• The FBI’s War on Folk Music

    In 1955, an FBI agent tasked with keeping tabs on Guthrie and his affiliation to the Communist Party recommended that, given the folksinger’s rapid deterioration, he be taken off the bureau’s “Security Index.” After all, he would soon be incapacitated, and therefore no longer pose any credible threat. The bureau obliged by removing him from the Security Index, but they kept tabs on him in the Communist Index. “Guthrie, in other words, remained an active candidate for detention as a communist,” writes Leonard, “despite being afflicted with a fatal neurological disease.”

    The second story, also relevant to Guthrie’s struggle with Huntington’s disease took place just before his diagnosis. While a patient at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in New Jersey, Guthrie was visited by friends Lee Hayes and Fred Hellerman. When his friends asked how he was faring, Guthrie replied:

    Oh yeah, the food’s fine. Everything’s okay. Besides, this is the freest place in America. You don’t have to worry about me. I can jump up on the table and shout “I’m a communist!” and all they’ll say is “Oh he’s crazy.” You try doing that anywhere else in America.

    There’s more than a bit of Guthrie’s propensity for tall tales and cockeyed humor in this response. It also says a great deal about the pervasive paranoia that McCarthyism had fostered in American political and cultural life.

    With his previous two books — Heavy Radicals and A Threat of the First Magnitude, both coauthored with Conor Gallagher — Leonard has proven his ability to craft a compelling story from the records of political repression. Relying mostly on FBI archives and the yield of countless Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, he has sketched how the state sought to infiltrate and take down the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), the Black Panthers, and once-influential Maoist groups like the Revolutionary Communist Party. As he wrote in Heavy Radicals, “the understanding of how determined, organized resistance and political repression are intimately intertwined, remains a current and relevant problem.”

    Du Folk, de la politique… ! – Mais pas que….

    Le projet de ce site est de permettre de (re)découvrir le riche patrimoine culturel connu sous le nom de « folksong », et à un moindre degré d’autres musiques populaires des États-Unis, comme le blues, avec quelques incursions dans d’autres pays ou continents.

    Folk, donc, mais pas que. Et politique, mais pas que. Le cœur de ce que l’on trouvera sur ce site est pourtant bien la « protest-song » américaine, la chanson protestataire, avec des artistes comme Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, ou à la génération suivante Joan Baez ou Phil Ochs, mais de nombreux autres, connus ou moins connus. Un grand choix de « rubriques », de liens internes, de mots-clés, ainsi qu’un instrument de recherche, permettent de se déplacer sur le site (voir le mode d’emploi), d’y grapiller ce que l’on voudra, et d’y faire le cas échéant quelques découvertes…

    La plupart des vidéos ainsi proposées (toutes repiquées sur le site youtube, et les titulaires de droits qui s’estimeraient lésés sont bienvenus à demander le retrait éventuel de telle ou telle vidéo) sont le plus souvent accompagnées de notices plus ou moins développées, et portant soit sur la chanson elle-même, soit sur l’artiste, soit sur l’époque, soit sur tel ou tel autre sujet en relation avec la vidéo. Très souvent également, les textes des chansons (en anglais) sont proposés

    Alan Lomax Archive

    The Sound Recordings catalog comprises over 17,400 digital audio files, beginning with Lomax’s first recordings onto (newly invented) tape in 1946 and tracing his career into the 1990s. In addition to a wide spectrum of musical performances from around the world, it includes stories, jokes, sermons, personal narratives, interviews conducted by Lomax and his associates, and unique ambient artifacts captured in transit from radio broadcasts, sometimes inadvertently, when Alan left the tape machine running. Not a single piece of recorded sound in Lomax’s audio archive has been omitted: meaning that microphone checks, partial performances, and fa