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Burl Ives: Great Singer, Great Actor

Burl Ives, who had one of the great voices of the twentieth century, was identified with old ballads and other forms of Americana. He was a folk singer, but not in the mode of the protest music that arose during the 1960s.

Above he sings A Little Bitty Tear alone and is joined by Johnny Cash for a medley on the latter’s show.

Ives also was an accomplished actor. Since there isn’t too much video of him singing, I’m embedding a scene featuring Ives and Paul Newman from the film version of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. It’s evident that Ives was a talented guy.

Here is the beginning of Ives’ Wikipedia entry:

Burl Icle Ivanhoe Ives (June 14, 1909 – April 14, 1995) was an American actor, writer and folk music singer. As an actor, Ives’s work included comedies, dramas, and voice work in theater, television, and motion pictures. Music critic John Rockwell said, “Ives’s voice … had he sheen and finesse of opera without its latter-day Puccinian vulgarities and without the pretensions of operatic ritual. It was genteel in expressive impact without being genteel in social conformity. And it moved people.”[1] (Continue Reading…)

A short bio appears at the Internet Movie Database (iMDB), where his acting credits also can be found:

Burl Ives was one of six children born to a Scottish-Irish farming family. He first sang in public for a soldiers’ reunion when he was age 4. In high school, he learned the banjo and played fullback, intending to become a football coach when he enrolled at Eastern Illinois State Teacher’s College in 1927. He dropped out in 1930 and wandered, hitching rides, doing odd jobs, street singing. (Continue Reading…)

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Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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