Sunday, December 31, 2017

SNCC Freedom Singer Matt Jones: A 1994 Interview--Part 3


The Summer of 1994 marked the 30th Anniversary of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee [SNCC]’s Mississippi Freedom Summer Project of 1964, in which over 1,000 student volunteers from around the U.S. participated, after attending training sessions in Oxford, Ohio. But in 2018, a former chairman of SNCC, H. Rap Brown (n/k/a Jamil al-Amin) is still imprisoned for life in a Georgia prison.

In 1994, Downtown spoke with former SNCC organizer and Freedom Singers Director, Matt Jones, about the Freedom Summer, the Freedom Singers, SNCC and the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Jones lives in Manhattan and for many years has generously donated his time to sing at many human rights and peace benefits. At The People’s Voice Café  in Manhattan, a celebration of his 70th birthday took place in 2006. Following is part 3 of an interview with Jones that first appeared in the September 21, 1994 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative newspaper, Downtown.

What was daily life like in Mississippi? You mentioned how, when you were in Ohio, right before the Freedom Summer was to start, you had certain concerns. Now, when you got down there—in terms of what you recall—what was life like? I mean, people talk about a “Freedom High” that people experienced there. And some people say they were never the same. What happened down there?
Jones
: They were never the same because their lives were in danger. It was so odd. Because it was really, really like being a race car driver and you were in a car and you didn’t know where the curves were. You had no idea what was going to happen to you from one day to the next. The fellows had already been killed. People like Lawrence Guyot had been caught in Ku Klux Klan rallies in Mississippi. And Medgar Evers had already been killed. And a couple of people had died in other sections of the South.

So you were talking about people being in an area where they were totally frightened. But I think that after the three fellows got killed, people were more apt to listen to some of the SNCC veterans. If they were going to drive in a car, they would listen to a fellow named George Green, who was our best driver. He was sort of like Roy Rogers on a horse. I mean, he knew how to get away from the Klan.

So after people got killed, we put radios and walkie-talkies in all our cars, so people could get in touch with each other. And people were taught that, if they were in a car, they would never let the Klan pass them. And if they were in jail, they would never let the jailer put them out of jail at night. They would always wait till the following morning and be sure that some people were coming to pick them up. And they would never let any jailer tell them “O.K., it’s 11:30 at night. You can go home now.” That was the last time that was done. People were very careful from then on out. And that’s why we didn’t have any of the rest of the kids get killed. Because they knew that the Mississippi racists were sincere about killing people and it changed even the way I dealt with law enforcement.

I remember when I was leaving Meridian—going to Jackson [Mississippi]—and I had to go through one of the counties. And our car broke down. And this fellow named “Flukie” Suarez from CORE went into Jackson with the tire, and I was left in the car till he came back. And we had SNCC and CORE literature in the car.

And when I saw the sheriff come down to check on me, with this big shotgun, I immediately hid all of the CORE and SNCC literature under the seat. And when he came in and asked me why I was there, I told him I was just there waiting on a friend of mine to come and bring a tire. And I didn’t say I was in SNCC or anything. I mean I knew to be cool. I knew that I couldn’t decide to discuss the Movement with that sheriff. And it was very clear in my mind that my job was to try to get that car back into Jackson and wait for the man to come to pick me up.

So it put a little fear in us. But we continued to work. We didn’t let that stop us from working. In 1963, we had a mock election and Aaron Henry had run for governor. Since the people in Mississippi couldn’t vote, we had our own election. The mock election in 1963 set the stage for the Mississippi Summer.

So we were, I think, “high” because for the first time in our lives we were moving to free people and, by trying to free people, we were freeing ourselves. We would always stay in the homes of some of the local people, and we would learn from the people. And the people grew. And we grew. I mean you had whites who had never been around blacks, and blacks who had never been around whites. So both groups grew.

Some of the blacks had never known whites. If a white person would come up and say “Will you come to register to vote?”, they would say “yes, sir” because the person was white and they had never said “no, sir” to a white person. So some of the students would come back and say “I got so-and-so to register to vote and the people never came.” They didn’t realize the reason they didn’t come is that the people, just said “yes” to them because they were white.

There were a lot of things that the people had to learn. And everyday somebody was getting beaten or something was happening. Emmett Till had already died. So we had a lot of death already in Mississippi and across the South.

