Wednesday, January 18, 2006

New York City Sandburg, and other thoughts

In 1949 Alan Lomax took Carl Sandburg to see Pete Seeger and The Weavers play in New York's Village Vanguard club. Many nights in the late 1950's on the upper east side Sandburg would sing at eclectic impromptu parties held at the house of Terry and Gregory d'Allesio. And it was at the Museum of Modern Art with his brother-in-law Edward Steichen that he would collaborate on the landmark photographic exhibit The Family of Man. Sandburg may have captured Chicago in poems but he knew and loved New York.

In New York we interviewed Terry d'Alessio, Joanna Steichen, and the incomparable Pete Seeger, telling these stories and more for our documentary.

Our flight home from Newark followed the spine of the Appalachian mountains and snaking along the top I could see the Blue Ridge Parkway like a pathway leading us back to Asheville. On my I-pod I listened to an artist who is relatively new to me, a guy named Sujfan Stevens. His latest recording has a song on it that is titled (in part) ...Carl Sandburg came to me in a dream... with this bouncing around my head as the plane bumped and shifted in the winter air I was encouraged that someone like him would find inspiration in Sandburg. The record is beautiful and bizarre, melodic and challenging. Check it out.

After coming home I was listening to XM radio when a song by Pete Seeger's band The Weavers came up called Sinnerman. It was familiar... but not. I was confused. I thought this was a Peter Tosh song... but no, it's a traditional American song brought back in the 1950's by The Weavers and then recorded by The Wailers, and then Peter Tosh.

What does this have to do with Sandburg? We'll, it's just my continual realization that these things are connected. Like Pete Seeger says, "they are links in the chain" and the Peter Tosh version that I knew was made possible (in part) by The Weavers (and no doubt many others) recording it and others collecting the songs in the first place. Like Sandburg's American Songbag.

Photo by Evan Schafer: Director Paul Bonesteel talking with Pete Seeger