The phrase “Drawn Like a Moth to the Flame” was in an email my great friend of many, many years Becky Johnson (aka “Mrs. Bluegrass”) sent me Monday of last week. That email and my friendship with Becky inspired me to write the song that same evening. I recorded the video last Thursday night.
This is a song for the moth The moth can do wonderful things Just flying around Is simply astounding Let’s see YOU flutter your wings I know you’re shaking your head Your faith in my judgement is shaken But when I thought what to sing For the animal kingdom All the really cute creatures were taken What do say when the power’s so strong We cannot resist its appeal We say, “Drawn like a moth to the flame” I truly believe It’s no small achievement To give human emotion a name This is a song for the bugs If I might make a suggestion They’re living their lives Trying hard to survive Down there in your lower intestine Maybe they’re dancing the polka Maybe they’re doing the waltz But if things go wrong And you don’t last very long It really just isn’t their faults What do say when the power’s so strong We cannot resist its appeal We say, “Drawn like a moth to the flame” I truly believe It’s no small achievement To give human emotion a name This is a song for the moth No need for laughter and scorn They have such a short life Filled with danger and strife Dying only months after they’re born So there’s no need to fidget and fuss No need to argue and cuss It gives me great pride To know I’m on their side There’s a lot more of them than of us What do say when the power’s so strong We cannot resist its appeal We say, “Drawn like a moth to the flame” I truly believe It’s no small achievement To give human emotion a name
Set a reminder and use this link to watch on YouTube live at 8PM EDT Thursday: https://youtu.be/PaeO3EX9ajA
“An inspiration in the fight for workers’ rights and human dignity… timely, educational and necessary.” – Paul F. Cole, American Labor Studies Center
Vivian Nesbitt and John Dillon, the nationally touring cast, take Si Kahn’s musical “Mother Jones in Heaven” worldwide on livestreaming Thursday. While they were performing all over North America before COVID-19, this will be one of your few chances to see them live from your home. The virus has had a devastating effect on almost all performing artists, including Vivian, John, and Si. Please support this outstanding webcast.
At 8:00 pm Eastern Thursday (5-28-2020), just use computer, phone, tablet, smart TV or DVD player, or similar device to go to Caffe Lena’s YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/PaeO3EX9ajA.
Free on YouTube
At 8:30 EDT March 26 go to https://www.youtube.com/user/VivCreates/f
“An inspiration in the fight for workers’ rights and human dignity… timely, educational and necessary.” – Paul F. Cole, American Labor Studies Center
Vivian Nesbitt and John Dillon, the nationally touring cast, take Si’s musical “Mother Jones in Heaven” worldwide on YouTube Thursday night. While they are performing all over North America, this may be your only chance to see them live from your home, which is probably where you will be just as you are now.
At 8:30 pm Eastern Thursday (3-26-2020), just use computer, phone, tablet, smart TV or DVD player, or similar device to go to Vivian’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/VivCreates/f.
The webcast is part of the first night of Show Shepherd’s At Home Theater Series https://www.showshepherd.com/live/. Vivian and John bring the musical play from their living room to yours through the miracle of the Internet. That will make it an even more memorable evening. Check out the www.showshepherd.com to learn more about both Show Shepherd and Si’s plays.
On Monday, March 23, The Bluegrass Situation debuted “1920,” co-written by Si Kahn, Saro-Lynch Thomason, and Sam Gleaves. Saro and Sam recorded it for their forthcoming album of Si’s songs about women, I Have Known Women.
Check out the premier and the “1920” video at https://thebluegrasssituation.com/read/watch-saro-lynch-thomason-sam-gleaves-1920/
The year 2020 marks exactly 100 years since women in the United States after decades of organizing, standing up and fighting for justice; after years of beatings, torture and jail, finally won the right to vote. Don’t you think this is a perfect year for an album that celebrates not just women’s suffrage becoming part of the the Constitution of the United States but all women?
That’s why award-winning singer Saro Lynch-Thomason and Appalachian artist Sam Gleaves will present an album celebrating the triumphs and struggles of women on the 100-year anniversary of the ratification of U.S. women’s suffrage. Utilizing a blend of old-time, country, and folk, Sam and Saro artfully weave together portraits of women who resist enslavement, cross literal and metaphorical borders, and take to the picket lines. This collection features nine previously unreleased songs by Si, three previously recorded songs (“Truck Driving Woman,” “Nobody’s Body But Mine,” “The Border”) plus “1920,” written for the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment by Saro, Sam and Si.
The album features top-notch musicianship by Liam Purcell (multi-instrumentalist whose band Cane Mill Road won a 2019 IBMA Momentum Award), Hasee Ciaccio (bassist who performs with Sister Sadie and Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands), and percussionist John Gardner. Fierce, funny, and mournful, this album bears witness to the historic struggles of women and testifies to their ongoing fight for safety, autonomy, and freedom.
