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Oscar Brand (1920 - 2016)

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Oscar Brand (1920 - 2016)

Oscar Brand, a Canadian folk singer and radio host, died Friday, Sept. 30, 2016, of pneumonia at his home in Great Neck, New York, according to The New York Times. He was 96.

For more than 70 years, Brand hosted “Folksong Festival” every Saturday night on New York Public Radio. Beginning in 1945, the show’s guests included practically every star of the folk music scene, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Woody Guthrie, Joni Mitchell, Pete Seeger, the Weavers, and Peter, Paul & Mary. The show was certified by Guinness World Records as the longest-running radio show. Brand never received any compensation for the program.

In 1995, he won a Peabody Award for his work bringing folk music to fans around the world.

As a performer, he released nearly 100 albums with a style that was noted for enthusiasm and authenticity. He recorded hundreds of original songs as well as traditional folk songs. He had a particular affinity for comedic songs, from the bawdy to the nonsensical. He also recorded albums for children, collections of patriotic tunes, and songs of historical significance, like “Presidential Campaign Songs: 1789-1996.”

As a songwriter, he had success when Doris Day’s version of his song “A Guy Is a Guy” reached the top of the Billboard chart in 1952. He was also an author of books about folk music.

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Born Feb. 7, 1920, near Winnipeg, Manitoba, he eventually moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York, where he graduated from high school. He graduated from Brooklyn College with a degree in psychology and served in the U.S. Army in the psychology section during World War II.

Interested in music from a young age, he moved to New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood and became part of the burgeoning folk music scene after the war.

“The Village was a little fortress of talented people at war with the world. It was a busy little village,” he told The Villager in 2007, “Everyone was working on a play, a painting, sculpture, or a new book.”

Brand helped co-found the Newport Folk Festival in 1959, and served as a board member of the Children’s Television Workshop during the 1960s, participating in the development of “Sesame Street.”

He leaves his wife, Karen; four children; and nine grandchildren.

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