Not only in Mississippi was there a lot of activity. There was activity across the South at the same time. People don’t know that, because people are so tied into Mississippi because the white civil rights workers got killed there. Therefore, there’s a lot of writing going on about Mississippi. But that’s because people still move in racist lines and they don’t realize. They don’t realize that they are really not interested in other sections of the South, even though they’re interested in Mississippi because three civil rights workers got killed, two of them white, and a lot of whites worked there. But a lot of whites worked in other sections of the South. But we don’t have a history of those sections.

But some of the white students from the South had more extensive training because they had gone to schools in the South and they also had worked. And they understood the people. So they could move better. People like Bob Zellner and Sam Shirah. And these people could move a lot better than the Northern whites. They knew the area. They knew the blacks and the whites. So they could just move. They couldn’t work in the white community, but they could work in the Black community. They understood the people and the conditions they were working with.

And you find that those of us who worked in Mississippi will never be the same. It changed our lives. Working with SNCC changed my life. It’s changed everybody’s life. Everybody I’ve met that ever worked there, it changed their life. Some people try to forget it, but they can’t ever really forget it. You know it always stays upon them because they were living on the edge of death. It’s like when you’re almost in a car accident and you can see your whole life before you. They could see their whole life before them. They didn’t know whether they were going to die or not, but they knew what they were doing meant something.

And that’s why I, at this age, at 57-years-old [in summer 1994] still move in a freedom kind of way, because of what happened to me during those formative years in my life when I was in SNCC, in the Freedom Singers and also a Field Secretary for SNCC in Tennessee, Virginia, Mississippi and Georgia. So I can remember those different areas.

What have you been involved with since Freedom Summer and in recent years [prior to 1994]?
Jones: Well, after Freedom Summer I was going to go back on the road with the Freedom Singers. But I got caught in a Ku Klux Klan rally July 4, 1964, which caused me to be laid-up for a month or two, until I got better. [Segregationist Alabama Democratic Governor] George Wallace had a political rally. And we went there because we didn’t want the whites in the rally to think that they could meet like that and we not be there.

But when we got there, we found out it was a meeting of all the heads of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens’ Councils in the South. And so when we got in there, we found out that we were in a lynch mob. When a policeman turned his back on me, I was saved by a Japanese photographer that took a picture of the policeman with his back turned. And that action itself caused the policeman to jump across me and save my life.

But that experience made me realize how sick racism was in the South. I had a direct personal confrontation within a lynch mob situation. Somehow I lived to talk about it.

So after then, we continued to work in the Freedom Singers, and go around the country and sing, and raise money for SNCC. After I left SNCC, I came to New York City and got involved—during the Poor People’s Campaign—in the “Hey Brother! Coffeehouse” movement with F.D. Kirkpatrick. And we began to sing freedom songs and get involved here in the late 1960s and the very early 1970s. And I continued to do that. I also helped to free the Birmingham Six in England. And also did some work with an African nation called Sierra Leone. Then finally, I set up the Open House Coffeehouse in the Fall of 1986. And I’ve been going with that since then.

Where does that coffeehouse meet? And how can readers check it out?
Jones: That Open House Coffeehouse meets at 93rd and Broadway at Advent Lutheran Church on Monday nights. From 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Now we try to encourage people to write songs with a message. Some people have been able to write freedom songs. Other people don’t. But we make it open, so that people will do whatever they want to do. But, hopefully, they will write songs with a message.

Now you had a record, Matt Jones: Then And Now? Is it still possible to get that record? In which you sing some of your freedom songs?
Jones
: Yes. My record is called Matt Jones: Then And Now. People may contact me and I’ll be able to get it to them. Also, some of my music can be found in Peter Seeger and Rob Reiser’s book Everybody Says Freedom, and in the prize-winning documentaries: Eyes On The Prize, BBC’s Murder In Mississippi and a prize-winning student video: Road To Mississippi. And in the recent film: Freedom On My Mind. Also two of my songs can be found on a new [in 1994] CD, Freedom Is A Constant Struggle, along with some of the greatest singers of the 1960s such as Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Judy Collins, Peter, Paul and Mary, Tom Paxton, the Freedom Singers.

But the main thing that people need to know about the Freedom Summer is that it was a time when young people all over the United States got together and there was a way for them to express themselves in a Movement. And a lot of them took advantage of it.

(end of interview)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

SNCC Freedom Singer Matt Jones: A 1994 Interview--Part 2



The Summer of 1994 marked the 30th Anniversary of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee [SNCC]’s Mississippi Freedom Summer Project of 1964, in which over 1,000 student volunteers from around the U.S. participated, after attending training sessions in Oxford, Ohio. But in 2017 a former chairman of SNCC, H. Rap Brown (n/k/a Jamil al-Amin), is still imprisoned for life in a Georgia prison.

