As has been noted here previously, Malcolm usually has iTunes playing in the background. One favourite playlist is the folk music of the early ’60s.
Today, in shuffle-mode, that brought into close proximity the Slightly Fabulous Limeliters album from 1961 (still in the catalogue), and several works from the Malvina Reynolds song-book.
Malvina Reynolds was born Malvina Milder on August 23, 1900, to a Jewish socialist immigrant family in San Francisco, California. Her parents ran a tailor shop together and their home was filled with political discussion and meetings. Due to her parents’ opposition to the first World War, Lowell High School denied her a high school diploma, but her teachers at Lowell helped her get into the University of California at Berkeley anyway. There she earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, and later, in 1938, her Ph.D. in Romance Philology. Jews and women had a harder time getting good jobs then than now, and throughout the Depression and following years Malvina was unable to find a college teaching position.
She worked at this and that, in 1934 marrying carpenter and labor-organizer William ‘Bud’ Reynolds and having a daughter in 1935. In the late forties (which were also her late forties) Bud and Malvina worked together on progressive political campaigns and she performed at folk music events in the Los Angeles area, along with Earl Robinson and other musicians active in Peoples’ Songs (whose Bulletin was a forerunner of Sing Out! magazine). She had been writing the occasional popular or political song since her late thirties; by her fifties, she had increased her output and added children’s songs to the mix. By the time the folk protest movements of the 1960s came along, she had honed her skills and was ready to take on the issues of the day: civil rights, opposition to the war in Vietnam, and the right of workers to organize. Overall she wrote hundreds of songs, some of great beauty and many displaying a sense of humor and wit that has endeared her to performers and listeners from Helsinki to Tokyo. Malvina Reynolds died on March 17, 1978, with gigs on her calendar.
Ah, yes! The Land of the Free, where all are equal … until they deviate from the political views ordained by the likes of the Tea Party movement.
Apart from Little Boxes, if you’ve never heard of Malvina, check out the writing credits on Morningtown Ride:
on Turn Around (there’s one that pricks the eye of every father of daughters):
or What Have They Done to the Rain?:
and Magic Penny:
What seems to be a comprehensive listing of Malvina’s titles is here. Really cultured souls might also remember her as Sesame Street’s Kate.
The Limeliters originally, and as they appear on the Slightly Fabulous album, were Lou Gottlieb, Glenn Yarborough and Alex Hassilev.
Gottlieb’s witty links and intros, in a faux-professorial tone, worked admirably with the black-jacketed, roll-neck sweatered, Gitanes-puffing pseudo-intellectuals who frequented those folk venues.
One of the songs on that second Limeliters album is Vikki Dougan.
That one is credited to “Cal Grigsby”, who in life were Malvina Reynolds and Lou Gottlieb.
Vikki Dougan was just another bit-part actress, figure model, celeb-column regular, and all-purpose arm-candy — until she did a shoot (around 1957) for Esquire magazine. She took along a dress which made the most of her best feature. One exposure (right) from that shoot was syndicated.
This was a prime-cut for “Cal Grigsby”:
Vikki, turn your back on me,
Come on, darlin’ just for me!
‘Cause there’s somethin’ so appealin’
That your eyes are not revealin’!
Oh, Miss Dougan, you’re for me!
Other girls who approach me,
Are beautiful, gorgeous and gay!
But you’re so-gosh-darn more invitin’
Going the other way!
Vikki, baby, you really move me
In those far-out clothes,
But don’t it get chilly flyin’ home at night
When that cold tail-wind blows?