Plagues and Pandemics: A Musical Tradition – A Special ‘In Conversation’ Fundraiser for the Arts Council of Princeton- $15 ACP Members; $20 Non-Members
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Join John Weingart and Sean Wilentz for a listening tour and lively discussion of a unique musical tradition: the Plague Ballad.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 contagion, numerous musical artists, from Alicia Keys to the Rolling Stones, have composed new songs fitting the times. But there is nothing new about popular music concerning plagues, epidemics, and contagions. Going back at least as far as the Black Death of the 14th century, a tradition of plague songs, in which musicians, high and low, have tried to render the sudden mass crisis of life and death. From across the centuries, those songs, far from depressing, touch us with a recognition of connections to a sometimes distant past — a recognition at once shocking, comforting, and uncanny — from the ballads of Boccaccio’s characters in The Decameron to the blues of Blind Willie Johnson and Memphis Minnie to the rock of Lou Reed.
Please join us for this special fundraising edition of our popular In Conversation series. John Weingart and Professor Sean Wilentz will play and discuss some of their favorite songs of despair and perseverance, take questions from the audience, and open up a conversation that will help us all face the continuing emergency.
To join, please consider a donation to support our community arts programming. As a thank you, we’ll send you a specially curated Plague Playlist, and enter you into a raffle to win a copy of The Rose and the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in the American Ballad, edited by Sean Wilentz and Greil Marcus, along with the book’s accompanying CD featuring 20 American folk ballads, performed by Dolly Parton, Bruce Springsteen, and Mississippi John Hurt, and Bob Dylan.
John Weingart, Associate Director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers, has since 1974 hosted the legendary program, “Music You Can’t Hear on the Radio,” one of the nation’s foremost eclectic folk music broadcasts, Sunday evenings from 5 to 8 on WPRB.
Sean Wilentz, George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History at Princeton, is the author of, among other works, the New York Times and national bestseller, Bob Dylan in America. He co-edited The Rose and the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in the American Ballad, with author Greil Marcus.