“…with the formation of Folkways Records I started the more intense catalog of protest songs, workers songs, protest poetry, documentation, etcetera.”
Activist Engagement and Social Relevance
Lest We Forget, Vol. 2
Arms and fists of a group of peaceful civil rights protesters, raised in solidarity, dominate the picture at the top. Below, two scenes - one showing a water cannon, the other, police dogs - serve as reminders of law enforcement's response to such civil rights rallies.
What If I Am a Woman?
The cover engraving portrays Sojourner Truth, who was born a slave and freed in 1827 and who became a powerful voice against slavery and for women's rights. The speeches of African American women on this album include Sojourner Truth's "Woman's Rights," delivered in 1853 and read here by actor and civil rights activist Ruby Dee, introduced by her husband and fellow actor Ossie Davis. Dee and Davis were activists in the Civil Rights movement.
Where Have All the Flowers Gone
A literal, uncomplicated cover design reinforces the message of the title song. "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," written in 1961, was based on an Irish tune and inspired by a few lines from an old Russian folk song. It has become one of Pete Seeger's signature songs and remains a simple, eloquent anthem for peace.
Gay & Straight Together
Designer Ronald Clyne remarked that he selected this famous Feininger photo of crowds at Coney Island in order to reinforce the record's title and subject: we are all together, gay and straight, and belong to the larger category of humanity.
Bertolt Brecht Before the Committee on Un-American Activities
The "red scare" of the post-World War II period in the United States is visualized, literally, in the red tone of the photograph. The album records the questioning of Bertolt Brecht in October 1947 by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Numerous writers, directors and performers, even non-Americans, such as Brecht, were investigated for their alleged communist sympathies.
Collage is used to combine newspaper headlines, images, and articles with a photograph of singer Mark Cohen. The newspaper snippets reinforce the topicality of the subject and the fragmentary nature of available information concerning accidents in the nuclear industry.
People's Music: The Struggles of the Greek People
In this highly charged image of human suffering, the figures are rendered in jarring shorthand to underscore the pathos of the music by composer and political activist Mikis Theodorakis. During the military dictatorship in Greece (1967-74), his music was banned, and he was incarcerated for staunchly opposing the regime. The album was produced in 1971, the year that an international committee of prominent musicians and writers secured Theodorakis's release, and he went into exile in Paris.
Songs of the Spanish Civil War, Vol. 1
The Spanish Civil War is an important subject in this section as it, in effect, represents the beginnings of World War II and the fight against fascism. The fire-scorched photograph documents soldiers of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, American volunteers who fought on the side of the republic against the rebellion led by Franco.
Freedom Fighters of Algeria
A green star and crescent moon, seen through a tangled web of barbed wire, underline the notion of an oppressed people whose spirit shines through despite adversity. The star, crescent moon, and colour green are references to the Algerian flag, and, in a more general sense, to the traditional symbols of Islam.
Songs from the Depths of Hell
The stark, nightmarish figure of the dead child held by the leaning, robed figure in Gertrude Degenhardt's drawing conveys the hopelessness and depth of human misery in the concentration camps. Degenhardt's emotive and highly expressive style takes its impetus from earlier German Expressionist art.
Ding Dong Dollar
The cover photograph, taken in the early 1960's, is one of the first to include the peace sign. The use of the symbol originated in 1958 with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in Britain. The group in the photograph is protesting the docking of American nuclear submarines (Polaris subs) in Scotland.
Songs of the Ghetto
This sepia-like photograph of a Polish ghetto, in which Nazi soldiers preside, relates to the World War II experiences of Abraham Brun, who survived the Lodz Ghetto in Poland. His music is part of a larger project within Folkways: recording the artistic expression of those interned during the Holocaust.
From the Cold Jaws of Prison
The shadowy, outstretched hands in the photograph embody what the liner notes characterize as "a cry of a people for justice and human dignity." This recording was issued in 1971, the year that prisoners at Attica State Prison in New York held a four-day revolt against overcrowding, racism, and inhumane living conditions. The revolt ended when over one thousand state troopers and National Guardsmen stormed the facility, resulting in over forty deaths.
The Bottom Line
Loosely sketched, cubist-inspired images of musicians merge with the page of a musical score, conveying the sense of playful confusion and irreverence of musicians of the comedy revue. The Labor Theatre (TLT) of New York City, performing mainly in union halls and community auditoriums, "takes the side of working people and presents that view to the world at large" (liner notes).
Yankee Go Home
Related to graffiti art, the simple cover design, with a message scrawled in chalk, effectively underlines the anti-imperialist stance of Bob Connelly's songs through the use of this compelling, democratic form of visual communication.
Watergate, Vol. 1
Through the use of a broken faceting of the building's facade, this series of album covers vividly and literally illustrates the public's "shattered" faith in the White House in the wake of the Watergate hearings. Colour and typography provide variation within the otherwise consistent layout of the series.