In 1994, Downtown spoke with former SNCC organizer and Freedom Singers Director, Matt Jones (1936-2011) about the Freedom Summer, the Freedom Singers, SNCC and the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Jones lived in Manhattan and for many years  generously donated his time to sing at many human rights and peace benefits. At The People’s Voice Café in Manhattan, a celebration of his 70th birthday took place in 2006. Following is part 2 of an interview with Jones, which first appeared in the September 21, 1994 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative newspaper, Downtown.

How was SNCC different from the other civil rights organizations? Why were the Freedom Singers involved with SNCC, as opposed to the other civil rights organizations?
Jones
: SNCC was a student organization. When we decided to do something, we did it! Each state had at least one field secretary and several local SNCC workers. These local SNCC workers organized the community. Each area was autonomous and allowed to develop independently.


And we were very, very similar in the way we operated and, in a lot of ways, we were different. Some of us were a lot more demonstration-oriented. A “mass meeting” would be a way for you to connect yourself to the ministers and the people in the community.

We in the Freedom Singers always considered ourselves to be organizers first and singers second. All of SNCC was very action-oriented. We did a lot of demonstrating. We continuously went to jail. We confronted the Establishment in each town that we went to. That was the nature of SNCC.

Now, once we got into these areas, CORE would then come in. CORE had a lot of youthful civil rights workers, also. But not as many as SNCC had. SNCC did not operate only in Mississippi. We worked throughout the South. We in the Freedom Singers were responsible for raising money for Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas and Mississippi, and certain parts of Virginia. So we had a large area that we had to raise funds for and a large area that we had to talk to people about. We had to let people know that we had projects in all these different areas.

And we were just different from other groups. We just operated on the spur of the moment, very action-oriented. We’d move in an uncompromising kind of way. We didn’t have any national office, like the NAACP had, that would get upset because [Mississippi NAACP leader] Aaron Henry would make a move or [slain civil rights leader] Medgar Evers would make a move. We didn’t have to get a go-ahead from anybody.

So people in their different areas would make their own moves. If they got in trouble, the people from other areas of SNCC would come in and help them. So in Mississippi, [SNCC leader] Stokely Carmichael [a/k/a Kwame Ture] might have come over from Lowndes County [Alabama]. You might even have people who would come in from other areas. They’d come into Mississippi, and they might leave Mississippi and go into Virginia. Or go into Tennessee. Or go into Georgia. So that’s why SNCC could move in a moment’s notice. And it could immediately transfer its workers from one state project to another, just by a lady named Ruby Doris Robinson making a call, and people would just saturate themselves from one area to another.

The Freedom Singers was started by Jim Forman [SNCC executive secretary] with the help of Pete Seeger and song leader and field secretary Cordele Reagon. We already had good song leaders in the South. So we took the best singers to go around and sing freedom songs and talk about the Movement. We felt that music was the best way to reach people. So those of us in the Freedom Singers became ambassadors and fund-raisers, as opposed to field workers. Occasionally, we would go back into the field to work. But then we would return to the North and talk and sing about what was happening in the South and raise funds to send back.

I was one of those people who would send back pretty close to $5,000 [in 1960s money]. And that was just the first amount of money we would make. After we would leave a town, people would send more money and more SNCC volunteers would be organized.

There were a lot of groups in music in the 1950s and 1960s. In terms of the music and the songs that the Freedom Singers sang, how would you characterize it?
Jones
: Well, I would have to say you need to realize that the Freedom Singers were organizers first, and musicians second. It’s true that we could sing very well. But we, by and large, were organizers.


One or two of the Freedom Singers might have been primarily singers. But, by and large, you were talking about a bunch of organizers who talked about the Movement in terms of song. And documented the Movement in songs and sang the songs to people across the nation. And tried to explain what SNCC was about and tried to get them interested enough to give funds and get involved. And give some kind of resource: either their personal selves or money or supplies or whatever. And that made us sing with a kind of intensity.

I was listening to one of our old records and it sort of frightened me when I heard it. I said to myself “Is this really singing?” I heard an intensity and a purpose in my voice that I’ve tried to duplicate unsuccessfully. Because we all had a purpose and when we sang you could hear that purpose in our voices. It’s almost like I was listening to somebody else, and not listening to myself.

We were very dedicated people, and the words that we sang, and the songs that we sang—we believed in. We believed in the words of the songs. Because each song approached the Movement in a certain way.

For example, I wrote a song “Oginga Odinga,” which brought the African Struggle into the Civil Rights Movement, and was also a favorite song of Malcolm X. Other songs, such as “In The Mississippi River,” written by my brother, Marshall Jones, had more meaning after Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner (www.jecf.org/History.htm) were killed.

