Peter Seeger, iconic folksinger and political activist, has died

Pete Seeger, as beloved for his enduring folk songs as for his principled political activism for six decades, has died.

Seeger began his singing career as part of the Weavers in 1948, performing tunes of peace. Just seven years later, McCarthyism caught up with Seeger. The singer refused to testify. After years of legal wrangling, Seeger was convicted of contempt in 1961. A year later that conviction was overturned on a technicality.

For years, Seeger was blacklisted and banned from performing in schools and concert venues. He refused to be silent, writing and demonstrating whenever he could.

He was the inspiration for many folksinging giants, including Joan Baez who said of Seeger: "We all owe our careers to Pete Seeger." and Peter, Paul, and Mary who made famous Seeger's If I Had a Hammer. Other long-enduring Seeger classics are Where Have All the Flowers Gone and Turn! Turn! Turn!.

In 1994, the National Endowment of the Arts bestowed on Seeger the National Medal of Arts. In 1996, he won his first Grammy and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Twelve years later, he won his second Grammy. And just one year later, in a stunning moment of political validation, he performed at a celebratory concert in Washington, D.C. two days before President Barack Obama's first inauguration.

Seeger stayed politically active until the end of his life. In 2011, he marched in New York City with the Occupy Movement. He performed in last year's FarmAid concert and, as a lifelong environmentalist, this past November he asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to release the Arctic 30 who were granted their freedom the following month.

In 2012, Seeger published Pete Seeger: In His Own Words.

Seeger, who was 94, died of natural causes.

Pete Seeger is no stranger to area music lovers. He made several trips to perform here. His benefit concert for the Ark is fondly remembered. Check out these Old News articles on this beloved muscian.

Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads: Present and Past

On Tuesday, January 21, from 7-9 pm at Washtenaw Community College, Morris Lawrence Building, Ruta Sepetys, author of Between Shades of Gray, this year's AA/Ypsi Reads selection, discusses her book as well as signs copies. (With doors opening at 6 pm.)

But you can explore previous AA/Ypsi Reads authors right now. Our online Video Collection includes the AA/Ypsi Reads lectures from Jonathan Weiner, author of the 2006 selection The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Own Time, William Poy Lee, author of the 2008 selection The Eighth Promise: An American Son's Tribute to His Toisanese Mother, Timothy Ferris, author of the 2009 selection Seeing in the Dark: How Amateur Astronomers are Discovering the Wonders of the Universe, Jerry Dennis, author of the 2010 selection The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas, and Richard Glaubman, co-author of the 2011 selection Life is So Good.

There are also audio podcasts featuring interviews with Timothy Ferris, Jerry Dennis, and Richard Glaubman.

And if you're looking to expand your AA/Ypsi Reads horizons beyond the authors, check out the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads Video Collection Page containing related lectures and discussions from the past nine years.

Audiobook: Scientists and Spies

Sometimes, the truth is even more exciting than fiction. At least it is in Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin. This non-fiction account of the scientists and spies involved in the development of the first atomic bomb is an amazing story, full of gentle humor, suspense and thoughtful insights into the cost of developing atomic weaponry. While written for youth, this book will appeal to science and spy lovers of all ages. Parents should note, however, that descriptions of the atomic bombings and their horrific aftermath are included.

The book was awarded a Newbery Honor medal in 2013.

Best New Music At AADL

AADL is constantly adding to its diverse selection of new CDs. If you're seeking some great new tunes, consider the following must-hear material.

"The Electric Lady," Janelle Monae: The easiest way to categorize Janelle Monae's music would be "R&B," but the young singer-songwriter is far more versatile than that. As on her previous masterpiece, The Archandroid, she plays fast and loose with genres from funk to soul to rock to jazz...even a bit of baroque folk. Creating an android alter-ego for herself, she weaves bits of tongue-in-cheek sci-fi dialogue into the album, which plays like an hour of the funnest, funkiest radio you've ever heard. Featuring excellent guest artists from Prince to Erykah Badu. (Fun fact: if you haven't heard of Monae before, you've almost certainly heard her voice. She's featured on Fun's smash hit "We Are Young".)

