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Guy Carawan

Music was a tool of cultural change for Guy Carawan. Music director and song leader of the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, Tennessee, Carawan consistently wove his musical talents with his commitment to freedom and the advancement of the working class. During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, he and his wife, Candie, who came to the Highlander Center on an exchange program with Fisk University, participated in sit-ins and protests against racial discrimination.

In 1960, Carawan introduced a song that he had been taught by Pete Seeger in 1952, "We Shall Overcome," at the founding convention of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee at Raleigh, North Carolina. Within a few weeks, the song became the unofficial anthem of the civil rights movement. Carawan, in collaboration with his wife, wrote and edited three books on the civil rights movement -- Freedom Is a Constant Struggle, We Shall Overcome! Songs of the Southern Freedom Movement, and Sing for Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Its Songs.

Carawan's ethnomusicological explorations of the culture and music of the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina were documented by a book, Ain't You Got a Right to the Tree of Life?: The People of Johns Island, South Carolina -- Their Faces, Their Words and Their Songs, and an album of field recordings, Been in the Storm So Long: A Collection of Spirituals, Folk Tales and Children's Games from John's Island, South Carolina. Their experiences and the songs they collected in the coal-mining counties of the Appalachian region were chronicled in the book Voices from the Mountains.

Carawan, who first visited the Highland Center in 1953, was initially motivated by his interests in his genealogical roots. Although he was born in Los Angeles, his father hailed from rural North Carolina, while his mother was raised in the city of Charleston. In 1959, he asked the center's founder and director, Miles Horton, if he could use the center as a base for his research on Southern folk culture and music. When he was told he could stay only if he worked at the center, he agreed to become the center's music director and began using his large repertoire of topical songs to draw people out at workshops.

In addition to his own recordings and folkloric collections, Carawan recorded with his son, Evan, a hammer dulcimer player. They recorded a duo album, Hammer Dulcimer Music, in 1988 and, joined by Candie, a Carawan family album, Home Brew, in 1991. Late in life Guy Carawan suffered from dementia, and died at his home in New Market on May 2, 2015; he was 87 years old. ~ Craig Harris
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Guy Carawan Sings Something Old, New, Borrowed And Blue - Guy Carawan, Vol. 2

1. Sail Away Ladies

2. Weevily Wheat

3. Black Is The Color

4. Ground Hog

5. Pretty Saro

6. Cindy - Get Along Home, Cindy

7. Talking Atomic Blues

8. Chinese Flute

9. Russian Song

10. If We Could Consider Each Other - Wonderful World

11. Blue Eyed Girl - Fare You Well, My Blue Eyed Girl

12. Kicking Mule

13. Yugoslav Love Song - Vronyonka

14. Mexican Lullaby - Duermete, Nino Lindo

15. All Night Long

16. Freight Train

17. I'm A Stranger Here

18. Come And Go With Me To That Land

19. Rake And A Rambling Blade - The Rambling Boy

20. Red Rosy Bush

21. Black Eyed Susie

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Track List: This Little Light Of Mine

1. Oh, Lord, I've Got Some Singing To Do

2. Hobo's Lullaby

3. Lonesome Traveler

4. Tell Old Bill

5. Jubilee

6. Been All Over This Country

7. Skip To My Lou

8. Study War No More (Down By The Riverside)

9. Big Rock

10. Salty Dog

11. Amen

12. White Oak Trees - White Oak Tree

13. Bye 'n Bye

14. Jiggle Jiggle

15. Don't Bother Me

16. Where Are You Going?

17. Old Joe Clark

18. This Little Light Of Mine

x

Track List: Songs With Guy Carawan

1. Old Blue

2. Cripple Creek

3. Whoa Buck!

4. Three Little Pigs

5. Boll Weevil

6. Brazos

7. Buffalo Gals

8. Virgin Mary

9. Sinner Man

10. The Water Is Wide

11. Sourwood Mountain

12. Weary Blues

13. The Little Black Flies

14. This Is The Way I Feel

15. Hava Na Gila - Hava Na Geela - Hava Nagila

16. Chinese Flute

17. Katusha

18. Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream

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