10 p.m. to Midnight Host: Steve Winters
This Profiles program celebrates the careers and the lasting music offered to us by Jean Ritchie, Ronnie Gilbert, Art Thieme, Ben Freed and Richard Watson. All passed away during the past month.
In the 1950s, Jean Ritchie began introducing countless songs from her native Appalachia and the mountain dulcimer to audiences throughout the Northeast, ultimately becoming an American musical treasure and icon. She died June 1 at age 92 at her home in Berea, Kentucky.
Ronnie Gilbert was a key member of the Weavers, the seminal folk group in the late 1940s and early 1950s that helped popularize folk music and, as the New York Times noted, “established its (folk’s) power as an agent of social change.” The meteoric popularity of the Weavers (their 1950 recording on 78 rpm of “Goodnight Irene” sold 2 million copies in four months) was sadly cut short by the Red Scare, although the group reunited in 1955 for a fabled eight more years of music-making. Ronnie was 88 and died in her California home.
Art Thieme was one of the great storytellers (both in song and spoken tales) and all-around great guys on the folk circuit for several decades although he was forced to stop performing in the mid-1990s because of complications from multiple sclerosis. He died May 27 at age 73 in Illinois.
Primarily a regional performer, Ben Freed, known affectionately as “Banjo Ben”, died of a sudden heart attack at age 59 on May 20. A Westchester County resident, Ben was a retired optometrist and a beloved teacher of the banjo.
Richard Watson was the grandson of Doc Watson and toured with him for several years as well as performing as a solo bluegrass guitarist. He died at age 49 in Deep Gap, N.C.