Connie Converse

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Connie Converse
Birth name Elizabeth Eaton Converse
Born (1924-08-03)August 3, 1924
Laconia, New Hampshire
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, Guitarist Composer
Instruments Vocals, Guitar, Piano
Labels

Lau derette

Monkey Farm
Website Connie Converse

Elizabeth Eaton "Connie" Converse (born August 3, 1924) was an American singer-songwriter who was active in New York City in the 1950s.[1]

She disappeared in 1974, after writing goodbye letters to her friends and family, and has not been heard from since. Her music has recently been rediscovered from tape recordings and an album How Sad, How Lovely was released in March 2009. She also composed art songs for voice and piano, most of which were still unrecorded at the time of her disappearance.

Biography[edit]

Elizabeth Eaton Converse was born in Laconia, New Hampshire, in 1924. She grew up in Concord as the middle child in a strict Baptist family; her father was a Baptist minister. She attended Concord High School, where she was valedictorian and won eight academic awards. She was awarded an academic scholarship to Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. After two years' study, she left the College and moved to New York City.[2]

During the 1950s, she worked for the Academy Photo Offset printing house in New York's Flatiron District and lived in Greenwich Village. She started calling herself Connie, a nickname she had acquired in New York. She began writing songs and performing them for friends, accompanying herself on guitar.[2]

Her music came to the notice of animator and amateur recording engineer Gene Deitch, who had made tape recordings of John Lee Hooker and Pete Seeger in the 1940s. Deitch made a number of tape recordings of Converse in the kitchen of his house in Hastings-on-Hudson in the mid-1950s. But she failed to attract any commercial interest in her music. Her only public performance was a brief television appearance in 1954 on "The Morning Show" on CBS with Walter Cronkite, which Deitch helped to arrange.[2]

In 1961, she left New York for Ann Arbor, Michigan, where her brother Philip was a professor of political science at the University of Michigan. She worked in a secretarial job, and then as Managing Editor of the Journal of Conflict Resolution in 1963.[2] Her only musical involvement continued to be playing for friends at parties.

By 1973, Connie was burnt out and depressed. Her colleagues and friends pooled their money to finance a six-months' trip to England for her. The journal, which meant so much to her, had left Michigan for Yale at the end of 1972, after being "auctioned off" without her knowledge. She was facing the need for major surgery.[2]

In August 1974, she wrote a series of letters to her family and friends, talking about her intention to make a new life somewhere else. By the time the letters were delivered, she had packed her belongings in her Volkswagen Beetle and driven away, never to be heard from again.[2]

In January 2004, Gene Deitch – by then 80 years old and living in Prague since 1961 – was invited by New York music historian David Garland to appear on his radio show Spinning on Air. Deitch played some of his own recordings, including one of Connie's songs, "One by One".[citation needed]

Two of Garland's listeners, Dan Dzula and David Herman, were inspired to try and put together an album of Connie's music. There were two sources: the tapes in Deitch's collection in Prague, and her brother Philip's collection of recordings which she had sent him in the 1950s. In March 2009, How Sad, How Lovely, containing 17 songs by Connie Converse, was released by Lau derette Recordings. There have been indications that Converse's musical approach and singing style has had an impact on indie folk artists such as Quinn Marston.[3]

The Australian singer-songwriter Robert Forster, co-founder of the Go-Betweens, describes the album as "making a deep and marvellous connection between lyric and song that allows us to enter the world of an extraordinary woman living in mid-twentieth-century New York."[4]

In 2014, a recording of Connie Converse's art songs was recorded using her handwritten manuscript pages for reference, sung by soprano Charlotte Mundy and pianist Christopher Goddard for the album Connie's Piano Songs produced by musician Howard Fishman for the Monkey Farm label. Although Connie Converse herself never recorded the bulk of this music, the album does feature an original demo recording of her singing her song "Vanity of Vanities," accompanying herself on piano, from the mid-1950s. It is the only known recording of her performing on piano.[5]

Discography[edit]

  • How Sad, How Lovely (2009)
  • Connie's Piano Songs (2014)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ian Youngs (1 October 2014). "Connie Converse: The mystery of the original singer-songwriter". BBC News. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Jefferson, Cord (August 3, 2010). "The Story of Connie Converse". The Awl. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  3. ^ Addy Danti (November 26, 2010). "Download: Quinn Marston, ‘Can You See Me Hear Me Now?’". Buzz Bands. Retrieved 2011-06-16. She has a voice that ranges from shy slur to sexy shout, recalling both Karen O. and ’50s troubadour Connie Converse, as well as “Guyville”-era Liz Phair. Her lyrics are witty and wise beyond their years, set to grungy melodies that encapsulate a youthful angst. 
  4. ^ Forster, Robert, "Lost Women Found", The Monthly June 2009, 60-64.
  5. ^ http://www.conniespianosongs.com/liner-notes/

Sources[edit]

  • Converse, Elizabeth, "A Posteditorial", Journal of Conflict Resolution 16 (1972), 617-619.
  • Converse, Elizabeth, "The War of All against All: A review of The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 1957-1968", Journal of Conflict Resolution 12 (1968), 471-532.
  • Forster, Robert, "Lost Women Found", The Monthly June 2009, 60-64.

External links[edit]