February 2, 2007

Eric von Schmidt, dead

A guy I knew some, Eric von Schmidt, just died. Singer, guitarist, songwriter, writer, illustrator, painter... I don't much feel like writing about him; my moms knew him too, and she died last fall.

I will say this, though. Among several lasting compositions, Eric wrote one of the great strike songs in the English language, "Joshua Gone Barbados." His version is probably the best, but if you can't find it, or are greedy, check out Tom Rush's, the classic.

Which leads me naturally away from death. If you are near one of the places where Mat Callahan (ex-Prairie Fire, ex-Looters) is performing next month, March, on tour from Switzerland, you may have a chance to hear another of the all-time great strike tunes, "Come On, Virgie," performed by its cowriter. After some aggressive lobbying, Mat said maybe he'll try and work it up, first time in decades. All of his work has a revolutionary flava, so catch him no matter what.


Karl Eklund said...

My blog, "Joshua Gone Barbados. Eric, Too." is found at http://svgb.karleklund.net

Jimmy Higgins said...

Karl's very interesting blog entries suggest, based on some first hand information, that the St. Vincent Prime Minister Ebenezer Theodore Joseph may have gotten a bit of a bad rap in the Eric's song "Joshua Gone Barbados."

I recommend that anyone interested in the song, or in Caribbean labor history, check it out. There's an actual photo of Sion Hill! In Karl's recounting, the song reasonably records the facts of the strike, but slights the reputation of a leader of a tiny, recently independent country trying to find a way for his people to prosper or just survive in the world.

Fair enough. The suggestion that Eric von Schmidt was operating from a too simplistic leftist standpoint may be based on a similar quick conclusion, though. While Eric was part of the folk scene of the '60s and did have an article on the song in the admittedly left-leaning Sing Out magazine, he was when I knew him working on a series of gigantic oil paintings of great battles in US military history. (I did point out to him that two of his subjects, the Alamo and Little Big Horn, were fights in which the presumptive protagonists took a shellacking. He shrugged, laughed and poured us another drink.)

I hope Karl keeps looking into this and adds a comment here if he should come up with something new.