A Bit of Biography

By Janice

Sam Gesser started, finished, and lived out most of his life in Montreal. He was born in 1930 and died of cancer at the age of 78 a little over two years ago, on April 2, 2008. Though his professional roles were many, they are bound by a consistent dedication to arts and culture, and he can thus be said to have had a 50-year-long career in this field. The JPL archivists, librarians, and volunteers who worked on the finding aid did a great job with the bio, so I won’t spend too much time repeating those details here (here’s the link again: http://www.jewishpubliclibrary.org/media/content/File/FAGesser.pdf).

I also highly recommend the following excellent retrospective article written by the associate director of Smithsonian Folkways:

“A Tribute to Sam Gesser (1930-2008),” D.A. Sonneborn, Smithsonian Folkways Magazine, Winter 2010. http://www.folkways.si.edu/magazine/2010_winter/artist_spotlight-sam_gesser.aspx

You may also be interested in these obituaries published by The Times Online (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article3759848.ece) and The Montreal Gazette (http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?k=15218&id=975f7395-2ecb-4dce-b1fa-84aea15e1152).

2 Comments to “A Bit of Biography”

  1. J. Hughes says:

    It’s a little-known fact that when Sam brought Pete Seeger to Montreal in 1953, the profits yielded from the show amounted to $200. After many months of work.

  2. Seems to me that $200 in 1953 wasn’t a bad haul, and Pete Seeger has said more than once, the concert in Montreal was quite important for him. Because he’d been blacklisted by the rabid anti-Communist witch hunts of the McCarthy era, U.S. gigs were scarce. Thank you for the kind words about my article, in it there’s also a 6:30 video of Sam talking about his long association with Folkways, or you can find it on YouTube.com/

    In the ongoing collaboration of University of Alberta’s folkwaysAlive! collaboration with the U.S. national museum’s nonprofit record label and Gesser scholar Brenda Dalen, in 2006 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings published a CD of Gesser-produced recordings called Classic Canadian Songs from Smithsonian Folkways (see http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=3125). I’ve heard that there’s a version en français coming soon.

    Perhaps some of your blog-readers don’t know that Sam Gesser’s recordings made for Folkways Records are all available as downloads or on-demand CDs at http://www.folkways.si.edu, easily accessed by typing “Canada” in the Search box.

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