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Fred Stanton
Philadelphia, PA  USA
March 11, 2000
3,949 plays
Fred Stanton’s songs (along with his lumberjack voice and jumbo 12-string guitar) embody the political folk-singing tradition. Fred has been an industrial worker (a welder of oilfield equipment; an electronic assembler; and a railroad electrician, hostler and brakeperson) as well as a political organizer and union activist. This life is at the heart of his songsmoving, personal ballads, rollicking satires, and working-class anthems. Fred has been singing in concerts, union rallies and political protests since the 1960s. His union songs celebrate the struggles of strikers at Peabody Coal, poultry processing workers in North Carolina, and strawberry pickers in California. And his "Singing Cars," a Bronx salute to car alarms, has been featured on NPR’s "Car Talk" show. Newest songs include “Five-Dollar Coal,” which is the story of miners in Utah fighting for a union.
Band/artist history
One of the 1960s generation of topical songwriters, Fred performed at two national antiwar marches (in 1965 and 1967), played at campus concerts and coffeehouses, made an LP (yes, vinyl-"Hey, Hey, LBJ!"), and was published in Broadside magazine and several anthologies. His "Hitler Ain't Dead" was picked up by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, who sang it in the UK. Fred's songs are still getting around on the picket lines and on the radio. He has been part of protests against the Gulf War and US policy toward Cuba and Haiti. His "Singing Cars" has been featured on NPR's "Car Talk" show. Workers at the Doe Run lead smelting plant in Missouri (the biggest polluter in the state) played the song Fred wrote for them on the picket lines and the local radio station, and sold copies to raise strike funds. Two songs Fred wrote for strikers at Peabody Coal were spread around by Anne Feeney and by Charlie King. "Rollin' Thunder" -- the true story of a night on the picketlines at a Firestone plant in Iowa -- helped to organize support for workers fighting to get their jobs back at Firestone. Fred sings at protests and benefits, as well as at New York's Centerfold, Lauterbach's, People's Voice Cafe, Fast Folk, Sun Music Co., the Open House coffeehouse, and the Greenwich Village Folk Festival. He was a finalist in the songwriting contest at the South Florida Folk Festival in 1994. Fred's first CD, Moving Day, came out in 1998, and has received airplay around the U.S. and in Israel and Australia. He is a member of American Federation of Musicians Local 1000 and the People's Music Network.
Have you performed in front of an audience?
Yes, usually at the Sun Music Co. and the People's Voice Cafe in New York City, and benefits for the United Farm Workers, Clearwater, etc. It's great to see songs reach the people I wrote them for. Sometimes, the people who don't think they're political are affected the most by my political songs, and my political activist friends are blown away by a personal song. My favorite moment was at a rally for striking lead smelter workers in Herculaneum, Missouri. I gave someone a tape of a song I had written for the strike, and they played it over the PA system as the rally ended . . . several times. People stayed and listened. The song became part of the strike. They played it through a bullhorn on the picket lines, put it on local radio, and blasted it at the house of the company president. One striker told me, he thought I must have worked in the plant to write a song like that.
Your musical influences
Folk music, especially the political stuff, from Joe Hill to Woody Guthrie, a background in classical piano (Bach, Beethoven, Chopin). I learned about songwriting from Sis Cunningham, Pete Seeger, and others of their generation. There are a lot of good writers today (Tom Paxton, Bob Franke, Charlie King, David Massengill). Politically, my life was changed by the revolution in Cuba and the life of Malcolm X, my experiences in the fight against the Vietnam war, as well as the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, James P. Cannon, Farrell Dobbs, etc.
What equipment do you use?
Guild jumbo twelve-string guitar (1973).
Anything else?
Peoples Music Network/Songs of Freedom and Struggle (http://peoplesmusic.org) is a network of Musicians, Performers, Songwriters, Sound & recording engineers, Music Lovers, Record & concert producers, Promoters, Archivists and more using music and culture to promote progressive ideas and values.
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