Thursday, November 10, 2005

Harold Leventhal, of blessed memory

Theodore Bikel remembers Harold Leventhal:
The list of artists whom Leventhal managed or presented is not just impressive but also daunting: Peter, Paul & Mary; Johnny Cash; Joan Baez; Bob Dylan; Joni Mitchell; Mahalia Jackson; Harry Belafonte; Phil Ochs; Odetta; Judy Collins; Theodore Bikel; The Clancy Brothers, Arlo Guthrie — the list goes on and on. Then there are the international folk and ethnic artists Harold presented to American audiences, including Miriam Makeba, Jacques Brel, Nana Mouskouri and Enrico Macias. He also booked American artists into European venues and festivals. When the State Department decided in the 1960s to discontinue American folk music as part of its cultural exchange program, Leventhal produced their concerts in the Eastern bloc himself. In 1966 he brought the Jewish State Theater of Poland to Broadway. And he pioneered the presentation of Israeli folk artists in this country, including Shoshana Damari, Geula Gill and the Oranim Zabar Troupe, reflecting his longtime devotion to Israeli culture.
It would be a slight exaggeration to say that without Leventhal I'd have had no music in my childhood, no melody to my politics, no chorus of justice. But only slight.

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