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Si Kahn

The political balladry of Woody Guthrie, Tom Paxton, and Phil Ochs is reflected in the songs of North Carolina-based singer/songwriter Si Kahn. Although his love songs are nearly as effective, Kahn's greatest strides have come with his lyrical looks at the unemployed, the racially abused, the sexually harassed, and the working-class oppressed. Kahn's songs, including "Go to Work on Monday" and "Aragon Mill," have become labor union anthems. Together with singer/songwriter, John McCutcheon, Kahn has written a number of family-oriented and topical tunes. Kahn and McCutcheon collaborated on an album, Sign of the Times, in 1986. Kahn joined Pete Seeger and Jane Sapp on a trio album, Carry It On: Songs of America's Working People, the same year.

The son of a rabbi and president of the national Hillel organization, Kahn was born in Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and raised in Upstate College, a small Pennsylvania town (population 8,000). Music played a strong role in the Kahn household. Kahn's father played violin while his mother played piano. The family often gathered together to sing songs of the Jewish Liturgy. Although he briefly took piano lessons, Kahn had little interest in the instrument.

Kahn's involvement with American folk music was sparked shortly after moving, with his family, to Washington, D.C. in 1959. Discovering the Archive of Folk Music while researching an 11th grade term paper at the Smithsonian Institute, Kahn was hooked by what he heard on the Archive's tapes. Although he had previously preferred the blues of Muddy Waters and the bluegrass of the Stanley Brothers, Kahn became enchanted by folk music's balladry. During his college freshman year, he traveled South with some friends to search for their musical roots. The experience culminated when Kahn, who acquired an inexpensive guitar, and his friends attended a folk festival in Asheville, North Carolina.

Continuing his education at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Kahn lived in a dorm that was a half-block from premier folk music coffeehouse Club 47. He became a frequent attendee of shows at the club. Although he played at several open mikes, Kahn remained drawn to politics, traveling South in 1965 to work with the civil rights movement. While there, he became aware of the connection between songs of Freedom and the folk songs he had heard at the Smithsonian.

Kahn was inspired to write his first songs in 1970, eventually, building a large enough repertoire to record a cassette that he passed out to friends. When a copy reached the attention of Jackie Wright, who was forming a folk music record label, June Apple, Kahn was signed to record his debut album, New Wood, with a band, the Mountain Music Cooperative, that included his future songwriting partner, John McCutcheon. Shortly after performing his first major concert at the University of Chicago Folk Festival in 1979, Kahn was signed by Chicago-based label Flying Fish. During the next 11 years, he recorded six albums for the label.

Kahn's prolific output includes more than music and songs. He has written three plays including, Mother Jones, based on the life of the early union organizer, which featured Ronnie Gilbert of the Weavers in the title role when produced in the early '90s. Kahn has also authored two books on political organizing: How People Get Power and Organizing. Recorded during a 1993 concert, In My Heart: Live in Holland, celebrated the 20th anniversary of Kahn's first album and featured several of his best-known tunes. Profits from Kahn's concerts continue to be donated to Grassroots Leadership, a political organization he founded in the mid-'70s. ~ Craig Harris
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Bristol Bay

1. Dead Man's Sand

2. Upstream

3. Abundance

4. Once When I Was Young

5. Winter Coming On

6. Sailing To Alaska

7. The Beauty Of Alaska

8. Fever

9. Out On The Lake

10. Seventh Generation

11. Last Trip Home

12. Everything Is Bigger In Alaska

13. The Gold Rush Never Ends

14. Down On The River

15. Pebble Mine

16. Bristol Bay (Feat. Jens Kruger)

x

Track List: Courage

1. Otis Is Flying

2. Stones In The Furrow

3. Sail Away

4. Peace Will Rise

5. Molly Maguire

6. Shoulders

7. On This Old Farm

8. Custodian

9. Ireland Of My Dreams

10. Hutto

11. Washington Square

12. Going Up The Mountain

13. Playing The Old Songs

14. Clarence Kailin

15. Hunter

16. Abe Lincoln Walks Tonight

x

Track List: We're Still Here

1. Hard Times

2. Traveler

3. The Flume (Down The Road)

4. Mother Jones' Farewell To Ireland

5. We'Re Still Here

6. Silk And Satin

7. The Gap ($8,825 An Hour)

8. We Roll The Steel

9. Cam Ranh Bay

10. Wigan Pier

11. The Hunters

12. A Time For Us All

13. Rabbit Jim

14. He Lies In The American Land

15. When The War Is Done

16. Momma Was A Union Woman

17. The Whisky Ring And The Railroad Trust

18. La Libertad

19. Mother Jones' Farewell (I Was There)

x

Track List: Thanksgiving

1. Thanksgiving

2. Wadlopen

3. First Time At A War

4. Who'S Watching The Men

5. Go To Work On Monday

6. In The Spinning Mill

7. To Hear Doc Watson Play

8. Tarpaper Shacks

9. First Time Lover

10. South Virginia Road

11. Sixteen

12. Generations

13. Rack 'Em Up Eddie

14. Motherless Child

15. Burning The Fields

16. When The Land And They Were Young

17. Goodbye Monday Blues

18. Government On Horseback

19. So Long Ago

20. I Have Seen Freedom

21. Moose Lodge

22. Memorial

23. Dancing

24. Here Is My Home

x

Track List: Companion

1. Bone To Bone

2. We Have Come A Long Long Way

3. Companera

4. Friendship

5. Warriors

6. Shines In The Light

7. Burning The Fields

8. Another Year

9. Sailing Down The Hudson

10. When The Shore Is Out Of Sight

11. Friend Of Mine

12. Love Like Freedom

13. Sixteen

14. Journey Through This Life

x

Track List: In My Heart

1. Gone, Gonna Rise Again

2. Aragon Mill

3. Mississippi Summer

4. Farewell To Ireland

5. Gentle With Me Darling

6. What You Do With What You'Ve Got

7. Last Good War

8. The Senator

9. Brookside Strike

10. Luray Women

11. Children Of Poland

12. What Will I Leave

13. Cold Frosty Morning

14. Wild Rose Of The Mountain

15. Rock Me, Roll Me

16. Curtains Of Old Joe'S House

17. Molly In The Mill

18. People Like You

19. Crossing The Border

20. Welcome To The World

21. Detroit December

22. If I Live

23. Lady Of The Harber

24. In My Heart

x

Track List: I Have Seen Freedom

1. I Have Seen Freedom

2. Nobody's Body But Mine

3. Engagement Song

4. Old Jack Davey

5. Going Going Gone

6. John Brown

7. Dreamers

8. Black, Red, White And Blue

9. They All Sang "Bread And Roses"

10. Woman To Woman

11. Love Is The Quilt

12. El Norte

13. Where Have All The Good Times Gone

14. Queen Of The River

15. Walking Down The Road

16. Season Of Peace

x

Track List: New Wood

1. Gone Gonna Rise Again

2. Backroom Lady

3. Like Butter Loves Bread

4. Brookside Strike

5. Better Half Of You

6. Talkin' Politician

7. New Year's Eve

8. Mervin Barr

9. Truck Drivin' Woman

10. Blue Ribbon For The Boys At The Bar

11. Lawrence Jones

12. First Time At A War

13. Moonshine Man

14. Aragon Mill

15. Rack 'Em Up Eddie

16. Curtains Of Old Joe's House

17. Sunrise

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