Magazine article Acoustic Guitar

In Memoriam: Ronnie Gilbert 1926-2015

Magazine article Acoustic Guitar

In Memoriam: Ronnie Gilbert 1926-2015

Article excerpt

Ronnie Gilbert-who co-founded the seminal folk-singing quartet, the Weavers, with Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, and Fred Heilerman-died on June 6 in California at age 88. As the only female voice in the Weavers, Gilbert's signature contralto was a rally cry for social change and helped inspire the folk-music revival of the 1950s. Gilbert was born Ruth Alice Gilbert in Brooklyn and grew up in New York City, where the Weavers performed their first gig at the Village Vanguard in 1949. The group's 1950 debut record, which contained "Tzena, Tzena, Tzena" and Lead Belly's "Goodnight, Irene," was a hit and spent 13 weeks at No. 1. The Weavers' harmonies and sing-along spirit brought work songs, union ballads, and gospel to new audiences, and popularized standards, including "The Wreck of the John B" (aka "Sloop John B"), "Rock Island Line," and "On Top of Old Smoky."

But post-World War II politics and the impending Cold War made the Weavers a target of the anti-Communist right wing and, after a pamphlet called Red Channels named Seeger a member of the Communist Party, the group was blacklisted. …

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