Tuesday, May 27, 2008

R.I.P. Utah Phillips (1935-2008)

"Folksinger, Storyteller, Railroad Tramp Dead at 73"
Utah Phillips, a seminal figure in American folk music who performed extensively and tirelessly for audiences on two continents for 38 years, died on Friday May 23rd 2008 of congestive heart failure in Nevada City, California.

Born Bruce Duncan Phillips on May 15, 1935 in Cleveland, Ohio, he was the son of labor organizers. Whether through this early influence or an early life that was not always tranquil or easy, by his twenties Phillips demonstrated a lifelong concern with the living conditions of working people. He was a proud member of the Industrial Workers of the World, popularly known as "the Wobblies," an organizational artifact of early twentieth-century labor struggles that has seen renewed interest and growth in membership in the last decade, not in small part due to his efforts to popularize it.

A single from Phillips's first record, "Moose Turd Pie," a rollicking story about working on a railroad track gang, saw extensive airplay in 1973. From then on, Phillips had work on the road. His extensive writing and recording career included two albums with Ani DiFranco which earned a Grammy nomination. Phillips's songs were performed and recorded by Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez, Tom Waits, Joe Ely and others. He was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Folk Alliance in 1997.

Phillips died at home, in bed, in his sleep, next to his wife. He is survived by his son Duncan and daughter-in-law Bobette of Salt Lake City, son Brendan of Olympia, Washington; daughter Morrigan Belle of Washington, D.C.; stepson Nicholas Tomb of Monterrey, California; stepson and daughter-in-law Ian Durfee and Mary Creasey of Davis, California; brothers David Phillips of Fairfield, California, Ed Phillips of Cleveland, Ohio and Stuart Cohen of Los Angeles; sister Deborah Cohen of Lisbon, Portugal; and a grandchild, Brendan. He was preceded in death by his father Edwin Phillips and mother Kathleen, and his stepfather, Syd Cohen.

The family requests memorial donations to Hospitality House, P.O. Box 3223, Grass Valley, California 95945 (530) 271-7144 www.hospitalityhouseshelter.org
(Taken from the Obituary posted at Utah's site)

Utah was a HUGE inspiration my life and many other folks at Free Radio Santa Cruz he visited Santa Cruz and was on FRSC many times. In 2004 FRSC was raided by the FCC and equipment seized and Utah's response was to insist on doing a benefit show along with Faith Petric, The Devil Makes Three, Keith Greenenger, Bob Brozman and others for FRSC. The money from that benefit and other donations refurbished our entire studio and got us a 100 Watt stereo transmitter and has sustained us to this day.
Here's audio from the show with DM3, Faith Petric and Utah Live at the Rio theater on 12-10-04 Broadcast on the Critical Mass Radio Network:

54.91 MB (59:58) Part 1
Faith Petric, DM3
Mp3 52.93 MB (57:48) Part 2
DM3(cont w/ Bob Brozman) Utah Phillips Live @ Rio 2004

Listen to Interview with Utah and John Malkin on FRSC:
MP3 at 62.7 MB (68:29)

Utah did a series of phone updates on his health as well as Obituary read on KVMR
Listen to Utah's podcasts

Watch Interview with Utah Phillips at Free Radio Santa Cruz on todays Democracy Now!

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