Always a Song: Singers, Songwriters, Sinners, and Saints—My Story of the Folk Music Revival

Chronicle Prism. Jan. 2021. 240p. ISBN 9781452184241. $24.95. MUSIC
Musician Harper presents a heartfelt autobiography, told in present tense, focusing on her family’s development of the Folk Music Center in Claremont, CA, which recently celebrated its 60th anniversary. In loving detail, she traces her parents’ enthusiasm for traditional music of all cultures, their skill at playing and repairing instruments, and how they welcomed artists into the home they shared with their four little girls. From her childhood in Massachusetts witnessing the McCarthy blacklisting of Jewish family members to her experiences with racism as part of an interracial couple in southern California, Harper sharply delineates how the romantic ideals of young people caught up in the folk revival and excitement of rock and roll crashed against sobering realities. Appearances from greats such as Pete Seeger, whom Harper met at age five; her brief fling with Jimi Hendrix’s manager; and a grandson’s nonchalance on meeting Paul McCartney were amusing diversions on a journey as she discovered her own talents, became an advocate for the marginalized, and eventually received a PhD in education, all while performing.
VERDICT Folk music aficionados will feel nostalgic at Harper’s reminiscences, and those with an interest in the sociology of the times will appreciate her clear-eyed observations.
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