John Cohen (musician)

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For other people named John Cohen, see John Cohen (disambiguation).

John Cohen (born August 2, 1932, in Queens, New York) is a founding member of the New Lost City Ramblers as well as a musicologist,[1] photographer and filmmaker of note. Some of his best known images document the Abstract Expressionist scene centered on New York's Cedar Bar; gallery happenings by early performance artists; young Bob Dylan's arrival in New York; Beat Generation writers during the filming of Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie's film Pull My Daisy; and the "old time" musicians of Appalachia. (The title of Cohen's 1962 film, High Lonesome Sound, has become synonymous with that music.) He has been one of the most important "discoverers" of traditional musicians and singers, finding and recording Dillard Chandler, Roscoe Holcomb, and many banjo players, most notably on the album High Atmosphere.

Beyond the United States, Cohen traveled extensively to Peru, driven by a fascination for the weaving and lifestyle of the native Andean population. His field recording of a Peruvian wedding song is included on the Voyager Golden Record, attached to the Voyager spacecraft.

Cohen married Penny Seeger, the youngest member of the musical Seeger family, which includes half-brother Pete Seeger. They had two children, Sonya and Rufus, and grandchildren Dio and Gabel.[2]

He currently resides in the lower Hudson Valley of New York.

He has taught photography and drawing at Purchase College. He organized a gallery show of Peruvian retablos at the college as well.

The Grateful Dead song "Uncle John's Band," on Workingman's Dead, according to what Cohen calls "a true rumor," is supposed to have been written about Cohen and his band.[3]

The Library of Congress has recently acquired John Cohen's archive, which includes his films, photographs, music recordings and other historic ephemera.


Selected filmography[edit]

  • The High Lonesome Sound (1962)
  • Fifty Miles from Times Square (1970)
  • The End of an Old Song (1972). A DVD version is in print as part of Dark Holler: Old Love Songs and Ballads (2005-09-27). Washington: Smithsonian Folkways.
  • Q'eros: The Shape of Survival (1979)
  • Peruvian Weaving: a continuous warp (1980)
  • Sara and Maybelle (1981)
  • Gypsies Sing Long Ballads (1982)
  • Mountain Music of Peru (1984)
  • Dancing with the Incas (1990)
  • Carnival in Q'eros (1992)
  • Play on John: A Life in Music (2009) on Smithsonian Networks

Selected discography (as producer)[edit]


External links[edit]