Everything I Need to Know …

I often remark that if I want to know about a person, event or place with which I am unfamiliar, there is no better place to look than the Children’s Room. The books have the all the important information in a concise format with easy to understand vocabulary and are often illustrated! My kind of information!
The other day I processed a book by Laura Veirs entitled “Libba.” It’s about Elizabeth Cotten, an apparently well known blues/folk  singer/songwriter. I had never heard of her. For those who share my ignorance, she was born in the late 1800s to a musical family and taught herself to play the guitar and banjo, backwards and upside down because she was left handed! She was writing songs by her teens. Life got in the way of her music, but in her 50s she started working as a housekeeper for the Seeger family. The story goes, one of the family heard her playing her song, “Freight Train” which she composed as a child. She began to perform and “Freight Train” became a hit. Many other well-known musicians including Pete Seeger, Jerry Garcia, and Bob Dylan, recorded it. I thought I must know the song, but when I listened to her rendition and then Pete Seeger’s I didn’t recognize it.
Monday night at dinner we were listening to WMVY radio’s “blues at 8” and a song started playing. I looked at my husband and said, “That is Elizabeth Cotten singing “Freight Train.”
Just goes to show:
Martha Murphy, Children’s Department
Ed: If you’d like to hear Elizabeth Cotten playing and singing “Freight Train,” the song that made her famous, go to Smithsonian Folkways Recordings artist spotlight for Elizabeth Cotten.  At the top of the page there’s a short 30 second recording of her picking the beginning of the song, but if you scroll about halfway down there’s a video recorded in 1957 of her playing the whole song at the Seeger family home.

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