"The Speed of Things," Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.: If you're seeking some locally-grown jams, look no further than the new record from Detroit indie-pop duo Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.. These guys seemed on the verge of major celebrity status with their previous record It's A Corporate World. While their latest isn't quite the big, radio-friendly push they need, it's still full of cheery, hooky, danceable tunes. (Just listen to "If You Didn't See Me (Then You Weren't On the Dancefloor)" and try NOT to spend the next hour humming that riff.)

"Dream River," Bill Callahan: Some may recognize Bill Callahan from his work under the name Smog, but he takes a more personal approach on this record, his fourth to be released under his own name. There's something fascinating, beautiful and a little spooky about Callahan's sparse, autumnal arrangements. You could describe the record's genre as "folk," but Callahan's whispery, often spoken lyrics are too unique to pin down to an established genre. Lie back and let Callahan's pensive lyrics and atmospheric arrangements wash over you.

Find more great new CDs here.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #445 - Dead man scheming

You really ought to start with Dead Anyway * * * (2012), the first in the Arthur Cathcart series by Chris Knopf. The BOCD was perfect for a recent family road trip. Don't let that scary-looking cover fool you.

A hit man shows up at the Cathcarts' Stamford, Conn. home and shoot them both in the head after he forces Florencia, owner of an insurance-brokerage firm to sign a piece of paper. His wife is dead but Arthur Cathcart survives, barely. With the help of his physician sister, he is declared dead. A crackerjack market researcher skilled with electronics, Arthur is able to create a series of new identities to stay out of sight while he plots and schemes to track down the "who" and the "why".

"Knopf's tale is suspenseful from the get-go, with an intellectual, yet visceral, vigilantism coursing through the pages,... (he) never misses an angle and manages to weave a bit of humor into a storyline that could have been purely dark. "

"(R)eminiscent of Richard Stark's (aka Donald Westlake) Parker novels with a dose of Grosse Pointe Blank", the Arthur Cathcart caper continues with Cries of the Lost * * (2013).

Readers who enjoy their mystery mixed with comedy would want to check out the author's "reflective, quietly loopy" Hamptons-based series featuring Sam Acquillo and Jackie Swaitkowski.

* * * = 3 starred reviews
* * = 2 starred reviews

The Puck Drops Here and the Winter Classic help ring in the new year in Ann Arbor!

At 1:00pm on New Years Day, hockey fans will pack The Big House in downtown Ann Arbor for the 2014 Winter Classic. The battle between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs is not only expected to shatter the record of the highest attendance ever at a hockey game, but is also expected to break the overall attendance record in the Big House, which currently stands at over 115,000.

To welcome visitors in town for the game and celebrate the New Year, local Ann Arbor groups have worked together to create The Puck Drops Here, an outdoor celebration being held in downtown Ann Arbor tonight. There will be over 6 hours of live entertainment throughout the event, most notably The Voice finalist and Ann Arbor native Michelle Chamuel, and a midnight ball drop on Main Street. Many Main Street restaurants plan to re-open their outside seating for the evening, so the guests can watch the festivities under the warmth of outdoor heaters.

In conjunction with this event, the Farmers Market space in Kerrytown will have family-friendly activities including a skating rink, ice carvings, and marshmellow roasting.

You can read more about activities related to these events at AADL. Kids will enoy Z is for Zamboni: A Hockey Alphabet. Red Wings fans can explore The History of Hockeytown: Detroit Red Wings, 75 Years and The Winged Wheel: A Half-Century of Detroit Red Wings in Photographs. And, you can hear more of Michelle Chamuel’s work on Dancethink Systems, by My Dear Disco, the local band she was part of before competing on The Voice.

Happy New Year to all!

