I'm paying tribute this month to a single album, one that I consider a landmark album for our culture. It was released in 1979 and was called "Walls To Roses: Songs of Changing Men." It is important because not only was it the first various artists album including both gay and straight men, but for the focus of the album: to support the struggle against sexism and to strive for a more positive vision of masculinity.
The album was conceived and produced by folk artist Willie Sordillo, and the Walls To Roses Collective, as it came to be called, met just over 30 years ago, for four days beginning on August 12, 1978, for the process of selecting the music, rehearsing, arranging, recording, and holding a concert. A byproduct was learning from each other and the collective process. This show will be in three parts. The main part, for radio, covers all the bases, including music, interviews with three of the artists, and historic interview clips from that weekend. The other two parts are expanded interviews. For the interview with Willie Sordillo, it contained just much too much, in the way of thoughtful and interesting comments, that did not fit into the first show. It would be a shame not to share it all. And for Charlie Murphy, WTR was only his first recording, so I took this opportunity to explore all of his music career.
I always love it when during the presentation of interviews in my shows that, in addition to an artist giving his or her story and the story of their music, that they also open a window into a particular time in our culture a time that may now be forgotten. I feel that happens on this show, giving a look at the efforts begun in the early 70's for men to question sexism and the role and definition of masculinity. I encourage you to assure you listen to the supplemental interviews (especially Willie Sordillo's) to dig into this area. As I joked to Willie during the interview, many people would be surprised that there even was a Men's Movement, with the response, yes, gee, isn't the whole world a Men's Movement? But men did question all of this, and still do. The National Organization of Men Against Sexism, just held its 33rd Conference on Men & Masculinity last month. I am glad to, as I said, open a window to some of the early workings of those efforts, and to share with you its music and message.
Part 1 - 57:49
Part 2 - 61:01
Part 3 - 59:26
A few years ago the Smithsonian Institute acquired the entire catalog of Folkways Records, and here's the incredible part, you can order from them on CD every Folkways record every released, including all five gay/lesbian recordings ("Gay & Straight Together," 2 by Michael Cohen, 1 by Kathy Fire)
Above, artists heard in Part 1; below, pass cursor over image for the names
The heart & soul of WTR,
with only a few missing: Jeff Langley, Geof Morgan,
Gay Spirit - written &
sung by Charlie Murphy
and, throughout the recording, the artists/musicians sang and played on each other's songs
I am grateful to Eric Gordon, for producing the 1978 radio special "The Making of Walls to Roses," as the sound clips he gathered during that weekend are an invaluable look at the "Walls to Roses" process. And I thank the Pacifica Archives for providing me with a copy of, and permission to use, parts of the broadcast on this program.
Photo credits for the original
booklet belong to Ellen Shub, find her at www.EllenShub.com
Note: I don't often "pat myself on the back" by sharing the comments from the folks I've featured, but I was bowled over by those from Willie Sordillo. Putting together this month's show was a true labor of love.
Posted by his partner Eric Mulholland.
am very sad, regarding the passing yesterday of Charlie Murphy. He did
much in his long music career, including the inspiring work of his band
Rumors of the Big Wave ("Burning Times"). But to me I will
honor most his role in the landmark 1979 album "Walls to Roses."
It was important because not only was it the first various artists album
including both gay and straight men, but for the focus of the album:
to support the struggle against sexism and to strive for a more positive
vision of masculinity. And his song "Gay Spirit" was very
important and inspirational to me.