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Fred Hellerman (1927 - 2016)

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Fred Hellerman (1927 - 2016)

Fred Hellerman, a folk singer and the last surviving member of the Weavers, died Sept. 1, 2016, at his home in Connecticut, according to multiple news sources. He was 89.

Hellerman had long been in declining health, his son, Caleb, told The Connecticut Post.

The Weavers, consisting of Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert, and Hellerman, were leaders of an American folk music revival in the mid-20th century. Formed in 1948 and based in New York City, they recorded popular versions of songs such as “Goodnight, Irene,” “On Top of Old Smokey,” “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” and “Rock Island Line.”

Their music was tied closely to their political beliefs. After Seeger and Hays had been identified as Communist Party members, the group was blacklisted and denied radio airplay, and their recording contract was terminated. They disbanded temporarily in 1952 but reunited to play a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall in 1955. A recording of this concert was released as the album, “The Weavers at Carnegie Hall” in 1957. They would reunite periodically until Hays’ death in 1981.


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Hellerman was born May 13, 1927, in Brooklyn, New York. He was a singer, guitarist, and songwriter.

After the Weavers disbanded, Hellerman worked actively with other musicians. He played guitar on Joan Baez’s debut album in 1960, and he produced Arlo Guthrie’s debut album, “Alice’s Restaurant,” in 1967. The success of that album enabled Hellerman to buy the house in which he died, according to his son.

Hellerman is survived by his wife, Susan Lardner, sons Caleb and Simeon, and three grandchildren.

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