These songs would make us feel better and through these songs we could explain to people what happened. They could understand exactly what state-of-mind we were in.

So the Freedom Singers was a group that explained to the world-at-large what was going on in the South. People were always very receptive to us and our message. We could communicate thoughts and ideas that would be very difficult for somebody to speak about. Or to preach about. Through our music we inspired people to help and/or join the Movement.

Who were some of the other members of the Freedom Singers?
Jones
: In the early days of December 1962, there was Bernice Reagon, Cordele Reagon, Charles “Chico” Neblett, Bertha Gober and Ruthie Harris. And in the Fall of 1963 I came on along with my brother Marshall Jones, James Peacock and Emory Harris. And Emory Harris was Ruthie’s brother. And we had a Venezuelan that came on later named Raphael Bentham. And very later in our career, we had a Jewish guitarist named Bill Pearlman. So we had sort of a cocktail of individuals who finally made up the Freedom Singers. And as we got new people in the Freedom Singers, it really changed our sound, and it made us incorporate more music as we traveled.


So the Freedom Singers had within it probably some of the most militant people in SNCC and also some of the most nonviolent people in SNCC. Because they were organizers, that gave the group a certain intensity. We weren’t just singers.

In December of 1964, we went into New York and sang with Malcolm X. And Malcolm X liked us very much. He was sitting down reading his notes and, when we started singing the song “Oginga Odinga,” he looked up. And he spoke to us and told us how important it was that we were singing about a Kenyan diplomat named Oginga Odinga, who was a freedom fighter. And he said that “Two or three years ago, you probably wouldn’t have been singing that song.”

But the reason we were singing the song is because I knew that the South was segregated and I loved the fact that we heard an African man had come to Atlanta on a State Department tour. We knew he was an important man and an international man. We wanted to let him know that Atlanta was not an integrated town. So I wrote this song. Malcolm X thought it was very significant.

At that time I wasn’t as political as I would later become. I gradually grew more political and wrote or arranged all of the Freedom Signers’ music. These songs were about different people who were in the Movement. For example, “Demonstrating G.I.,” is about a soldier who was thrown in jail for demonstrating in his uniform. In “The Prophecy Of A SNCC Field Secretary,” I talk about the lies that a grandfather would tell his grandson in the 1990s about work that he did in the Movement in the 1960s.

Some of the other important songs that we sang were: “We’ll Never Turn Back,” by Bertha Gober, which talks about the death of Herbert Lee, who was killed in Mississippi before Freedom Summer; and “Hartman Turnbow,” by Mike Killen. Turnbow was part of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and a native Mississippian. After the death of Medgar Evers and the three girls killed in Birmingham, I wrote the “Ballad of Medgar Evers.” Thank god that Byron De la Beckwith was finally convicted after all these years. So the songs performed by the Freedom Singers always were about people and conditions that were in the SNCC projects in one form or another.

Did the Freedom Singers perform at the Newport Folk Festival?
Jones: Yeah. In the early days when Bernice and Chuck were in the Freedom Singers, when they first started in December 1962, Toschi Seeger booked them. It was in the Summer of 1963 they went to Newport. And later on in my life, we sang there a time or two with [U.S. folksinger] Rev. Kirkpatrick [a/k/a Brother Kirk]. But we had sung there and sung at a number of other folk festivals in the country.
(end of part 2)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

SNCC Freedom Singer Matt Jones: A 1994 Interview--Part 1



The Summer of 1994 marked the 30th Anniversary of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee [SNCC]’s Mississippi Freedom Summer Project of 1964, in which over 1,000 student volunteers from around the U.S. participated, after attending training sessions in Oxford, Ohio. But in 2017 a former chairman of SNCC, H. Rap Brown (n/k/a Jamil al-Amin), is still imprisoned for life in a Georgia prison.

In 1994, Downtown spoke with former SNCC organizer and Freedom Singers Director, Matt Jones (1936-2011) about the Freedom Summer, the Freedom Singers, SNCC and the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Jones lived in Manhattan and for many years  generously donated his time to sing at many human rights and peace benefits. At The People’s Voice Café in Manhattan, a celebration of his 70th birthday took place in 2006. Following is part 1 of an interview with Jones, which first appeared in the September 21, 1994 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative newspaper, Downtown.

