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Making People's Music: Moe Asch and Folkways…

Making People's Music: Moe Asch and Folkways Records

by Peter D. Goldsmith

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As the founder of Folkways Records in 1948 and its director for nearly forty years, Moe Asch was committed to preserving the entire range of the world's musical and oral traditions. By his death in 1986 he had amassed a catalog of almost 2,200 recordings that had expanded the definition of American folk music and introduced listeners to sounds from every corner of the world. Asch is best remembered for recording such folk and blues singers as Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Cisco Houston, Ella Jenkins, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, and Pete Seeger. But he also pioneered the release of music from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Caribbean and documented the full range of African American culture, from jazz and poetry to children's songs. Peter D. Goldsmith uses Asch's career as a lens through which to view folk music, leftist politics, and the recording industry during the middle decades of the twentieth century.Like his father, the prominent Yiddish novelist Sholem Asch, Moe Asch was temperamental, iconoclastic, and financially unreliable. But Making People's Music, published to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Folkways Records, shows that his inclusive spirit and breadth of vision prevailed in the extraordinary cultural wealth of his recorded legacy.… (more)

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