself, narrow though it is,
goes up the hill quite a way, where it levels off
through the cedars and ends at a large open space that
was a vegetable garden when I was still able to do
that sort of thing.

The cedars are gigantic and quite an anomaly, a patch
of forest that was never logged, probably because of
the bad survey. It simply got missed. Walking in it
now is like walking in the quiet of a much larger

Walking up the hill, you pass three small
outbuildings. One, called Marmlebog Hall (Joanna's
children call her Marmle), is where Kuddie ordered and
maintained the CDs I used to travel with. It also
contains a small labor library. The second building is
a small barn on uneven stilts because of the hill.
It's there for storage. Don't ask me what all is in
it, but I do know it would drive an archaeologist mad.
Among other things, it houses about 15 collapsing
cardboard boxes that contain what academics have
characterized as my personal archives, but are in fact
a jumble of papers and objects, the detritus of over
half a century. The University of California at Davis
once said they wanted to accession my archives. I
said, okay, if you hire somebody to come and plough
through those boxes, because I'm not going to. They
never called back.

The third building up there is an old shed, tiny,
drafty, but a place where I spent many happy hours
making things when I wasn't traveling: wooden swords,
bird feeders, and such. For the past few years the
workshop has been a henhouse with a chicken-wire
enclosure. Nothing fancy: five hens and a large
rooster named Ralph (Rooster-Dooster). Ralph enjoys
the good life. You could poke three holes in Ralph and
go bowling with him. The hens all have names, but I
forget what they are. They give us eggs, which I think
was the idea to begin with.

Last winter a bear broke into the chicken yard and
tore the door off the henhouse. The hens and Ralph
managed to escape by hiding behind an old chest of
drawers. The first hen to reappear showed up in our
dog Bo's mouth; she was uninjured, but that condition
would not have lasted much longer. The others came out
of hiding one at a time. Before our friend Che
Greenwood could come over to fix the door, we feared
the bear would return, plus a great storm was kicking
up. So we set up a round of chicken wire in the
greenhouse, which, as I say, is part of the living
room, and installed the chickens there. Eventually,
the smell was overpowering. How can chickens live with
themselves? It was Friday evening and I'd turned on my
small portable radio, as at this time the power was
out, to listen to a station in Sacramento that
broadcasts opera from 8:00 p.m. till midnight. That
Friday one of the opera excerpts featured was an aria
from Puccini's Tosca sung by Maria Callas. That's when
Ralph decided he liked opera. As she sang, he began to
crow along, so I got Tosca as a duet between Callas
and Ralph. That's when I said, these chickens have got
to go back up the hill. I mean, it was Puccini, for
God's sake.

So. That's domestic life here at our place.

A few words about me and the trade before I wind this
up. When I hit a blacklist in Utah in 1969, I realized
I had to leave Utah if I was going to make a living at
all. I didn't know anything abut this enormous folk
music family spread out all over North America. All I
had was an old VW bus, my guitar, $75, and a head full
of songs, old- and new-made. Fortunately, at the
behest of my old friend Rosalie Sorrels, I landed at
Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, New York. That seemed
to be ground zero for folk music at the time. Lena
Spencer, as she did with so many, took me in and
taught me the ropes. It took me a solid two years to
realize I was no longer an unemployed organizer, but a
traveling folk singer and storyteller—which, in Utah
at the time, would probably have been regarded as a
criminal activity.

I spent a long time finding my way—couches, floors,
big towns, small towns, marginal pay (folk wages). But
I found that people seemed to like what I was doing.
The folk music family took me in, carried me along,
and taught me the value of song far beyond making a
living. It taught me that I don't need wealth, I don't
need power, and I don't need fame. What I need is
friends, and that's what I found—everywhere—and not
just among those on the stage, but among those in
front of the stage as well.

Now I can no longer travel and perform; overnight our
income vanished. But all of those I had sung for, sung
with, or boarded with, hearing about my condition,
stepped in and rescued us. I can't tell you how
grateful I am to be part of this great caring
community that, for the most part, functions close to
the ground at a sub-media level, a community that has
always cared for its own. We will be forever grateful
for your help during this hard time.

The future? I don't know. But I have songs in a folder
I've never paid attention to, and songs inside me
waiting for me to bring them out. Through all of it,
up and down, it's the song. It's always been the song.

Love and solidarity,


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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: GUEST,Dani
Date: 28 May 08 - 10:54 AM


Just perfect.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: Amos
Date: 28 May 08 - 11:05 AM

THose last three sentences are gonna make me break down again.

