Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Fred Hellerman, Last of the Weavers Folk Group, Dies at 89

Fred Hellerman, Last of the Weavers Folk Group, Dies at 89
New York Times By WILLIAM GRIMES SEPT. 2, 2016

The Weavers in the early 1950s, clockwise from right: Fred Hellerman, Pete Seeger, Lee Hays and Ronnie Gilbert.
Fred Hellerman, a singer, guitarist and songwriter and the last surviving member of the Weavers, the quartet that in the 1950s helped usher in the folk music revival, died on Thursday at his home in Weston, Conn. He was 89.

With songs like “If I Had a Hammer,” “Goodnight Irene” and “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” the Weavers brought folk music to a mass audience, paving the way for singers like Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary, who galvanized a young, politically conscious audience in the 1960s.

Mr. Hellerman’s mellow baritone, rock-steady guitar and songwriting talent made him a pillar of the group, whose other members were Pete Seeger, Lee Hays and Ronnie Gilbert. Mr. Hays died in 1981, Mr. Seeger in 2014 and Ms. Gilbert in 2015.

With the other members of the Weavers, who were based in Greenwich Village, Mr. Hellerman recast dozens of traditional songs, which were credited to the collective songwriting name Paul Campbell. He also wrote for the group, as well as for Harry Belafonte, under his own name or the pseudonym Fred Brooks. Many of his songs were later recorded by other artists.

His Weavers songs included “There Once Was a Young Man Who Went to the City,” “Tapuach Hineni” and, with Fran Minkoff, “The Honey Wind Blows” and the antiwar ballad “Come Away Melinda.” For Mr. Belafonte he wrote “I’m Just a Country Boy” (with Marshall Baker), “I Never Will Marry,” “Green Grow the Lilacs” and “Walkin’ on the Green Grass.”

After the Weavers disbanded in 1964, Mr. Hellerman kept up a performing and producing career. He played guitar on the debut albums by Joan Baez and Judy Collins, and produced Arlo Guthrie’s first album, “Alice’s Restaurant,” and its successor, “Arlo.”

He rejoined the Weavers for reunion concerts in 1980, documented in the film “The Weavers: Wasn’t That a Time!” He also produced the album version of the concerts, “Together Again.”

He was born Fred Hellerman on May 13, 1927, in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. His father, Harry, and his mother, the former Clara Robinson, were Jewish immigrants from Riga, Latvia. His father ran a small grocery store and later a clothing recycling business on the Lower East Side.

While studying English at Brooklyn College, he performed with American Folksay, a group of singers and square dancers, and in 1948 he recorded “The Little Cowboy” with Will Geer and Ernie Lieberman for Young People’s Records.

He soon came to the attention of Mr. Hays and Mr. Seeger, former members of the Almanac Singers, who were trying to organize musical backing for folk dancers at a Thanksgiving hootenanny at Irving Plaza in Manhattan being held by People’s Music, a leftist organization that sent folk singers to political events.

With Ms. Gilbert, whom Mr. Hellerman knew from their days as counselors at the leftist Camp Wo-Chi-Ca in northern New Jersey, they came up with a medley of international folk songs that turned out to be a crowd pleaser. Encouraged, they began rehearsing and appearing as the No Name Quartet until Mr. Hellerman suggested the Weavers, a name taken from the title of Gerhart Hauptmann’s play about a 19th-century workers’ revolt.

“We really got together for the fun of it, singing in Pete’s basement on Macdougal Street,” Mr. Hellerman told The New York Times in 1980. “We sang for unions, at picket lines and at hootenannies, but we had no anticipation of getting jobs. Even Pete, the most accomplished of us, could not get jobs on his own, so we couldn’t expect anyone to pay for four of us.”

A booking at the Village Vanguard in December 1949 changed that. It did not hurt when the folklorist Alan Lomax brought the poet Carl Sandburg to a performance, which he loved.

“The Weavers are out of the grass roots of America,” Sandburg told reporters. “I salute them. When I hear America singing, the Weavers are there.”

Decca signed the group to a contract. Their first record for the label, the Hebrew song “Tzena, Tzena, Tzena,” rose to No. 2 on the Billboard chart. The flip side, “Goodnight, Irene,” an interpretation of the Lead Belly anthem, sat atop the chart for 13 weeks. The record sold two million copies.

After Mr. Seeger was labeled a Communist by the influential publication “Red Channels in 1952, and an F.B.I. informant made the same charge against Mr. Hellerman and Ms. Gilbert, it became impossible for the group to perform on radio and television, or at most concert halls

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Massive Demonstrations Support Refugees

Thousands of people have rallied around Australia, calling for the government to immediately close its offshore immigration centres following the publication of the Nauru files.

