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Broadside Magazine was a small mimeographed publication founded in 1962 by Agnes "Sis" Cunningham and her husband, Gordon Friesen. Hugely influential in the folk-revival, it was often controversial. Issues of what is folk music, what is folk rock, and who is folk were roundly discussed and debated. At the same time, Broadside nurtured and promoted important singer-songwriters of the era.
By the end of the 1970s, Broadside had basically ceased publication.
Several of the songs recorded for Broadside Magazine over its lifetime were released in 2000 as The Best of Broadside as a 5-CD boxed set, which is the only way most of the recordings are available. The magazine was the subject of questions in one of Bob Dylan's many news conferences, as seen in No Direction Home, the Martin Scorsese documentary on Dylan released in 2005.
During the 1960s, Broadside put out three folio-sized trade paperback songbooks, Broadside Volume 1 (Oak Publications, 1964), Broadside Volume 2 (Oak, 1968, ISBN 0-8256-0112-6), and Broadside Volume III (Oak, 1970, ISBN 0-8256-0060-X). Each contained slightly under 100 songs, photo-reproduced from the original magazine. The first volume had a sewn binding, though the latter two used the glued binding more common for trade paperbacks.
Each volume featured a foreword, the first by Cunningham, the second by Friesen, and the third by Irwin Silber.
Contributors to Broadside Magazine
As Irwin Silber wrote in his foreword to Broadside Volume III, "A whole generation of song-writers, some of whom have become household names in the America of the 1960s, made their first appearances in Broadside…"  Among those whose careers began there, Silber listed Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs (a major Broadside contributor; see also Sings for Broadside (Folkways, 1976) and The Broadside Tapes 1 (Folkways, circa 1980), Buffy Sainte-Marie, Janis Ian (originally under her real name, Janis Fink), and Arlo Guthrie.
Other, more established songwriters also contributed to Broadside, some of them (in Silber's words again) with "songs which commercial publishers didn't know what to do with…"  Among these, Silber lists Pete Seeger, Nina Simone, Billy Edd Wheeler, and Malvina Reynolds.
Cunningham herself published a number of songs in Broadside. Other contributors to Broadside included:
- Eric Andersen
- Len Chandler, Jr.
- Bob Dylan
- Larry Estridge
- Richard Fariña
- Tuli Kupferberg
- Jonathan Kwitney
- Peter La Farge
- Julius Lester
- Ewan MacColl
- Ernie Marrs
- Matt McGinn
- Bernice Reagon
- Patrick Sky (also known as Patrick Skye)
- Mark Spoelstra
- Gil Turner
- Vanessa Redgrave
The magazine was revived, around 1982, by Norman Ross of Clearwater Publishing (a microfiche publication and distribution company) as a part of the upswing in folk and political music of the times.
In his parody song, "Vaguely Reminiscent of the Sixties", Charlie King captured the era of singer/songwriter and social movements that had helped to bring about many social changes. Music was a firm part of these movements and was frequently included in meetings, protests, seminars, teach-ins and other activities.
Broadside in the 1980s, edited by Jeff Ritter, a musician and graduate student at the time, covered multiple movements and songwriters including Arlo Guthrie, Billy Bragg, Michelle Shocked, Charlie King, Holly Near and more. The revival of the Newport Folk Festival coincided with this era and many singer-songwriters who began at this time continued their involvement with the music industry.
The August, 1985, issue #165, guest edited by Charles Ipcar, focused on housing and other neighborhood organizing songs. Songwriters included Langston Huges, Charlie Ipcar & Maxine Parshall, Dale Cohen & Hugh McGuinness, Bob Norman, Mark Charles & Sheila Ritter, Peter Berryman, Elyse Crystall, Sandee Swantek, Martha Koester, Paul Emery, Tony Heriza, Judith Levine & Laura Liben, Mike Rawson, Bev Grant, and Luci Murphy.
Publication ended in the late 1980s.
As of 2007, Broadside Magazine is being revived online at broadsidemagazine.com. New articles are being featured by contributing writers and past editors, and all previous issues of the magazine are available for free download in PDF format.
Notes and references
- Broadside Volume III, p. 5
- Broadside Volume 2, cover
- Broadside Volume 1, cover
- Broadside Volume III, cover