But I thank you for 'em.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: MikeT
Date: 28 May 08 - 11:38 AM

I first posted this on the umgf forum, and I'll copy it here:

I'm devastated. Bruce was like a second father to me. I grew up in Saratoga, and my parents were among the original patrons of the Caffe Lena. By the time I was a freshman in high school, fall of 1968, I was the dishwasher there every weekend. the music was incredible. We had heard of Bruce through Rosalie Sorrels stories of 'her good friend U. Utah Phillips, the Golden Voice of the Great Southwest.' Her stories of him were hard to believe, and when she sang his songs, well if you haven't heard Rosalie sing 'Starlight on the Rails'...... Bruce had gigs booked in the east, but never showed up, so as strange as it may seem now, we thought that he was her alter-ego, someone she made up, and that she wrote the songs herself. One night in the fall of 68, I showed up to work and there was this buzz....'He's Here!!' Who? Utah Phillips!!

It was unbelievable. the first song he sang at Lena's was 'Enola Gay'.

Bruce was the smartest and most creative person I have ever known. There were amazing musicians in town already, and Lena and Bruce created an environment that attracted so many more. Andy Cohen, Kate McGarrigle, Roma Baran, Jim Ringer, Mary McCaslin, Patti Nunn, Bill Vanaver, Martin Grosswendt, Kurt Anderson, Luke Baldwin, Jack McGann, Bill Hinckley, Pam Ostragan were a few of the people that lived in town. In those days, Lena booked the performers for the weekend, so they would play Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and usually crash at her place. The scene was amazing, and don't forget it was the 60's. Bruce was a social activist, and realized that he could continue his work as a folk performer. Watching him refine the character of Utah, and create sets of stories and song was a gift to me. He gave me my first guitar lesson. He taught me a history of this country that wasn't taught in schools. By his actions and words he instilled a sense of compassion and caring for the less fortunate among us. He was kind to a young kid who was just hanging out. He taught me how to drink Henry McKenna, which I can't do anymore.

During the summer, like most kids on town, I worked at the track. Breakfast there was always fun, and sort of the traditional way to end a night out in August. On morning Bruce and a few other folks showed up. the maitre d' asked him if he was there to see some horses. Utah said he was. 'Which stable are you with?' 'Oh, I'm from Purina, I'm here for the losers.' They threw him out.

Being the labor activist he was, he started the Wildflowers, a musicians co-op that was a local of the I.W.W. It worked pretty well until they got ripped off by a concert promoter.

He lived in town all through my high school years, and except for my parents, he is most responsible for who I am today. in 1972, I went off to college, which was tame after being around Utah. A bit after that, he moved to Spokane, and was a resident performer at the Folk Life Festival there. He told a story about the day he covered his face with charcoal, and got into the boiler of an old steam engine on the grounds of the festival. when a tourist would look in the firebox, Utah would say hello and start telling old train stories....

In 74 I took the year off from college to get my head together. Halloween 74 with a full moon I decided on the spur of the moment to join Al McKenney, Tom Mitchell and Steve Martin to drive Blanche, Bruce's white 1957 Chevy panel delivery to Spokane. We hitch-hiked to San Francisco and spent a few nights with Faith Petric, and then I hitched back to Saratoga. It was a great trip, and I still can't believe I've hitch-hiked across the country.

I hope the westbound is taking it easy and slow with him, and that his trip is calm. He left a lot behind for those of us who knew him. I hope to carry his message with me, and carry him in my heart. I'm sooooooo grateful that I got to know him back in those days.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: Dan Schatz
Date: 28 May 08 - 01:17 PM

Of all the images on Duncan's blog, this one touches me the most.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: kendall
Date: 28 May 08 - 01:25 PM

We just bought a camper and it needs a few repairs. While working on the flaws, trying to keep busy and avoid thinking, I put an unlabeled tape into the tape player, and wouldn't you know it, up comes this song: "He comes like wind like rain he goes". He did this to me...I know he did. He wanted to see an old seaman weep.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: JedMarum
Date: 28 May 08 - 02:22 PM

So sad to see his passing, but glad to be alive during his era.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: lefthanded guitar
Date: 28 May 08 - 02:24 PM

Goodbye to Utah Bruce. I've been singing and playing his songs for decades, since I first heard him at Cafe Lena's decades ago. He was 'the real thing,' and the honesty of his spirit infused his songs. His songs will never go out of style because they speak of the truth of his life and our lives; sometimes joyous and silly, sometimes harrowing and mournfully sad. He will be missed.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 28 May 08 - 02:45 PM

