||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2011)|
Rod MacDonald, Bull Run Concert Series, Shirley MA. June 7, 2008
|Birth name||Roderick Owen MacDonald|
|Born||August 17, 1948
Southington, Connecticut, United States
|Origin||Greenwich Village, New York City|
|Genres||Folk, folk rock|
|Instruments||vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica|
|Associated acts||Cleopatra's Noodle, Big Brass Bed, Tracy Sands, Mark Dann, Fast Folk Magazine|
Rod MacDonald (born August 17, 1948) is an American singer-songwriter. He was a "big part of the 1980s folk revival in Greenwich Village clubs", performing at the Speakeasy, Bottom Line, Folk City, and the Songwriter's Exchange at the Cornelia Street Cafe for many years. He co-founded the Greenwich Village Folk Festival. He is perhaps best known for his songs "American Jerusalem", about the "contrast between the rich and the poor in Manhattan" (Sing Out!), "A Sailor's Prayer", "Coming of the Snow", "Every Living Thing", and "My Neighbors in Delray", a description of the September 11 hijackers' last days in Delray Beach, Florida, where MacDonald has lived since 1995. His songs have been covered by Dave Van Ronk, Shawn Colvin, Four Bitchin' Babes, Jonathan Edwards, Garnet Rogers, and others. His 1985 recording "White Buffalo" is dedicated to Lakota Sioux ceremonial chief and healer Frank Fools Crow, whom he visited in 1981 and 1985, and who appears with MacDonald in the cover photograph.
Tours, festivals and collaborations
MacDonald has released ten solo recordings on several record labels in the US, 8 in Europe on the Swiss label Brambus, and 21 songs with Smithsonian Folkways (through the Fast Folk Musical Magazine), and appears as lead singer of Big Brass Bed, a Palm Beach County rock and roll band, on two cds of Bob Dylan songs and originals. As with many independent artists, his recordings are often sold directly at concerts, with no definitive sales figures. His current label is Blue Flute Music.
MacDonald has appeared on stage with fellow artists, including Pete Seeger, Peter Yarrow, Odetta, Tom Paxton, the Violent Femmes, Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, Dave Van Ronk, Emmylou Harris, Richie Havens, Ani DiFranco, Tom Chapin, Jack Hardy and David Massengill. He has performed at festivals in Philadelphia, Winnipeg, Florida, South Florida, Riverhawk, Boston, Kerrville, Greenwich Village, Falcon Ridge, New Bedford Summerfest, Port Fairy (Australia) and Trowbridge (UK), and on the radio program Mountain Stage. He was reportedly the first American singer to tour the newly independent Czech Republic in 1991, and has made 35 tours in Europe since 1985, nearly all of them with NYC bassist Mark Dann.
He remains active, touring in Florida, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the Pacific Northwest, New York and New England in 2011 and 2012. In May 2011, Brambus Records and Blue Flute Music released Songs Of Freedom, a collection of 16 previously unreleased songs, in Switzerland and the US; Blue Flute also released Big Brass Bed's "Dylan Jam + 2", a new set of 9 Bob Dylan compositions and two originals. He appears locally as a solo guitarist-vocalist, and with the Bob Dylan cover band Big Brass Bed, with the Humdingers, with Irish singer Tracy Sands, and with songwriter George Goehring's show "My Life In The Brill Building". The Palm Beach Post has called him one of the "Ten Magnificent Musicians of Palm Beach County". Since 2006 he is also an instructor for the Florida Atlantic University (Lifelong Learning Center), hosting the lecture and performance series "Music Americana", and was given the Distinguished Faculty Award in 2012.
A tenor with a clear voice and wide range, MacDonald is often cited for both his musicality and the content of his songs about political and social events: “Rod MacDonald is a brilliant folk singer and composer. His melodic songs possess words that go straight into your heart and soul.” The Press Of Atlantic City....“A poet with a lot on his mind who has never allowed himself to make points at the expense of making music.” The Boston Globe....“True to the folk tradition, MacDonald is not afraid to get political, take chances, and perhaps shock some people....MacDonald's place in the folk hall of fame is assured by his 'A Sailor's Prayer,' a hymn-styled tune that many people have mistaken for a traditional song.” All-Music Guide.
Although usually labeled a folk singer, his musical styles include rock, pop, country, light jazz, and blues. In addition to his work in Greenwich Village, he has written extensively of experiences on US Indian reservations and in Europe, living in Italy from 1989 to 1992.
MacDonald was born in Southington, Connecticut. He began his musical education as a slide trombonist at 11, switching to guitar in his mid-teens as he learned the popular 1960s folk songs. He attended the University of Virginia, where he was managing editor of the student newspaper The Cavalier Daily and toured statewide with the five-piece folk group The Lovin' Sound. Graduating in 1970 with a degree in history, he attended Columbia Law School and joined the Judge Advocate General's Corps, U.S. Navy. He worked summers as a reporter for the Hartford Courant in 1969 and Newsweek in Atlanta (1970) and Washington, DC (1971), for whom he covered the Pentagon Papers trial. In 1972, while at Officer's Training School in Newport, RI, he began working as a solo singer-guitarist at a waterfront bar, The Black Pearl, on a nightly basis. He was honorably discharged as a conscientious objector in August 1972. He graduated school in 1973 but did not take the bar exam, instead continuing his professional career in music. After two decades in Greenwich Village, MacDonald moved to south Florida in 1995. Currently living in Delray Beach, Florida, with wife Nicole Hitz, of Chur, Switzerland, and daughters Ella and Alena.
- No Commercial Traffic (1983)
- White Buffalo (1985)
- Highway to Nowhere (1992)
- Man on the Ledge (1994)
- And Then He Woke Up (1996)
- Into the Blue (1999)
- Recognition (2002)
- Big Brass Bed: A Few Dylan Songs (2003) (band album of Bob Dylan covers)
- A Tale of Two Americas (2005)
- After The War (2009)
- Songs Of Freedom (2011)
- Big Brass Bed: Dylan Jam + 2 (2011) (band album of 9 Bob Dylan covers plus 2 originals)
- York, Michelle (12 September 2006). "Ithaca Journal; 40 Years Later, Folk Music Keeps Its Nook on Campus". The New York Times. p. 6. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
- The Ten Magnificent Musicians of Palm Beach County, Palm Beach Post, October 25, 2002, p. 32.