Family Books for the Car

Every week many of us spend hours of time in the car with the kids. If you're getting tired of hearing the same songs on the radio, or would rather skip the next car-listening power struggle maybe one of these audiobooks can help.

Elijah of Buxton is the story of a sensitive and scared boy in Canada's Buxton settlement, a refuge for freed slaves and their families. Elijah Freeman, the first free born child in the community battles his fears in this book, and ultimately has to put his mastery of them to the test. Be prepared to field questions about slavery and why people do bad things to others.

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg takes place during the Civil War. Homer goes on an adventure to save his brother who was illegally recruited to join the Union forces. Homer does not hesitate to exercise his creativity throughout his adventures; he is pretty loose with facts and details. It feels wrong to call a wartime children's book fun, but if the shoe fits....

A Crooked Kind of Perfect is a fun, light read about families, fears, and how sometimes unexpected outcomes are exactly what is supposed to happen.

Audiobook for Kids: Whispering to Witches

Whispering to Witches by Anna Dale is part fantasy, part mystery, and plenty of fun.

As the story begins, Joe is not happy about being sent to Canterbury to spend Christmas with his mother, but on the train ride there, something peculiar happens. Soon Joe finds himself teaming up with a young witch named Twiggy to investigate the mysterious incident, which seems to have something to do with a missing page from a famous magical book. Can they find the missing page before it falls into the wrong hands? And is there more to this mystery than meets the eye?

While I found this book has been frequently compared to the Harry Potter series – with its train rides, witches and magical candies – I actually found myself thinking of it more like a book by Diana Wynne Jones. Something about the voice and the tightly-plotted mystery, I suppose. Its narration, though, by John Curless did remind of Jim Dale's performance in the Harry Potter audiobooks. Fans of either who are looking for something to try this holiday season may wish to check it out.

The country music world mourns the passing of Ray Price

The country music world mourns the passing of Ray Price

Ray Price, a giant in the country music scene for since 1951, died yesterday at his home in Mt. Pleasant, TX.

Price, a WWII vet (US Marine Corps), attended veterinary school for a brief time, singing in night clubs on the side. He was signed to Bullet Records, a Nashville-based record label. In 1951, Hank Williams called him out of the blue, inviting him to sing with Williams at the Grand Old Opry, thus cementing a lifelong friendship.

Five years later, Price revolutionized the sound of country music when he put an idea he'd had into play. He described it thus in a 1998 interview with The Washington Post: "We were having trouble getting a good clean bass sound. So instead of going with the standard 2/4 beat, I said, 'Let's try a 4/4 bass and a shuffle rhythm,' and it cut. It cut clean through."

He applied that technique to Crazy Arms and so was born the Ray Price Beat, and a skyrocketing career. Crazy Arms spent 20 weeks at No. 1.

Mr. Price's last album, [bL1285634|Last of the Breed] (2007), was a collaborative effort with Willie Nelson (whom Price discovered) and Merle Haggard. The album won a Grammy at the 50th Grammy awards in 2008.

Price's second revolutionary tweaking of the country sound was to add strings to his music. The resulting 'countrypolitan' sound was at first eschewed, and then widely copied, by all the great performers.

Ray Price was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1966.

Mr. Price, who was 87, had been battling pancreatic cancer since late last year.

Performance Network Theatre: Jerry's Girls

Ann Arbor's Performance Network Theatre is showing Jerry's Girls, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, through Jan. 5. Herman worked on the concept with Larry Alford and Wayne Cilento. From the theatre's webpage: "Fabulous, flamboyant and fun for the whole family, 'Jerry's Girls' is the larger than life musical revue of Jerry Herman. Winner of four Tony Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement of Theatre, Jerry Herman and his music are synonymous with some of Broadway’s biggest hits – Hello Dolly!, La Cage Aux Folles, Mame, Mack and Mabel, Dear World, and more. Complete with large scale production numbers, tap dancing, and a little bit of drag – this is the perfect holiday excursion . . . " Ticket information is here.

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