A giant like him is bound to be missed, knowingly or not, by a lot more than those who knew him - I didn't, though I'd heard him, and I can see why his influence was so enormous. RIP, Bruce, your legacy is safe in the hearts of many.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 28 May 08 - 04:44 PM

I haven't any elegant words to add, and sit here reading them all, and echoing them, and wondering- How many of this world's people have lost a best friend? Many knew him and many more knew of him but not met him, but all held him a friend, and there are many, many, many thousands. It is good that reading these few friends' words has helped me to say goodby.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: kendall
Date: 28 May 08 - 04:59 PM

It was a cruel twist of fate that he started with the heart problem right after we made plans to do a tour of the Northeast, but at least we did get to do one last performance together in Grass Valley two years ago.
I guess it's true that one can't have everything... where would you put it?

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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: Big Mick
Date: 28 May 08 - 05:19 PM

That picture, Dan, is the one we used on the poster for The Ark concert, and are using for the concert in Grand Rapids on June 18.

When I was last talking with him, I asked him about being called "Bruce" or "Utah". He said he would never stop anyone but he preferred "Utah".

All the best,


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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: GUEST,Dan's laptop
Date: 28 May 08 - 05:49 PM

It was the combination of the photo - a familiar image of Utah - with the message. You may have to scroll all the way to the right to see it. Just brought tears to my eyes.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: Mike Regenstreif
Date: 28 May 08 - 06:05 PM

My Folk Roots/Folk Branches feature segment to air this week on CKUT during Folk Directions was already recorded before Bruce passed away. My next Folk Roots/Folk Branches feature, scheduled for June 12, will be a tribute to Bruce.

That tribute scheduled for June 12 has been moved up to June 5.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: Roger in Baltimore
Date: 28 May 08 - 06:18 PM

Damn, I hate crying at work. I haven't been able to get through everyone's comments since I would only cry more. Bruce was a legend in every sense of the word. I only saw him live once. I was quite young and had never heard of him. That one event made me a fan, and I have several records and CD's. He was truly a renaissance man and truly a man of the people. He will be missed by many more than I. My condolences to his family. He certainly had a life fully lived and well-lived.

Roger in Baltimore

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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 28 May 08 - 08:53 PM

See Amy Goodman's radio show, Democracy Now for a taped interview with Utah in 2004. (There's both an audio file and a transcript.)

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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: GUEST,George Mann
Date: 28 May 08 - 11:01 PM

So good to see everyone sharing stories of Bruce/Utah (by the way, he once told me "You can call me Bruce or you can call me Utah, either one is fine with me")...

For those out there who did not personally know him or meet him, I hope these stories give you a better sense of the man behind the recorded works.

When Utah and I finally met in 2003, I felt like an "instant friend"-- we spent time talking at the Western Workers Festival and Utah was extremely pleased to finally meet my musical partner, Julius Margolin, who is now 91. Utah ALWAYS took a keen interest in the elder activists; he spent time talking with Julius and asking so many questions about Julius' time in the CIO, National Maritime Union, the blacklist, etc. Utah already knew of our political/labor music and the "Hail to the Thief" anti-Bush CDs we were producing-- he volunteered on the spot, first day I met him, to be part of the series (he was on the second and third CDs, and he was planning to be part of the final one coming out this summer-- I'm hoping he still will be represented).

Two months later, Julius and I found ourselves in Ithaca, NY at Utah's concert-- he had invited us and at the beginnning of his second set, he had us come up on stage and do a song. That's how sweet he could be to people! Julius had never sung solo before 900 people before. We did a new song, my parody of "If I Only Had A Brain," and since it was so new, Julius was holding the lyrics in his hands.... but his hands were shaking so much I couldn't read the sheet and of course, I flubbed one of the lines! Utah just sat there with a great smile on his face.... one of my greatest joys was sitting backstage with him before the show, him holding that big Guild guitar, and talking with him about how he started out.

Folks have mentioned how Utah took an interest in the towns he was performing in, asking in advance for copies of local papers, etc. so that he could talk about local issues from the stage and make the people feel he cared about them. But no one has mentioned another "secret" that Utah shared with me. He'd keep a notebook and after each concert, while things were still fresh in his mind, he'd jot down names of the activists he'd met, notes about the things they were into, their jobs, etc. Then, when he came back, a year, two years or more later, he'd refresh his memory from those notes beforehand. And when he got to the gig, and he met some of those same people again, he could ask them about their families, jobs, and local issues, etc. He told me people were often amazed that he'd remembered such stuff-- to him it was always important to make people feel like they mattered to him-- since it was so clear how much Utah mattered to them!

