Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My heart goes out to you and your family.
My connection to Utah is through my good old buddy, the late Fred Holstein. I was blessed to play bass with Fred for several years. During that time, I got to meet many writers, performers, actors, singers, etc, among them. Bruce Phillips. It was always a pleasure to see him, especially since he remembered me by name. Months could go by without seeing each other, but when he was in town, he always recognized me by name.
One Saturday afternoon, at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, I asked Utah: "What is it about Fred that makes him so dear a friend to you? He doesn't create his own songs but presents the work of others." Bruce replied: "Norm, there are a lot of songwriters out there who, due to some circumstances, never get heard. People like Fred almost always find these people. They may never write but one song that reaches a certain point in people's consciousness that connects. As a writer myself, I believe that for every songwriter out there, there should be at least 100 interpreters."
These words have inspired me through almost 40 years to soldier on and find those songs that reach me and try and share them with others. It is amazing how many writers there are that are never heard but for the serendipitous efforts of interpreters like Fred Holstein, and hopefully, me as well.
The world is, again, an emptier place with the passing of Bruce Phillips, who joins the likes of Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston, Huddie Ledbetter and Chicago locals Win Stracke, Steve Goodman, Bob Gibson, Fred Holstein, WFMT's Midnight Special host, Ray Nordstrand, one of Utah's big fans, and Tom Dundee, to mention a few. Thanks to recordings and those of us who know the work of these people, their memories will live on for a long time to come.
God bless Bruce "Utah" Phillips.
Norm Siegel
"Those that were seen dancing were thought
to be insane by those who could not hear the music."
Friedrich Nietzsche


mike said...

It is wonderful to see the impact one man can have. And terrible to know he is gone.
Thanks to all of you who embody the spirit that Utah shared. May many more find it and live it.
I'm sorry for the loss that you who knew him well must be feeling. You will remain in my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

message sent tom my friends and family who have crossed Utah's path over the years.

In early 2003 Peter Holter-Mehren (then State President of Washington APWU) told me he was going to a Utah Phillips show. I said "Utah who"? He told me a little about Utah and I researched the rest. I imediately ordered some of his cd's, listened to them, then ordered the rrest. I ordered them for friends and family. I went to his next showing in my area then I booked him to play in conjunction with our 2004 State Convention because I felt the labor history he offered was invaluable to those of us claiming to be Unionists. I also arranged it so that Peter could open for Utah (I think he enjoyed it a great deal) and as I recall Peter dragged Mike DIckey along to give him a hand and maybe ease his nerves.

On the day of the show Utah and my family ate breakfast together. He would break off into one of his stories and I kept finishing them for him. He said "Charles, you better stop listening to that stuff it will ruin your mind man." I did not heed his advice. I continully listen to Utah's stories as they provide valuable insights. As this war has continued I find myself almost weekly listening to "I've got to know".

Over the few years that have passed since I first met him we have kept in touch and I have always made sure he received one of ouor State Newspapers where I ocassionally have quoted him or just written a little about him or one of the stories he told. In-fact several times over the last few years he has called me at work just to say hello. I'll never forget one day he called me at work and my always overofficious Station Manager interupted me on the phone. I told her "My god lady, I am talking to Utah Phillips, give me a minute will you?" She looked at me with the bewidered look we often see on our managers faces, frowned and walked away.

Nonetheless I hope that those of you that had the opportunity to hear Utah will go to his website and take a look around at what is being said about him these last few days.

Take Care Friend!!!


Charles P. Smith
Washington State APWU President
PO Box 4001
Bremerton, WA 98312

360-479-7574 (Work)
360-779-2023 (Union/Home)
360-509-5495 (Cell)


Anonymous said...

I first heard Utah Phillips sing & yarn at the Missoula Union Hall many years ago. Afterwards, I collected most of his recordings and came to know a great soul of Gandhian moral strength.
I saw him as a hobo Pete Seeger with a soft spot for those struggling and a sharp tongue for the rich & powerful. Utah could make you laugh and make you want to go out and change the world for the better.

In the peace & justice tool box that contains Gandhi’s fasts & salt march, and King’s marches & soul stirring sermons,
let us add Phillip’s songs, jokes & stories.

I hope Utah gets a fast rattler ride home to the wild and windy places and finds his old friends there waiting for a song.
Vicki Watson, Missoula, MT

Don Thieme said...

Amy Goodman dedicated an entire hour to Utah Phillips yesterday. It was great to hear him speak on so many subjects and show determination and drive to change the world even as his old body had begun to wear out.

rebecca said...

i listen to utah at least once a week!! he gave me hope and got me started on changing things--each hearing = more energy for the struggle. i will continue....thanks utah!!

Wobbly said...

Utah was one of my heroes. I never met or saw him in person, but I feel a deep love and respect for him. As a young teacher, I incorporate his words, voice, ideas, and spirit in my classes, hoping to pass on what I have learned from him and others, and to inspire students. Utah's often repeated truism remains one of the most powerful ideas I have ever learned: "The long memory is the most radical idea in America." Deepest love to Utah and sincerest condolences to his family and friends. In solidarity, Michael Marchman, Lexington, KY.

Larry Rand said...

I remembered Utah today on my blog at www.lawrenceofthedesert.com, including a snapshot of him from 1971 at the Mariposa Folk Festival (anyone needing to use the photo has my permission). He was great proof that you can have values and something important to say, yet be a lot of fun.

GB said...

Thank you Utah, for showing us what matters most in this world.