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The Folksingers - Oscar Brand had Revolutionary War Songs and absolute nonsense

Updated on December 12, 2014

Songs and Stories of American Revolution

Oscar Brand recorded an album as well as writing this book about the Revolutionary War.
Oscar Brand recorded an album as well as writing this book about the Revolutionary War.

Oscar Brand

Oscar Brand was born in Canada February 7, 1920. He was active in the urban folk revivals of the 1920s on thru that of the 1960’s and has had a successful and active career for over 60 years. I don’t believe I ever heard him on radio or television but ran across his work accidentally in the late 1950’s when I happened to buy some folk music records in a discount bin at the college bookstore. Among these were a “Riverside” records sample and some others that that had a number of folksingers I had never heard of. The one I remember, maybe the most, was “Absolute Nonsense” with songs by Oscar Brand. I was also a fan of Walt Kelly’s “Pogo” comic books and could not resist the nonsense lyrics. Although I no longer have the album, songs like “Midnight on the Ocean” I’ll probably never get out of my head.

It was midnight on the ocean, not a streetcar was in sight.

The sun was shining brightly and it rained all day and night.

It was a summers night in winter and the rain was hawling ‘n squeeling.

As a barefoot boy with shoes on stood there sitting on the ceiling.

“Midnight On The Ocean.” I believe was the first song I heard sung by Oscar Brand on the Album “Absolute Nonsense,” although this might not be the same version.

As it happens, Brand has made albums and written books on a number of specialized folksong specialties. Among these are songs of the American Revolution, Bawdy songs, American Military songs. Drinking songs and many others. Like Burl Ives and Pete Seeger Brand learn songs from the “folks” as well as singing for them. Additionally he has composed over 300 songs. Of nearly 100 albums he released one can find songs of the U.S. armed forces, Canadian patriotic songs, sea shanties, presidential campaign songs, songs of the American Revolution, protest songs and bawdy songs. His books on folk music include “The ballad Mongers: Rise of the American Folk Song,” “ Songs of ’76: a folksinger’s History of the Revolution” and “Bawdy Songs & Barroom Ballads.”

During a career spanning 60 or more years he has performed with folk legends such as Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger He hosted the radio show “Oscar Brand’s Folksong Festival” on Saturday night on WNYC-Am 820 in New York City. Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Woody Guthrie, Arlo Guthrie, Huddie Leadbetter (Leadbelly) and Pete Seeger made their debuts on the show. The show has also hosted guest performers such as Burl Ives, Bill Monroe, Harry Belafonte, Judy Collens and others

On the Canadian side he broadcast from university campuses across Canada. . He also introduced fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell. He has also written songs for Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Belafonte, the Smothers Brothers and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He has a B.S. Degree in psychology from Brooklyn College, a Laureate from Fairfield University and an honorary Doctortorate from the University of Winnipeg, He has also been on the faculty of the New School, New York University.

I have a hard time thinking of any one figure in folk music who has contributed more to the field as performer, author, broadcasting, and introducing and providing exposure to as many others who are successful and probably better known than he is.

Oscar Brand

© 2009 Don A. Hoglund


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