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Si Kahn

Born April 23, 1944, in Boston, Massachusetts (but raised in Upstate College, Pennsylvania by his rabbi father and artist mother), KAHN garnered his inspiration after visiting the Archive of Folk Music during his family’s tenure in Washington D.C. in 1959. Graduating from Harvard University in the mid-60s, during which time he obtained his first guitar, Si began performing at folk clubs around the Charlotte area in North Carolina where he was now based. It was around this time that he was drawn to politics and the civil rights movement; he became a volunteer, then organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, before progressing to become activist and founder of the Jewish Fund for Justice in ‘79 and Executive Director Emeritus of the Grassroots Leadership (he’s just retired aged 66).
Taking up music professionally in the early 70s, SI KAHN’s long-awaited debut set, NEW WOOD (1975) {*6}, was a 17-track record of lyrical originals headed by one of his best-remembered folk pastorals, `Gone Gonna Rise Again’, alongside `Aragon Mill’, `First Time At A War’ and `Talking Politician’, reflecting shades of PETE SEEGER and JOHN STEWART.
Returning from a five-year musical hiatus in which politics came first, the 80s secured several releases for Flying Fish Records: HOME (1980) {*7}, DOING MY JOB (1982) {*7} – featuring his classic `Go To Work On Monday’, UNFINISHED PORTRAITS (1985) {*7}, I’LL BE THERE (1989) {*5} and I HAVE SEEN FREEDOM (1991) {*7}; in 1986 there were two collaborative sets, `Carry It On’ (with PETE SEEGER & Jane Sapp) and `Signs Of The Times’ (with JOHN McCUTCHEON). As a side-line to his heavier-edged sets for the oppressed, the harassed and the abused, KAHN worked with the latter multi-instrumentalist on many a children’s album, his own long-awaited solo effort, GOOD TIMES & BEDTIMES {*5}, finally issued in 1993; cassette books, Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny, had hit the shops a little earlier.
Coming across as a compilation but actually recent live recordings from Holland celebrating twenty years in the business, IN MY HEART: A RETROSPECTIVE (1994) {*6} was a lonely effort during this barren solo period. Studio comeback COMPANION (1997) {*6} stopped the rot somewhat, and its harmony-lent accompaniment by 80s folksters, CATHY FINK and MARCY MARXER, was nice-n-easy on the ear.
BEEN A LONG TIME (2000) {*7} drew in old-timey, bluegrass-country elements from Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum, while producer Pete Wernick his magic on directing KAHN in a new direction, examples including `Houses On The Hill’, `Brown Lung Blues’ and `Just A Lie’; 2002’s THREADS {*5} was a concept piece of sorts taking the theme of spinning cotton and the industry and work surrounding it. Turning sixty saw KAHN combine loving peace songs with his compelling anti-war manifestos on two subsequent albums, the 19-track WE’RE STILL HERE (2004) {*7}, the 24-track THANKSGIVING (2007) {*6}, COURAGE (2010) {*6} and BRISTOL BAY (2013) {*6}; the latter concerning the campaign to protect Pebble Mine.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Aug2015

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