Available Now: Matt Watroba’s new album: The Far Si: The Si Kahn Funny Song Singalong Songbook
To order please go to https://www.mattwatroba.net/store
“I remember many years ago someone looking me straight in the eyes,” Si says, “telling me, ‘You are a very serious political songwriter.’”
What did Si say to that?
“I said, ‘Thank you so much. But don’t forget you’re talking to the person who wrote ‘Rubber Blubber Whale.’”
Now Si’s offside side is on full display in the new album by musician, songwriter and song leader Matt Watroba: The Far Si: The Si Kahn Funny Song Singalong Songbook, a collection of 11 songs, all with singable choruses, that will cause you to cover your eyes and say, “Please tell me Si Kahn didn’t write that.”
Believe it or not, Si did write 10 of the songs, including such alliterative semi-precious gems as “Pete’s Peaches” (hopefully honoring the late great Pete Seeger), “Will’s Will” and “Walt’s Waltz.” But it’s Matt Watroba who’s to blame for “Si’s Sigh.” Need we say more?
Matt’s a member of the Folk Alliance International DJ Hall of Fame, so he knows a good song when he hears one. But he also knows when he hears a truly bad song, such as Si’s “On the Air,” which unfortunately can’t be played on the air with its original FCC-disapproved language intact. Luckily, Matt came up with some remarkably creative bleeping on the chorus line “You Can’t Say xxxx On the Air.”
Then there’s the thought-provoking “Farewell Superior Sperm.” No, that’s not what it’s about – really, what were you thinking? It’s also not about white nationalists, the patriarchy or long discredited eugenics theories. The intelligent listener will immediately recognize that it’s based on stories by musician and novelist Scott Alarik about his family history, or at least what Scott claims is his family history, including how his great uncle Hendrik immigrated from Norway to the United States and launched the fresh water whaling industry on Lake Superior.
The perfect gift for someone you don’t get along with, The Far Si is actually available for sale. To purchase it and other Matt Watroba CDs and to learn about the wonderful rewards you can get for supporting this project (including a song written just for you by Si), please go to www.MattWatroba.net
Si himself composed the notes for each song:
Extended Track Notes by ANONYMOUS (it’s Si)
You Can’t Say **** On the Air: A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (Minnesota), Si was in the green room with the awesome Robin and Linda Williams waiting to perform on Prairie Home Companion. Being the responsible sort, and of course desperately wanting to be invited back, he asked the producer what he should know. “Just don’t say **** on the air.” What else was Si supposed to do, but write this song right then and there in the green room while waiting to go on? Sadly, it’s never been played on the air – until now, thanks to Matt Watroba’s uncannily creative bleeping.
Walt’s Waltz: Yes, Virginia, there are military waltzes. Given that reality, you might well ask yourself why Si is so fond of writing waltzes. Want to know why? Because you can’t march off to war in ¾ time. Try it, but only in the privacy of your home with someone who loves you enough to forgive what an idiot you’ll make of yourself.
Will’s Will: Hey you know that old saying
“Where there’s a will,
there’s a way”? How’s that working
for you? Okay, that’s what I figured. What’s actually
the case is that where there’s
a will there’s a bill from your lawyer, usually for more than your total net worth. In this touching saga, our hero finds salvation
if not solvency during the altar
call in a Pentecostal church.
Farewell Superior Sperm: No, no, that’s not what it’s about at all – really, what were you thinking? It’s also not about white nationalists, the patriarchy or long discredited eugenics theories. The intelligent listener will immediately recognize that it’s based on stories by musician and novelist Scott Alarik about his family history, or at least what Scott claims is his family history, including how his great uncle Hendrik immigrated from Norway to the United States and launched the fresh water whaling industry on Lake Superior.
Minnesota Magic: A different long time ago, but in the same galaxy, Si had the extraordinary honor of being in Minneapolis-St. Paul on the coldest day of the century, 100 degrees below zero to be exact. Okay, that includes the wind chill, but it was still really, really cold. Si’s friends were wonderful, going far out of their way to completely terrify him with what could happen and what he needed to do to survive the day (example: keep blinking rapidly so your eyeballs don’t freeze). Lesson: If you’re going to Minnesota, do that in mid-summer, which takes place from 10 am to 4 pm on Thursday, July 14th.
Did Juneau?: Si spent much of the last 10 years as the Lead Organizer for Musicians United To Protect Bristol Bay, an international network of musicians working to stop the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska, which if built will almost certainly destroy the world’s richest remaining wild salmon fishery. One cold January as part of that campaign he arrived in Juneau to perform at the Alaska Folk Festival. Wanting to show respect to the folks/folkies who’d brought him there by playing some local songs, he asked, “What’s the Juneau national anthem?” “We don’t have one. Juneau isn’t a country, it’s a city.” “Okay, what’s your municipal national anthem?” Silence. “Okay, what do you call people from Juneau?” “We call them ‘people from Juneau.’” Si knew the forces of the universe were counting on him to write this song.
