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Ronnie Gilbert

A Radical Life in Song

Ronnie Gilbert (Author), Holly Near (Foreword)

Available worldwide

Hardcover, 312 pages
ISBN: 9780520253087
October 2015
$26.95, £19.95
Other Formats Available:
Ronnie Gilbert had a long and colorful career as a singer, actor, playwright, therapist, and independent woman. Her lifelong work for political and social change was central to her role as a performer. Raised in Depression-era New York City by leftist, working-class, secular Jewish parents, Gilbert is best known as a member of the Weavers, the quartet of the 1950s and '60s that survived the blacklist and helped popularize folk music in America. Her joyous contralto and vibrant stage presence enriched the celebrated group and propelled Gilbert into a second singing career with Holly Near in the 1980s and '90s. As an actor, Gilbert explored developmental theater with Joseph Chaikin and Peter Brook and wrote and performed in ensemble and solo productions across the United States and Canada.

Ronnie Gilbert brings the political, artistic, and social issues of the era alive through song lyrics and personal stories, traversing sixty years of collaborations in life and art that span the folk revival, the Cold War blacklist, primal therapy, the back-to-the-land movement, and a rich, multigenerational family story. Much more than a memoir, Ronnie Gilbert is a unique and engaging historical document for readers interested in music, theater, American politics, the women’s movement, and left-wing activism.
List of Illustrations
Foreword by Holly Near
1. Songs Are Dangerous
2. Family
3. Making My Own Way
4. The Weavers
5. Moving On
6. Theater
7. Heading West
8. British Columbia
9. The Winter Project
10. The Weavers’ Last Concert
11. Women’s Music
12. Women in Black
13. Learning to Be Old
Ronnie Gilbert was a founding member of the Weavers, along with Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, and Fred Hellerman. She became a performer and an activist on behalf of social change in the late 1940s. Her credits include the book and stage presentation Face to Face with the Most Dangerous Woman in America, detailing the life and work of Mother Jones; Legacy, a play based on the writings of Studs Terkel; and many recordings with the Weavers, Holly Near, and others.
"Readers of Ronnie Gilbert: A Radical Life in Song will finish the book inspired, reinvigorated, and more committed than ever to continue the fight for justice."—Randy Shaw Beyond Chron
"Activism is just one of the threads winding through this title, along with music, theater, performance, politics, and the challenges of building a life outside of the 20th-century mainstream. . . . Yet it’s the music that shines the brightest in this memoir; Gilbert’s time with the Weavers and her creative partnership with Holly Near bookend a life no less remarkable for being remarkably nonlinear."—Library Journal
"Gilbert’s memoir brings to life the frightening political climate of the times. . . . We are fortunate that Gilbert took the time to document her singular experiences as a committed activist and singer whose soaring contralto and “dangerous songs” both accompanied and animated the progressive movements of her time."—Elaine Elinson San Francisco Chronicle
"Offers an exceptional narrative about the life of a courageous and radical woman who believed that 'songs are dangerous.'"—The Gay & Lesbian Review
"This posthumously published memoir offers an exceptional narrative about the life of a courageous and radical woman."—Irene Javors The Gay & Lesbian Review
"Gilbert's Radical Life in Song is an honest self-examination after a long career of enthusiastic pursuits, free of defensiveness and open to change."—Eric A. Gordon People's World
"Ronnie Gilbert's life and new book are brilliant, inspirational, exuberant. She has brought me hope for fifty-five years now with no end in sight." —Anne Lamott, author of Help, Thanks, Wow

“A passionate life, boldly lived by a social and artistic rebel. Brava!” —Joan Steinau Lester, author of Fire in My Soul: Eleanor Holmes Norton

"Ronnie Gilbert was living history, and I'm so grateful she wrote this book. My only regret is that she didn't live to see it published, but knowing her, the journey was the thing." —Janis Ian, Grammy Award winner and writer of “Society’s Child”

"What an extraordinary, well-lived, lefty/Jewish life, complicated and engaged, a glorious weaving of art and politics: hootenannies to Red-haters, Carnegie Hall to Mother Jones, women's music and love for a woman to the bombing of Gaza. Sing now to the heavens, dear Ronnie!" Penny Rosenwasser, author of Hope into Practice: Jewish Women Choosing Justice Despite Our Fears

"A Radical Life in Song is an uplifting, bold, and adventurous journey with the resilient Ronnie Gilbert as she goes from challenge to challenge, from strength to strength, with gusto and heart." Clare Coss, playwright and author of Emmett, Down in My Heart and Dr. Du Bois and Miss Ovington

"Ronnie Gilbert approached her memoir as she lived her life: with love, compassion, and forthright courage. Vividly written, this splendid book presents a life of stunning surprises, harmony and struggle, and the enduring realities of political and personal activism, from the Weavers to Women in Black." Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt, vols. 1–2

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