Protests were held in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Newcastle, Hobart, Brisbane, Adelaide, Ballina, and at the Australian embassies in London and Tokyo on Saturday. Another rally is planned for Darwin on Sunday, the day after the Northern Territory election.

Chris Breen, a spokesman for the Refugee Action Collective and organiser of the Melbourne rally said about 2,000 people attended.

“The point was to keep the pressure up on the Turnbull government after the election. We think refugee policy is coming apart at the seams,” Breen told Guardian Australia.

A former teacher from Nauru addressed the Melbourne crowd and shared her experiences in the centre, including an incident when guards ran a mock serious response scenario, including ambulances and fake blood, but didn’t warn detainees. The exercise was held in front of the school, she said.

The publication of the Nauru files, which included more than 2,000 incident reports documenting the everyday trauma and distress of detainees on the Pacific island as well as widespread mental illness and frequent acts of violence, showed the ongoing urgency to close the camps and bring the asylum seekers and refugees to Australia, Breen said.

“The abuse isn’t a product of lack of oversight, it’s built into the detention system.”

Sunday, August 14, 2016

ABC Radio Documentary – Shit Happens

Going to the toilet is an everyday event for most of us. But what happens to our bodily waste after we flush? Where does it go, and how does it get there? And why do we rarely discuss it?

After her family endures the unique horror of a broken loo at home, Cath Simpson decides to investigate.

This program takes us on a journey along Sydney sewerage pipes, from a broken toilet in Newtown into the bowels of the sandstone cliffs at the Bondi treatment plant.

Along the way we learn fascinating faecal facts about the formation of western cultural attitudes to human waste.

  • Researcher Dr Cath Simpson 
  • Writer Maree Delofski 
  • Producer Sharon Davis, Maree Delofski and Cath Simpson 
  • Sound Engineer Steven Tilley

Shit Happens

Part 1 Download (mp3)

Part 2 Download (mp3)

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Vale Jock Levy

Abraham Jerome (Jock) Levy OAM was a Sydney wharfie and communist who formed an integral part of the famous and ground breaking film unit in the WWF that was one of the first and most effective independent film making and documentary initiatives in Australia, which not only captured the great history and struggles of our unions political and industrial history but went on to inspire a new generation of independent film makers in Australia that remains a national focus today.

Former WWF film maker Norma Disher and current MUA film maker
Jamie McMechan with Jock at his 100th birthday celebration
Jock went on to make a life time of contributions to progressive artistic and campaign activity around many progressive community, industrial and political issues, remaining an important, much-loved and respected working class leader in his own right.

The union assisted in bringing the work of Jock back into focus in assisting Dr Lisa Milner bringing Jock's wonderful contributions together with Keith Gow and Norma Disher of the film unit in her book Fighting Films - the history of the Waterside Workers Federation Film Unit in 2003. Lisa herself has been a constancy in ensuring working class history is at the forefront in Australia in her own amazing body of work.

Zoe Reynolds the MUA's long term journalist was also critical in ensuring the important record of achievement of our film unit was secured.

The launch of Lisa's book at the Australian Maritime Museum, that has the famous WWF mural bequeathed by the Sydney Branch of the MUA, was in itself a great punctuation of the long progressive history embedded in our Australian values, achievements and current way of life.

The MUA digitised most of the Film Unit’s work and they remain a very sought after source of Australian working class history today and is often featured in mainstream reporting on everything from the gross exploitation of wharf labourers on the Hungry Mile, the emasculation of poverty and struggle during the depression, to the many great union campaigns for better working conditions for maritime workers, miners and many other Australian workers. That work remains an inspiration to the ongoing active recording of our union’s activities that remains central to our continuing policy to counter the ongoing lies, misinformation and constant abuse of our and other unions and members in mainstream media today. The recent Royal Commission was only the latest example of the distortions and selective facts that allow for the consistent attacks on our union movement - A political dynamic Jock and the many other contributors to the film unit set out to counter.

Digital copies of the Film Unit’s work is available to everyone, both through the archives and online.

Jock will be greatly missed and the union will extend our deepest sympathies to Jock's family and many friends and comrades.

In unity,


Funeral Details: Friday, August 5th 2016 at 10:00 am at the South Chapel, Eastern Suburbs Crematorium, 11 Military Road Matraville.

- See more at: http://www.mua.org.au/vale_jock_levy#sthash.yriRuixK.dpuf