Now it’s 30 years [in 1994] after the Mississippi Summer Project. What activities were you involved in that led to the Freedom Summer? What are your most enduring and vivid memories of that Summer?
Matt Jones
: In January 1964, I went on tour with the SNCC Freedom Singers. Our job was to organize Friends of SNCC chapters in the northern part of the United States and to talk about the Movement to interested students, who would in turn give their bodies, their minds and their finances to the struggle. They knew, by the accounts of life and death that we would give them in our concerts, that to work for SNCC was as dangerous as any war.

In early 1964, we did a concert at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. The KKK burned a cross on the lawn. Dick Gregory, who was touring with us, made fun of the incident. We wrote a song called “The Klansman:” (recites)

“Out of the night
When the full moon is bright
Rides a devil known as a Klansman.
Devil, who makes the sign of a K.
Devil, you’re bound to see your day.”


From the incident many students from Oxford got involved in SNCC. Their networking with the SNCC office in Atlanta set the stage for using Oxford as the meeting place for the Summer Orientation. Similar networking was done in other states, but none was as complex as The Mississippi Summer Project.

Seeing many students that we had organized with speeches and songs was an affirmation that we had done a good job. But that reality scared me. I suddenly felt an enormous responsibility. The people we had sung to and who we had organized were the students who were going South.

We heard that three students were missing in Meridian [Mississippi]. I became very nervous. I sat under the tree where we had taught many students nonviolent techniques, and hoped that they would decide to go home, because I did not want the responsibility of their deaths. I knew [SNCC Field Secretary] Bob Moses was talking to the students in the hall, and felt confident of Bob’s ability to explain things. Bob was a genius at making points with a few words. He had an eloquent silence. Bob was the leader of the Council of Federated Organizations [COFO] in Mississippi during Freedom Summer.

I knew I had a lot of responsibility for the students being there. I’m one of the cheerleaders, one of the people who talked them into coming down. Or talked them into thinking that was the place to be. But I had no way of knowing, when I was talking to them, that they would come down and somebody would actually get killed. A student would actually get killed. And we would have to deal with that.

So when we heard that three [civil rights] workers were missing, I looked at these students wishing they would go home.

Why was a decision made to utilize the student volunteers?
Jones
: I had been arrested 29 times in the Movement.

Twenty-nine?
Jones: Across the South.

What kinds of arrests?
Jones: Well, you would go to register people to vote and they would throw you in jail. You would go to integrate a lunch counter and they would throw you in jail. You would go to integrate a movie theater and get thrown in jail. And it just wound up, in the final analysis, being 29 times.

We had found out, as early as the March on Washington [in 1963], that with white student involvement the country would pay more attention to the struggle. We knew from past experience that this country would not react to Black people being killed. So in bringing the student volunteers to the South, their parents, their home towns, their colleges and their congressmen would be interested in their welfare.

We were right. However, we were as shocked as the rest of the nation when Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were killed. In 1963, we had previously used white students in other places throughout the South. However, the majority of these students were from the South.

So we took a calculated risk. We thought that something would happen. That people would get involved. And they did get involved. We didn’t want it to happen the way it happened…

Now when I was sitting under that tree, I knew that they were going. But I also knew I was going with them. So right after some of them left, I wound up going to Meridian. And being there with [Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC)] leader] Jim Bevel and a CORE [Congress of Racial Equality] worker named “Flukie” Suarez.

But I knew that some of the veteran workers had to go into Meridian at that time. And I was one of them that went into Meridian. I was frightened, but I also knew a little bit more about how to survive in that area than Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman had known. (end of part 1)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

FBI Spied On Topical Protest Folk Singer-Songwriter Phil Ochs In 1960s and 1970s


(Phil Ochs--by Kenneth Tash - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45279727)
In his book Death Of A Rebel: A Biography of Phil Ochs, Marc Eliot described what happened at the Chicago 8 trial when 1960s Topical Protest Folk Singer-Songwriter Phil Ochs arrived to testify in Dec. 1969:

“…After a brief series of questions to establish that Phil was a singer by profession, Kunstler began to weave Phil into the pattern of the defense:

KUNSTLER: Now Mr. Ochs, can you indicate what kind of songs you sing?

OCHS: I write all my own songs and they are just simple melodies with a lot of lyrics. They usually have to do with current events and what is going on in the news, which goes back to journalism, and you can call them topical songs, songs about the news and then developing into more philosophical songs later…

KUNSTLER: Now did there come a time when there was any discussion of Yippie plans with reference to the convention, the Democratic National Convention?

OCHS: Yes, there were. I don’t remember the exact date because there were several meetings, probably, Jan. or Feb. of 1968…

KUNSTLER: Where did these discussions take place?

