Remembering Guy Carawan (and Pete Seeger)

Thanks for remembering Guy Carawan. I had the privilege of seeing him several times over the last 45 years. He was a great man and a great musician. He doesn't get enough credit and recognition in the world of folk music and the civil rights movement. 

KR, terrific article. The reason I continue to read ND. Thank you.



  Your book on Zilphia Horton should be a valuable contribution to the understanding of folk music and the civil rights movement.

  Guy Carawan made a number of recordings, and with his wife  wrote some valuable books on songs of the civil rights movement and songs of the Appalahcian mountains.  Both he and FRank Hamilton rarely receive the credit they deserve for their contributions to the folk music revival.  Frank is still active, living around Atlanta and playing jazz, world music, and American folk music.


I'm surprised I didn't yet know that Frank is still alive. I'll have to look him up and see if he has any memories of Zilphia. People with memories of Zilphia are so few and far between these days.

The thing about these people like Frank and Guy -- and Zilphia too, of course -- was that their work was the movement. It was never about them. Not that Seeger was about himself. He was about the movement too, but his gift was what he could do on a stage, more than what he could've done on a picket line (though he certainly did his share on the picket line).

I've wrestled many times with whether it's really Zilphia's story that's important, or whether it's the story of what people have done with her legacy that's important. Ultimately (at least so far) I've decided her story really is important, though I imagine if she was around to check with, she might say she's flattered but I'm missing the point. Then again, who knows.

At any rate, Guy's work is bigger than he could ever be, and that's what we can be grateful for.

Myles Horton always said the measure of success was when people started to do what you taught them, and started to believe they came up with it themselves. In that sense, Guy was a master of his craft. He was a master in many other ways, too, of course.


    I think you're right, both aspects of her story are meaningful.  

    Frank Hamilton devoted himself more to music outright than either Seeger or Carawan, which is not to say that he ignored the social-political apsects of the music.   Frank was one of the first peopke actively involved with world music in the folk world, and performed and recorded with a Brazilian singer.   He also did an interesting album with Pete called Nonesuch, where they played a Congolese tune on two banjos!  Remember this was about the time Bela Fleck was born!  Frank was also the first music director at the Old Town School, and taught and influenced many musicians, including Roger McGuinn.  Frank also was an trombone player, and came into the folk music with a broader musical perspective than many other musicians had




Very informative - thanks for this. 

The difference between We "will" overcome and We "shall" overcome is significant and important to the evolution of this song.