Pete’s Peaches: Si once said to Pete Seeger, “You know, you shouldn’t be charging people to come hear you sing. They should charge you.” Pete hmmmmed, always sweetly polite even when confronted with the kind of weird person who might, let’s say, write songs like “Farewell Superior Sperm.” “Why would you think that?” “Because the audience is doing the work. You strum one chord, stick your arm in the air, and they sing the song to you. Where is the justice in that?” Or, for that matter, in this song.
Gate And Stray: What can farm animals tell us about the need for unity and solidarity among peoples of all races, religions, genders, transgenders, national origins, sexual orientations and weird tastes in music? Not much, actually. Si wrote this song within hours of meeting the brilliant young Appalachian musician Sam Gleaves and being overwhelmed by how tall Sam is. Now that Sam and Si have been deep friends and co-conspirators for many years, perhaps Sam will forgive him.
Is It Love?: Many of have asked ourselves: Am I truly in love? Are these extraordinary feelings I’m having – weak knees, shaky hands, shivers, pounding heart, dry throat — mean I’ve finally found the one I want to spend the rest of my life with? Or am I just about to get really, really sick?
One Little Sip: This song was once titled “Three Old Jokes.: Why, you might well ask. Well please don’t tell anyone, but one night long ago Si was watching the Jackie Gleason Show. Yes, we know, we know, this is not exactly the image you have of Si. But he really really was watching the Jackie Gleason show, and Jackie told these three old – in fact, very old – jokes. What else was Si supposed to do?
Si’s Sigh: Matt Watroba’s kindness and generosity in writing this heartful tribute to Si’s lifetime of working and singing for a better, gentler, more just world are palpable. It’s not in the song, but at this moment Si is sighing with relief that it’s not the total roasting he really deserves.
Under the title “Art as a Hammer to Shape the World: Folksinger Si Kahn raises the question ‘Can Poetry Change the World?'” venerable publisher Norm Stockwell examined the work of Si, Emma’s Revolution, and the late Don West in the venerable left-leaning magazine The Progressive.
Stockwell wrote: “Well, if music could only bring peace, I’d only be a musician,” sang Pete Seeger in his 1967 song “Letter to Eve.” In an essay in a forthcoming University Press of Kentucky re-issue of the classic [Don West] book Clods of Southern Earth, folksinger Si Kahn raises a related question: “Can Poetry Change the World?”…..
“’A lot of people say, oh, music can change the world,’ says Kahn in a recent interview, during which we chat about his work and my tattered copy of West’s classic. But, he continues, ‘only if it’s accompanied by direct action organizing. People say, ‘Well, look at the civil rights movement. All those songs, didn’t they make a difference?’ I say, yes, of course they did. They sustained the people who made the movement. The songs were important. But songs alone, poetry alone, any of the arts alone, they don’t change the world. That takes organizing and direct action.’”
Read the complete article at: https://progressive.org/magazine/art-as-a-hammer-to-shape-the-world-stockwell/
Stockwell is publisher of The Progressive. Previously, for more than 20 years, he served as WORT Community Radio’s Operations Coordinator in Madison, Wisconsin. He also coordinated the IraqJournal website in 2002-2003. In 2011, he regularly reported on protests in Madison for Iran’s PressTV and other outlets. His reports and interviews have appeared on Free Speech Radio News, DemocracyNow!, and AirAmerica, and in print in Z Magazine, the Capital Times, AlterNet, Toward Freedom, the Tico Times, the Feminist Connection, and elsewhere. He is co-editor of the book REBEL REPORTING: John Ross Speaks to Independent Journalists.
Hear Bill Wagman interview Si on KDVS in Davis, CA on 1-18-2020. Si’s portion begins at 7:30 and ends at 44:30.
“The Saturday Folk Show” airs weekly from 9 AM to Noon Pacific Time.
Veteran folk DJ Artie Martello has just posted online his in-depth interview with Si for the Mostly Folk podcast.
Coming in late January from Strictly Country Records
Si Kahn at 75: The Europe Sessions is the five-CD box set Strictly Country Records is releasing in honor of Si’s 75th year. A 20-song collection drawn by Si from the box set Best of the Rest was Si’s third CD in 2019r – the first two being Vivian Nesbitt & John Dillon’s The Songs of Mother Jones in Heaven (the soundtrack of the musical written by Si) and It’s Dog’s Life by Si & The Looping Brothers. In Si’s 75th year he not only is celebrating his long career as a songwriter and performer – with six straight No. 1 albums in these past 12 years, but also his decades-long work as a civil rights, union, and community organizer.