She sang with Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, co-wrote the Kingston Trio hit "M.T.A." and spent a lifetime documenting American folklore in recordings and films—Bess Lomax Hawes has died at age 88.

 

 

Hawes, who was the daughter of legendary folk musicologist John Lomax, grew up helping her father collect and transcribe field recordings of folk musicians for the Library of Congress in the 1920s and ’30s.

In the 1940s, she had joined Guthrie, Seeger, her husband, Butch Hawes, and others in a popular, if loose-knit, folk group called the Almanac Singers that Seeger has since joked never bothered to rehearse until it got onstage. Her brother, musicologist Alan Lomax, had made some of Guthrie’s earliest recordings.

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Photo courtesy University of Illinois Press

In 1949, she co-wrote (with musician Jacqualine Steiner) the enduring folk standard, “Charlie On The M.T.A.” Lifting melodies from “The Ship That Never Returned” and “Wreck of the Old 97,” and song speaks of "poor old Charlie" and his blight to get off a Boston subway. During the folk renaissance of the ’60s, it became a top 15 hit for the Kingston Trio, who altered the lyrics slightly to make them less political. Here it is for your listening enjoyment:

 

Originally posted 2009-12-01 20:21:13.