Burl Ives

Burl Icle Ivanhoe Ives, 1909-1995.

"The mightiest ballad singer of this or any other century" - Carl Sandburg

Ives is one of America's most beloved folksingers. Professionally trained, he had been instilled with a love of folk music from a very early age, and thus became one of the first commercially successful popularizers of traditional songs. For decades, his rich, deep baritone was synonymous with American folk music. In the 1930s and 40s he performed on Broadway and on the radio, eventually getting his own radio show, Wayfaring Stranger, whose theme was the famous title cut. He also performed regularly on TV and traveled abroad promoting America's homegrown music. And, ten years before the Kingston Trio had a hit with "Tom Dooley," Ives charted with "Blue Tail Fly." In the 50s he acted in a string of extraordinary movies including Steinbeck's East Of Eden, Tennessee Williams' Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, and O'Neill's Desire Under The Elms.

This combination of professional music training, literary sensibility and sincere passion for folk songs - which you find in Carl Sandburg, Pete Seeger, the Weavers, and later, Peter Paul & Mary - was at the heart of the folk revival in the United States. Without these energetic popularizers, of whom Ives was at the forefront, folk music might have stayed on the front porches of North Carolina until the mass media wiped it out like an oil spill. The drawback, of course, is that professional singing styles ... go in and out of style.Not many of these pro recordings have aged [-HB]

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Also, see Folk Music 101 article: Major American Artists

 


Hugh Blumenfeld, Editor
hugh@balladtree.com

 

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