Who was/is Perry Friedman ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more

Perry Friedman

Perry Friedman (1935-1995) was a Canadian folk singer who sang folk songs and political songs to the banjo after the example of Pete Seeger and who had come to East Berlin in 1959 through appearances in left-wing organizations in England and Denmark. He appeared in the GDR and in the FRG (among others during the Easter marches of the opponents of nuclear weapons), made recordings and published a collection of American workers' songs in poems by Heinz Kahlau ('Hör zu, Mister Bilbo'). In addition to American and international songs, he sang German folk and worker songs and wrote his own titles, mostly based on lyrics by Heinz Kahlau. Above all, however, Friedman tried to establish the form of informal, sociable singing called Hootenanny, which he knew from North America, in the GDR. It took some persuasion to overcome the aversion of responsible officials to all American and English and convince them that Hootenanny was a progressive tradition of "other America. Finally Friedman's Hootenanny mission could start. Participants in the first events included Lin Jaldati, Gisela May and Gerry Wolff. In a press report it was said: "A German expression for Hootenanny is therefore not to be found, because the thing did not exist with us so far. Perhaps one could say round song to it - but that is not entirely true either." Friedman later commented on his beginnings in the GDR: "... it was the time of the portable radios. The ability to sing themselves and the joy of singing seemed to be buried in the young people. Folk songs were considered unfashionable, downright ridiculous. But in the few concerts of this kind people reacted well, really interested and almost surprised ... the need to sing together, to find half-forgotten songs again, was in the air".

When the international folk revival in 1965/66 reached a climax in Western Europe and thus also in the FRG, it also spread to the GDR. In 1965, the DT 64 youth channel launched the 'Treff mit Perry' series of events, and in 1966 the first Hootenanny Club was founded in Berlin, followed by other clubs. After the 11th plenary session of the SED Central Committee, which banned beat music and Biermann in December 1965, the official support of the new singing movement intensified. Thus great showcase concerts were organized, two long-playing records 'Hootenanny' with Perry Friedman were released.

Friedman had started his Hootenannys at the beginning of the 60s with some professional singers, but in 1966/67 more and more young people took up the guitar. They let themselves be inspired by him, but then wanted to sing their own 'GDR concrete' songs and navel themselves away from him. At the same time there was an official 'anti-Americanism' campaign. The term Hootenanny was now frowned upon. For the Hootenanny missionary Perry Friedman appearances became rare. When he was officially searching for the cause and the author, nobody wanted it to be. Friedman and the writer Gisela Steineckert now headed the advisory group of the FDJ singing movement, conducted training courses, gave concerts, and in 1971 was first sent to Canada with a large train station. In 1976, however, he returned, became involved in the folklore scene, which had grown in the meantime, and was awarded the GDR National Prize (collectively) in 1979 for his support of the FDJ singing movement.

In the 1980s Friedman was a frequent guest at the Festival of Political Song, performed at peace concerts in East and West Germany and toured the GDR with German and foreign singers. The highlight of the first tour was the legendary concert on 25 October 1983 at the Palast der Republik in Berlin, where Harry Belafonte and Udo Lindenberg also performed.

After a heart attack in 1988 and a severe kidney operation the following year, he led a desperate struggle for survival. He tried an artistic comeback with the program 'American Folk And Classical Music'. Since he could no longer hold the heavy banjo, he now sang to the piano accompaniment. Perry Friedman died at the age of 59 in Berlin.

In 2004 Brigitte Friedman, the widow, published the unfinished memoirs of her husband, supplemented by contributions from friends and companions such as Heinz Kahlau, Eberhard Rebling and Hannes Stütz, under the title 'Wenn die Neugier nicht wär' - Ein Kanadier in der DDR'.

Extract from
Various - songwriter in Germany
Vol.2, For whom we sing (3-CD)

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More information about Perry Friedman on Wikipedia.org

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