Re: Marchin' to A Different Drummer (fwd)

Mike Salovesh (t20mxs1@CORN.CSO.NIU.EDU)
Mon, 19 Feb 1996 15:35:43 -0600

I sent a long message to Martin Cohen Friday morning, reacting to his
very interesting post contributing another view to this thread. On
reflection, I think most of it is relevant to our public discussion on
anthro-l, so I have edited it down to what I see as relevant.

Yes, Lynn Manners, I am carefully thinking about putting together a paper
out of all this. My focus would be on the outsider/insider problem that
this discussion has made me face, rather than on military marching drill
as such. And HELL NO, I WON'T GO into public marching !!!

mike salovesh PEACE !!!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 16 Feb 1996 02:35:57 -0600 (CST)
From: Mike Salovesh <>
To: Martin Cohen <>
Subject: Re: Marchin' to A Different Drummer (fwd)

Whenever I've had a breathing spell today, I've been thinking about your
citation of Robeson's singing of "Zog Nit Kaynmol". I agree that the song
clearly is in Yiddish, and that it comes out of a setting of major
historical import to Jews. In that sense, it's informed by Jewishness.

However, it's not a song that calls for Jewish soul in the singer. I'm
not surprised: it's not out of the tradition that produced the way my
grandfather taught me to sing "Die Rebbi Elimeilach". Its place in
musical style and feeling puts it in a class with Die Moorsoldaten (the
Peatbog Soldiers) -- and a whole pile of similar songs out of the 30's and
40's traditions of singing on the left. (Lots of those songs came out of
the Spanish Civil War and the on-again, off-again antifascism sometimes
encouraged by Moscow.)

You refer to "Zog Nit Kaynmol" being sung in dirge style, rather than as a
march, in a synagogue on Yom HaShoa. I can see how that could happen. I
think what it shows is just what I've been saying: the song, though
informed by Jewishness, is not a Jewish folk song. It's a protest song.

The genre of protest song was Paul Robeson's musical home. It also was
the home of the Almanac Singers -- union organizing singers who included
Pete Seeger and Lee Hayes (not to mention Burl Ives before he went
straight). The Almanac Singers eventually metamorphosed into The Weavers.
Protest songs also gave a musical home to a bunch of singing Wobblies ("I
dreamed I saw Joe Hill las night . . .") and ILGWU organizers and Big Bill
Broonzy and Sonny Terry and Alan Lomax and, on and off, Hudie Ledbetter
(Leadbelly) and lots of other folk singers.

Don't let me get started talking about my own days of singing on the left.
Way back in prehistory, I was a minor folksinger. I'm a relic of an
organization called "Peoples Song", and a lot of people I met through my
participation with that group ended up on McCarthyite blacklists. Like
the three guys who talked me into joining in the first place, back in 1948
or so: Win Stracke, Studs Terkel, and Pete Seeger. I sang onstage with
every singer I've named here except Burl Ives and Paul Robeson. (What,
Studs Terkel *singing*? Well, yes, believe it or not.) Of course, I did
nearly all of my gigs under an assumed name. Maybe the FBI never
connected me with Mike Scott, once introduced in San Francisco's Purple
Onion as "the singing anthro T.A.".

mike salovesh, anthropology department <>
northern illinois university PEACE!