OCHS: The Lower East Side, different apartments, sometimes Jerry’s apartment and sometimes Abbie’s apartment…

KUNSTLER: Can you indicate in general to the court and jury what the plans were for Yippies in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention?...

OCHS…What Jerry Rubin said to me was that he planned to have a Festival of Life in Chicago during the Democratic Convention, basically representing an alternative culture on the assumption that they felt the Democratic Party did not represent them or a whole large mass of the American public. They wanted to have, therefore, an alternate convention. They would theatrically sort of spoof the Convention and show the public, the media, that the Convention was not to be taken seriously because it wasn’t fair, and wasn’t going to be honest, and wasn’t going to be a Democratic Convention, and so they would have essentially events they hoped to do in Lincoln Park. They hoped to get permits. They discussed flying to Chicago to talk with Mayor Daley or people working with Mayor Daley. They several times mentioned they wanted to avoid any violence…”
 
(Downtown/Aquarian Weekly 4/10/96)

Coincidentally, until his suicide on April 9, 1976, the FBI showed a special interest in investigating Phil Ochs. As The Politics of Rock Music by John Orman recalled in 1984:

“The quintessential ‘60s person not only had a cult following of politicos, folk junkies, protest fans, and movement freaks but also had a `following’ in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, it is clear that the FBI kept a domestic file on Ochs from 1963 until his suicide. As Ochs always said, `They [the government] have files on me this thick,’ and then he would laugh. He was absolutely correct. The FBI has released over 400 pages from the Phil Ochs file, and it is clear from the documents that the FBI spent an extraordinary amount of time following, checking up on, and detailing the activities of Phil Ochs…

“Agents checked Selective Service, insurance companies, the American Federation of Musicians Local 802 in New York, neighbors at 139 Thompson Street in New York City, the Credit Bureau of Greater New York, Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Bureau of Special Services (Red Squad), Board of Elections—Manhattan, and other sources…The FBI then checked with an acquaintance of Ochs who resided in Greenwich Village who was a folksinger and guitarist. This person was also the subject of an FBI New York file…

“The Los Angeles FBI office investigated Ochs from Aug. 31 to Dec. 12, 1968, and forwarded data to the New York office…

“…Ochs…refused to be interrogated by FBI agents on Oct. 1, 1968…

“…He was busted for possession of marijuana on Oct. 5, 1968 by the Los Angeles police department’…

“In 1973 the Agency added Ochs’ phone number to their computerized telephone file…”


(Downtown 4/13/94)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Did Corporate Music Industry Journalists Cover-Up Dylan's Post-1966 Artistic and Political Deterioration?



Many fans of the early 1960's protest folk singer-songwriter, Bob Dylan, lost interest in his post-1966 singer-songwriting work, after Dylan seemed to become more commercially-motivated than he previously had been; and after he pretty much stopped writing protest folk songs and topical folk songs (except for the post-1966 topical folk-rock songs"George Jackson" and "Hurricane"), with poetic lyrics that reflected artistically the personal, social and political concerns of the civil rights and anti-war Movement activists and supporters who had been emotionally moved by his pre-1966 song-writing and campus concerts.

Yet since the late 1960s, most music journalists and music writers who write for corporate music industry publications like Rolling Stone magazine or the book publishing or newspaper and magazine subsidiaries of the global corporate media conglomerates rarely produce articles or books that evaluate Dylan's post-1966 work in a negative way or present an unflattering image of the pre-1963 Woody Guthrie clone-turned post-1966 multi-millionaire hipster capitalist rock star.

In his 1989 book, Dylan, Bob Spitz, indicated some reasons why most corporate music industry journalists and writers may have tried to cover up Dylan's post-1966 artistic and political deterioration in their writing about Dylan's life and career during the last five decades:

"...Like the ancient court historians, Bob's biographers obediently wrote the story he put in front of them. Otherwise responsible journalists, dazzled by an audience with him, failed to question or examine the accuracy of his statements; incredibly enough, they just printed what he said verbatim. Leafing through the thousands of pages of articles and transcripts about Bob--from Nat Hentoff's New Yorker profile in 1964 to the most recent Rolling Stone interview--one is struck by the sheer number of untruths and epic exaggerations that have found their way into print. Few performers have been more protected by literary sycophants--critics and reputable journalists who either participated unwittingly or have allowed their own fortunes to be so intimately intertwined with Bob Dylan that the work they produced serves primarily as a library of memoir and self-promotion...

