Early life and education
Kahn grew up in State College, Pennsylvania. When he was 15 his family moved to the Washington, DC area, where he graduated from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. His grandfather Gabriel Kahn, his mother Rosalind Kahn, and his father Benjamin Kahn, a rabbi, instilled a strong sense of the family's Jewish heritage as well as teaching him the rudiments of rhythm and harmony as a child. His uncle, Arnold Aronson, executive secretary of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, helped inspire and shape Kahn's career. Kahn earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard University. In 1995 he completed a Ph.D. in American Studies from the Union Institute.
Musician and activist
Kahn moved to the south as an activist in the Civil Rights Movement, and he now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Kahn is the founder and former director of Grassroots Leadership, a non-profit organization that advocates for several causes, including prison reform, improved immigration detention policies, and violence prevention. He retired May 1, 2010. Most of the profits from Kahn's musical performances benefit this group. He has also been involved with Save Our Cumberland Mountains, an environmentalist group opposed to strip mining in Appalachia.
Though Kahn writes songs about a variety of topics, he is especially known for songs about workers and their families, like "Aragon Mill" (1974). He frequently writes songs, and occasionally performs, with singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist John McCutcheon. Kahn usually accompanies himself on a steel-string acoustic guitar, played with brass fingerpicks.
- New Wood (1974, June Appal Recordings)
- Home (1979, Flying Fish Records and June Appal Recordings)
- Doing my Job (1982)
- Unfinished Portraits (1984)
- Signs of the Times, with John McCutcheon (1986, Rounder Select)
- Carry It On (1986, Flying Fish Records)
- I'll Be There (1989, Flying Fish Records)
- I Have Seen Freedom (1991, Flying Fish Records)
- Good Times and Bedtimes (1993, Rounder select, family album)
- In My Heart: A Retrospective (1994, www.StrictlyCountryRecords.com)
- Companion (1997, Appleseed Records)
- Been a Long Time (2000, Sliced Bread Records)
- Threads (2002, Double Time Music)
- We're Still Here, with Liz Meyer and Joost van Es (2004, StrictlyCountryRecords)
- Thanksgiving, with Annemarieke Coenders and Linde Nijland (2007, StrictlyCountryRecords)
- Courage, with Kathy Mattea (2010, StrictlyCountryRecords)
- Bristol Bay, with Jens Kruger (2012, Flying Fish Records)
- How People Get Power: Organizing Oppressed Communities for Action (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970).
- Organizing: A Guide for Grassroots Leaders (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982). ISBN 0-07-033199-5
- The Fox in the Henhouse: How Privatization Threatens Democracy, with Elizabeth Minnich (Berrett-Koehler, 2005). ISBN 978-1-57675-337-8
- Creative Community Organizing: A Guide for Rabble Rousers, Activists, and Quiet Lovers of Justice (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2010). ISBN 978-1-60509-444-1
- Larkin, Colin. The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 3rd edition, Macmillan, 1998.
- Press, Jaques Cattell (Ed.). ASCAP Biographical Dictionary of Composers, Authors and Publishers, 4th edition, R. R. Bowker, 1980.
- Si Kahn, Creative Community Organizing (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2010), p. 121.