Finally, he was so generous with his time and encouragement to those of us who were younger and less experienced in the trade. If he believed in the integrity of your work, he could be your biggest supporter and greatest fan. That's what I loved about knowing him.

Keep searching out his music and stories. Keep reading these tributes (especially on Duncan's blog, linked at (his son Duncan has a blog with much info and tributes).

We know we've lost a giant of a person and we cannot replace him. But we can treasure his memory, remember what he said (the long memory is the most radical idea and dangerous weapon we have), and put just a little more time into improving this world, your communities, and the relationships you have with those you love. That will make a good and lasting tribute to Utah.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: Franz S.
Date: 28 May 08 - 11:37 PM

George, that's exactly what successful politicians do! And it's not necessarily a bad thing.   I remember that in 1956 I was one of a group of Young Democrats assigned to whip up the crowd at an Adlai Stevenson rally in Portland OR. After the rally we cornered Wayne Morse (the first vote I ever cast was for him), the senior senator from Oregon at the time, and asked him to autograph out signs. My ball point pen didn't work and I had toborrow another.

Three years later I met Morse in a reception line at a convention.   Upon hearing my name, Morse said," Oh, yes. You're the Young Democrat whose pen didn't work."    I'm sure Morse or someone in his crew was taking notes.

Once again I encourage everyone to get and listen to the Loafer's Glory programs. They're woth at least a year at an Ivy League college.

The worst thing that could happen to his memory would be to make him an icon like Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks or...   I'm not denigrating them (Azizi, what's the derivation of that word?), I'm just saying that we have a tendency as humans to create heroes and then let them do all the work.

And George, I expect to see you again next January at the WWLHF.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: Amos
Date: 28 May 08 - 11:45 PM

That picture just socked me in the solar plexus; a great soul looking straight out at anyone who comes by to see it, and the prose was just what he would have loved.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: Franz S.
Date: 28 May 08 - 11:47 PM

And until this moment I never thought about the origins and implications of the word "denigrate". I've looked it up in an etymological dictionary and I will never use the word again. I sholud have known better. My apologies to all.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: GUEST,George Mann
Date: 28 May 08 - 11:49 PM

Franz, I hope no "negative" connotation is taken, it was not intended.... when Utah was telling me about this, it was in the context of advice about how to build your "career" in the trade-- this was 2003 and I was fairly new to playing producing folk music. To me, it was not just ingenious but a clear indication that he wanted people to know that he cared about them, even if he'd just met them once before!

I'm going to the memorial/tribute concert Saturday and Sunday morning is the memorial for Utah at the Little League field in Nevada City, where he spent many an hour cheering on the kids. I hope anyone within a decent drive of Nevada City will try to make it. I expect it to be a life-affirming and life-changing two days. For those who can't be there, I hope that others who are there (I included) can give a sense of this in a report to you all.

Peace, George

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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: Amos
Date: 29 May 08 - 12:06 AM

"Denigrate" means to tarnish a person's reputation. It has nothing to do with race, as far as I know.

1. To attack the character or reputation of; speak ill of; defame. 2. To disparage; belittle: The critics have denigrated our efforts.
ETYMOLOGY:        Latin dnigrre, dnigrt-, to blacken, defame : d-, de- + niger, nigr-, black; see nekw-t- in Appendix I.

The fact that it has a root in common with the color is not to be taken literally, as reputations do not have colors as far as I know.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: Haruo
Date: 29 May 08 - 01:01 AM

There is no more reason to refuse to use the word "denigrate" than there is for the flipside refusal to use "illuminate". That's silly. Consider these lines from "Lift Every Voice and Sing":
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered;
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou Who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou Who hast by Thy might, led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
There is nothing racist (or even racial) about those uses of "white" and "light". To allow such concerns to dictate wholesale changes in not merely English-language but general human connotation and phrasing is ridiculous. With due respect,


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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: jacqui.c
Date: 29 May 08 - 07:04 AM

Please stop the thread creep - especially on this thread.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Utah Phillips 5/15/35-5/24/08
From: kendall
Date: 29 May 08 - 07:10 AM

Franz S your comment about making Utah an icon reminded me of a conversation he and I had some time ago. I accused him of being a legend, and he said "I don't want to be a legend. A legend has to show up, so I'd rather be a myth."

Yes, please stop the thread creep.

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