"Needless to say, this creates extraordinary difficulty for a biographer. The vast writings that constitute a loosely assembled Dylan archives provides a scant factual foundation upon which to build. Not surprisingly, many journalists refused to lend assistance...fearful that either their past willingness to collude with Bob would be exposed or their cooperation with me would bring recriminations...After this book was in its final stages, I was offered access to Bob as well as permission to explore certain resources under his tight control and to quote from his lyrics in exchange for an agreement allowing him to examine and amend the finished manuscript. Similarly, these were photographers wo whose work I was denied access until I submitted to this demand. Not wishing to provide yet another literary whitewashing, I refused..."





Friday, November 3, 2017

1964 CBC TV Show With Some Protest Folk Songs



In February 1964, early 1960's protest folk singer, Dylan, sang some of his pre-1965 songs like "Times They Are A-Changin'", "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," and "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll."

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

`We Shall Overcome' Civil Rights Protest Folk Song's History Revisited

The 1960's civil rights movement anthem, "We Shall Overcome", was probably the most widely-sung protest folk song that civil rights movement demonstrators sang at street and church rallies, street protest marches and at their restaurant sit-ins, when they were engaged in acts of non-violent civil disobedience during the 1960's.

In 1901, Rev. Charles Tindley composed a folk song, "I'll Overcome Some Day," to the tune of the "I'll Be All Right" slave spiritual that was derived from the tune of "O Sanctissima," an 18th-century European hymn. Decades later, during a strike by American Tobacco factory workers in 1945, while on a picket line of African-American workers, Lucille Simmons changed the "I'll overcome" lyric to "We will overcome" or "We shall overcome" and sang the "I'll Overcome Some Day" tune more slowly. And in 1947, as "We Shall Overcome," the new version reached Zilphia Horton at the Highlander Folk School, which trained civil rights movement and labor movement organizers and activists in the 1940's, 1950's and 1960's.

At the Highlander Folk School during the 1950's and early 1960's, folksinger and civil rights movement activist Guy Carawan then taught the "We Shall Overcome" protest folk song to civil rights movement activists and organizers, including those who were members of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee [SNCC] in the early 1960's; and Pete Seeger also began to popularize the "We Shall Overcome" protest folk song during the 1950's and early 1960's.

According to Hardeep Phull's 2008 book, Story Behind The Protest Song, in the late 1950's or 1960's "Seeger's manager Harold Leventhal advised" Pete "that a copyright should be taken out on `We Shall Overcome'" and "it was also decided that the proceeds would be donated to...SNCC;" and since "SNCC's demise" in the late 1960's "proceeds go to the Highlander Research and Education Center."

Monday, January 16, 2017

Paul Robeson's UK Interview of January 13, 1960 Revisited

Following is an excerpt from Bob Leeson's article about his 1960 interview with U.S. protest folk singer and civil rights/anti-war movement activist Paul Robeson that appeared in the January 14, 1960 issue of the British Daily Worker newspaper:

"When the Daily Worker 30th anniversary celebration takes place in the Albert Hall on March 13 [1960] Paul Robeson will be there.

"In a wide-ranging interview with the Daily Worker yesterday...the great Negro singer expressed...his pleasure at being able to attend the paper's birthday...

"`And I want to get down to my study of music...of the teaching of music to children,' he added.

"`In my experience, music should not be thought of as inaccessible to the mass of people. I fell musicians have made a bit of a cult of it. They have convinced many people that to learn about it is like going into the field of atomic physics.

"I feel that modern musicians can solve the problem and get out of the corner they are in by going back to folk music, rather than trying to create a new musical language out of their own brains, for there is a language of folk music which is universal...'"


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Paul Robeson Predicted 1960s U.S. Student Protest Movement In 1955

Five years before African-American students and Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee [SNCC] student activists began their mass-based non-violent sit-in protests in opposition to Jim Crow and segregation in the southern region of United States in 1960, U.S. protest folk singer and civil rights movement activist Paul Robeson predicted that a student protest movement in the USA would develop. In the May 1955 issue of his Freedom journal, for example, Robeson wrote:

"It is good, these days, to get out to the college campuses and see the stirring of new life among the students. The Ivy Curtain of conformity, which for a decade has shut them off from the sunlight of independent thinking, is beginning to wilt. The fresh breeze of free expression is beginning to filter into the stale atmosphere of the cold-war classrooms...

