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September 28, 1978 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1978-09-28

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The Michigan Daily--Thursday, September 28, 1978-Page 7

Folk hero loses original spirit

In the late 1950's and early 1960's a
revival of folk music began in the
United States, with Greenwich Village
as the center of the renaissance. A loose
community of musicians together ex-
perienced musical diversity, ex-
perimentation, and discovery. Many of
the "leaders" of that bygone folk era
left their contributions behind and have
moved on to bigger (and perhaps bet-
ter) things; Bob Dylan being the most
notable example.
However, several survivors remain.
Dave Van Ronk continues to play the
urban folk and blues that he and others
like Rambling Jack Elliot and Dylan
helped create. On Monday and Tuesday
night, Van Ronk brought the Village
folk sound of yesteryear to the Black
Sheep Repertory Theatre of Man-
chester, Michigan (about 30 miles west
of Ann Arbor).
PETER "MADCAT" Ruth, the Ann
Arbor harmonica player extraordinaire
opened the show. Madcat's harp
heroics and falsetto singing had the
small crowd cheering and clapping

along with his offbeat songs. In addition
to the harmonica, Ruth played several
other instruments, including two penny
whistles played simultaneously during
one song. Ruth is an up-and-coming,
multi-talented musician who is part of
the "new wave" of folk music. His
-energetic set increased the audiences'
anticipation of Van Ronk's appearance..
Van Ronk's first song was an old
unidentified blues tune by Furry Lewis,
featuring his impressive blues finger
picking. Van Ronk's picking led into the
traditional "Stagger Lee"; his whiskey
soaked growl made Stagger Lee's
meanness come alive. Throughout the
concert, Van Ronk used his tobacco
stained voice to convey the feelings in
his songs. During Billie Holiday's "God
bless the Child," Van Ronk's deep
baritone expressed sincere hope for the
Throughout his set, Van Ronk paid
homage to his Greenwich Village
cohorts Tom Paxton, Bob Dylan) and to
his influences (Rev. Gary Davis,
Mississippi John Hurt, Woody Guthrie).
In his version of Dylan's "Song to

Woody," Van Ronk echoed Dylan's
voice and phrasing, circa 1961. Van
Ronk admitted that "I owe more to
Dylan than he does to me" (contrary to
popularly held notions) and "Song to
Woody" emphasized his point.
Guthrie's "Pastures of Plenty"
followed, with Van Ronk's voice trying
to convey the dusty hard roads that
Guthrie traveled from farm camp to
farm camp.
YET DESPITE Van Ronk's in-
dividual moments of brilliance, the
concert as a whole left me dissatisfied.
The set was extremely short; including
the encores, he played only eleven
songs. Furthermore, he finished the
show just as the energy level of the
show was beginning to peak. It left me
with the frustrated feeling of a musical
coitus interruptus.
Perhaps a large part of my
dissatisfaction stems from the myths
that have grown up around the entire
Village folk era. Because of Van Ronk's

link to that era, naive and unreal expec-
tations about the singer and his song
come into play. As with other
musicians, Van Ronk is a professional
out to make a living, his past history of
music for its own sake notwithstanding.
As he put it: "I'm a club performer, a
cabaret entertainer ... my approach
to music is the same as Peggy Lee's".
Van Ronk's short, erratic set reinforced
this statement.
Although Van Ronk played some of
the Village folk classics, we've heard
them all before, with more spirit. Van
Ronk is no longer an innovative artist,
but rather an entertainer reproducing a
sound for those unable to haveheard
the original. This stance detracts from
the expression of the singer's soul and
spirit, which is so essential to American
folk music.
He said it best when he noted, "With
folk music, it's the singer, not the song"
that makes it a unique, important
musical idion.

Dave Van Ronk

Voices save ailing


Mediatrics presents
(Robert Clouse, 1974) Enter the Dragc
Bruce Lee epic. Lee confronts the r
break up his unscrupulous female sla
Sept. 28 Not. Sci. Aud.



Geoffrey Holder, the man who gave
us The Wiz, has invaded the Fisher
Theatre again. Only this time he has
arrived in the spirit of the Broadway
Fisher Theatre
September 19-October 28, 1978
Sahleem-La-Lume..........Eartha Kitt
The Wazir ....... ...............George Bell
Najua.......................Dyane Harvey
Hadji....... ..........Gregg Baker
Marsinah.................. Vanessa Shaw
Munshi.................Homer Bryant
The Mansa of Mali.............Bruce Hubbard
Directed, choreographed, and costumes by Geoffrey
Holder; igting by Jan Calderon; scene's by Tony
StraigeS; ;usic and Lyrics by Robert Wright and
George Forrest; Book by Arthur Davis.
production Timbuktu! - a remake of
the 1953 musical Kismet - which
opened the Fisher's '78-'79 season.
Holder's magic touch should have

made this a splashy extravaganza, but
something was missing.
I suppose' I simply expected more.
Holder - who designed the flamboyant
costumes for The Wiz, as well as direc-
ting the show - is known for being
original and audacious. The sets of
Timbuktu! were only painted back-
drops, and the costumes had sparkles
and slits. Nothing to write home about..
TIMBUIKTU! tells the story of a
beggar, his daughter, the prince she
falls in love with, the evil wazir, and the
latter's sexy wife. The plot certainly
isn't the best, and the songs are not of
the variety that leave one singing on the
way out of the theater. What brings this
production up to its reasonably com-
petent (if not always inspired).level is
the cast. Gregg Baker seems a bit
young to be playing Hadji, the beggar,
but when he sings, thespian matters
seem of no importance. All one needs to
do is sit back and listen to his smooth,
deep baritone voice.

Vanessa Shaw, as Hadji's sweet and
innocent daughter, also sings superbly.
And George Bell was terrifically comic
as the evil wazir.
Eartha Kitt is the wazir's wife and
ostensibly the star of the show, and she
played Eartha Kitt all night. Many of
the audience came expecting just that,
and they left well-satisfied.
The show had a typical group of dan-
cers, chorus members, and street
people. A few more folks were thrown
in for show. I could figure out what
some were doing there, like the
strongman. He was there to carry Ear-
tha Kitt on in her big entrance scene.
But for the life of me, I could not under-
stand the purpose of the Stiltwalker.
He's the first person you see in the show
and the last. He came out, flailed his
arms about for a while, and then

walked off. If this had some sort of
significance, I missed it.
All in all, I don't think Timbuktu!
belongs on anyone's "must see" list.
But if you're looking for some very fine
voices, you can find them at the Fisher
for the month of October.
VIENNA (AP)-Beekeepers in the
forests not far from Vienna were
astounded one morning to find their
hives ripped open and all the honey
The intruder turned out to be the first
brown bear to be sighted in Austria
since 1920, and officials say they think
the bear came across the Hungarian

on is absolutely the finest
ruthless Han in order to
ve trade.
7, 8:45, 10:30

I,. _ 81



One of the first Italian neo-realist films, this being the search for
a stolen bicycle essential to his livelihood. The film follows his
desperate search through the pigeon-filled streets of Rome to
find the treasured bicycle.


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