Local Artists Pay Tribute to Guy Carawan

In Music Stories, Program Notes by Matthew Everettleave a COMMENT

The folk singer/folklorist/archivist Guy Carawan spent most of his life getting people to sing together. He helped popularize “We Shall Overcome,” a traditional American folk song dating, in part, back to the late 18th century, as an anthem of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and early ’60s, and spent almost 30 years on the staff at the Highlander Research and Education Center, the esteemed social justice education facility based, since 1971, in New Market, near Morristown.

Carawan died in May 2015, at the age of 87. But his friends will be celebrating his next birthday next week with a concert and sing-along—on the radio. Steve Horton, of the Lonesome Coyotes and various other folk and country acts, and folk/jazz singer Nancy Brennan Strange are organizing a tribute to Carawan as part of WDVX’s Tennessee Shines series; it will be held at Boy’d Jig and Reel in the Old City on Wednesday, July 27, at 7 p.m.—Carawan was born on July 28, 1927—and will be broadcast live on WDVX. Tickets are $10.

“We used to all go out there and play music with him, pretty much all through his career,” Strange says. “His whole thing was songs to bring people together—his thing was getting people to sing along. So we wanted to do something that would reflect that.”

Horton and Strange, who knew Carawan since the 1970s, will be joined by Carawan’s widow, Candie, and his son, Evan, plus Sparky and Rhonda Rucker, Kelle Jolly, Danny Gammon, and George Reynolds to perform songs written by Carawan, and songs that he loved, for the birthday tribute.

“We just wanted to do something to celebrate the music he loved and the work he and Candie did, and do it on the radio,” Strange says. “Since it is a radio show, it’s pretty structured for the first hour. But for the last half hour, after the broadcast ends, we’re hoping it’ll be more like a sing-along and other people can get up and play.”

Senior Editor Matthew Everett manages the Knoxville Mercury's arts & entertainment section, including the comprehensive calendar section—Knoxville’s go-to guide for everything worth doing in the area. You can reach Matthew at matthew@knoxmercury.com.

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