"Yes, a ferment is growing among America's students, both Negro and white. Many are beginning to see that if a concern for future jobs has dictated conformity, a concern for their very lives requires that they think for themselves..."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Paul Robeson Opposed U.S. Military Intervention In Vietnam In 1950's

Long before a mass-based U.S. anti-war movement against U.S. military intervention in Vietnam developed during the mid-1960's, U.S. protest folk singer and civil rights movement/anti-war activist Paul Robeson expressed support for the Vietnamese people's struggle for national independence from foreign domination and full self-determination rights; and he also opposed the U.S. government's policy of providing military aid and militarily intervening in Vietnam in order to perpetuate foreign domination of that country. In an October 4, 1953 speech in Chicago to the Convention of the National Negro Labor Council, for example, Robeson said the following:

"...Will dropping some bombs on Vietnamese patriots who want to be free of French domination help American Negroes reach a plane of equality with their white fellow-citizens?...To ask the question is to answer it. No!...We must not approve the squandering of billions of American taxpayers' money on the `dirty war' in Indo-China--we must insist that the French rule in France and leave the Vietnamese to govern themselves...What Negroes need, and all America needs, is PEACE..."

And in the March 1954 issue of his Freedom journal, Robeson also wrote the following:

"As I write these lines, the eyes of the world are on a country inhabited by 23 million brown-skinned people...It's a fertile land, rich, in minerals; but all the wealth is taken away by the foreign rulers, and the people are poor.

"I'm talking about Vietnam...

"Vast quantities of U.S. bombers, tanks and guns have been sent against Ho Chi Minh and his freedom-fighters; and American GIs into Indo-China in order that the tin, rubber and tungsten of Southeast Asia be kept by the `free world---meaning White Imperialism...

"That's the picture, and I ask again: Shall Negro sharecroppers from Mississippi be sent to shoot down brown-skinned peasants in Vietnam--to serve the interests of those who oppose Negro liberation at home and colonial freedom abroad?

"What are our Negro leaders saying about this? They are all too silent...

"Today, more than ever, is the time for plain speaking.

"Peace can be won if we demand it. The imperialists can be halted in their tracks..." 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Paul Robeson Spoke Out In Support of ANC's Anti-Apartheid Campaign In 1953

In an April 13, 1953 statement, U.S. protest folk singer and civil rights/anti-war movement activist Paul Robeson expressed solidarity with the struggle against apartheid in South Africa (over 30 years before a mass-based anti-apartheid student campaign for U.S. university divestment of its stock in U.S. corporations that invested in South Africa developed on many U.S. campuses) by saying the following:

"We Colored Americans will especially want to support our African brothers and sisters in South Africa who are now being jailed by the Malan Government for peacefully resisting segregation and discrimination..."

Friday, January 6, 2017

Paul Robeson's December 1952 Letter Revisited

In a December 1952 letter, U.S. protest folk singer and civil rights/anti-war movement activist Paul Robeson wrote the following:

"...For the past several years a vicious effort has been made to destroy my career. Hall-owners, sponsors and even audiences have been intimidated. Recently, in Chicago, 15,000 persons who wanted to attend one of my concerts had to assemble in a park because the hall-owner had been threatened.

"The outrageous denial of my passport bars me from accepting contracts to appear in England, France, China and many other lands.

"Although I have recorded for nearly every major recording company and sold millions of records both here and abroad, these companies refuse to produce any new recordings for me.

"What is the meaning of this? It is an attempt to gag artistic expression, to dictate whom the people shall hear and what they shall hear. It is an attempt to suppress not only one, but every artist, Negro and white, whose heart and talent are enlisted in the fight for peace and democracy..."

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Paul Robeson's July 1952 `Freedom' Journal Article Revisited

In the July 1952 issue of his Freedom journal publication, U.S. protest folk singer and civil rights/anti-war movement activist Paul Robeson wrote the following:

"The Council on African Affairs called a press conference the other day. It has to do with the present disobedience campaign in South Africa in particular...

"Now, whatever our difficulties and disabilities, the South Africans are even more fiercely oppressed. Pass laws, curfew laws, unbelievable conditions in housing, jobs, all the stigmas of segregation in stations, public places, stores, and so forth.

"So what do they do?...

"They declared on April 6th [1952] their determination to oppose the new oppressive laws--and it started on June 26th [1952]. They refuse to obey Jim Crow and submit to arrest at this stage. Just imagine if we started something like that in the South--or even in New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Louisville and Los Angeles...

"These South Africans aren't afraid of baiting. They march in thousands with raised clenched fists. They sing their songs of protest...

"And finally, these Africans realize that the old political parties (the so-called Liberals and Conservatives, equivalents of our Democratic and Republican Parties) serve the interests of those who rule, who own. They do not and cannot serve the masses of the people, Black or white. So they have had to form their own Congress and look forward to their own party, springing from themselves and serving the people..."