NEW YORK — I think it’s likely that for at least some attendees, history was re-written at Richard Barone’s “Music + Revolution: Greenwich Village in the 1960s” concert at Central Park SummerStage, Aug. 12.
When most people think of Greenwich Village in the ’60s, they think of earnest young men and women strumming acoustic guitars. As he did on his 2016 covers album, though — Sorrows & Promises: Greenwich Village in the 1960s — Barone, the three-hour concert’s organizer and musical director, created a broader picture of a time and place in musical history.
And so, the Bob Dylan Songbook provided the rowdy rocker “From a Buick 6” (sung by Jeffrey Gaines) in addition to the poetic “Chimes of Freedom” (performed by Pete and Maura Kennedy) and two anti-war anthems (“License to Kill” and “Masters of War,” both sung by Maria Muldaur). Lou Reed, not a folkie by anyone’s definition, was represented by three of his Velvet Underground songs: “Femme Fatale” (sung by Cindy Lee Berryhill and Syd Straw), “I’m Waiting for the Man” (with journalist Anthony DeCurtis turning in an impressively commanding lead vocal) and “All Tomorrow’s Parties” (with Tammy Faye Starlite not just singing Nico’s lead vocals, but impersonating the haughty, indifferent chanteuse).
Before Barone and Marshall Crenshaw sang Buddy Holly’s “Learning the Game,” Barone reminded us that Holly wrote it while living in the Village. And Phil Ochs was honored by both a heartfelt, solo electric version of his “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” protest song (by Crenshaw) and a jazz-cabaret reinvention of his reflective “When I’m Gone” by David Amram; both were captivating, but in very different ways.
Both John Sebastian and José Feliciano mentioned that though they were active in Greenwich Village clubs, they didn’t really fit in, musically. And Sebastian and Muldaur evoked the scene’s interest in traditional Americana with a lovely, casually masterful collaboration on Mississippi John Hurt’s “Richland Woman Blues.”
As you’ve probably figured out already, this was a very special, once-in-a-lifetime gathering of influential singer-songwriters, and those who have followed in the path they helped create. Reflecting the loose, cooperative spirit of the time being honored, featured artists cheerfully backed each other up, from time to time, underneath vintage black and white photos of the artists, and the nightclubs, of ’60s Greenwich Village.
In addition to the artists mentioned above, Melanie and Jesse Colin Young presented mini-sets, and Young led everyone through the final song: The uplifting hit by his ’60s band The Youngbloods, “Get Together.” Also representing the old guard, Happy Traum sang Tom Paxton’s “Ramblin’ Boy.”
Some of the younger performers shined a light on some lesser known songwriting geniuses of the era. Nellie McKay, for instance, performed two songs by Richard and Mimi Fariña, and Jenni Muldaur tackled Fred Neil’s torchy “Little Bit of Rain.” Barone paid tribute to Tim Hardin with “Don’t Make Promises” (also featuring Amram and Elvis Perkins).
Still, this evening was more about the era’s survivors gathering together and basking in mutual admiration, and the audience’s love: Melanie still singing staunchly soulful anthems; Sebastian, though a bit ragged vocally, playing expert licks on several instruments; Amram, at 87, still capable of playing circles around virtually everyone else. Feliciano was warm and funny between songs; his guitar riffs were still crisp, and his voice boomed. He also flirted playfully with Melanie (as did Sebastian, with Muldaur).
Most artists stayed true to the songs’ original lyrics, though there were a few notable exceptions. The Kennedys pointedly changed the phrase “inside a jail” (from “Chimes of Freedom”) to “inside a cage.” Muldaur rewrote the final verse of “Masters of War” to make it more hopeful and less angry, as she did, with Dylan’s permission, on her 2008 album Yes We Can.
Adding to the magic of the evening, the weather stayed cool and dry on a weekend that was otherwise soggy and uncomfortably humid. And so, one of New York’s leading concert venues was full, as it rarely is, of people listening to songs written by people like Paxton and Ochs and Hardin and Eric Andersen. As Barone said, early on, this show was “an evening of songs that brought people together, then — and now, too.”
Here is the setlist, with the original performer (if different than the artist who performed the song at the concert) in parentheses:
“Summer in the City” (The Lovin’ Spoonful), John Sebastian
“Learning the Game” (Buddy Holly), Marshall Crenshaw and Richard Barone
“The Road I’m On (Gloria)” (Dion), Richard Barone
“Ramblin’ Boy” (Tom Paxton), Happy Traum
“Chimes of Freedom” (Bob Dylan), The Kennedys
“Close the Door Lightly When You Go” (Eric Andersen), Steve Addabbo
“I Ain’t Marching Anymore” (Phil Ochs), Marshall Crenshaw
“Don’t Make Promises” (Tim Hardin), Richard Barone, Elvis Perkins and David Amram
“When I’m Gone” (Phil Ochs), David Amram
“Femme Fatale” (The Velvet Underground and Nico), Cindy Lee Berryhill and Syd Straw
“Bold Marauder” (Richard and Mimi Fariña), Nellie McKay
“House Un-American Blues Activity Dream (Richard and Mimi Fariña), Nellie McKay
“Little Bit of Rain” (Fred Neil), Jenni Muldaur
“From a Buick 6” (Bob Dylan), Jeffrey Gaines
“I’m Waiting for the Man” (The Velvet Underground), Anthony DeCurtis
“All Tomorrow’s Parties” (The Velvet Underground and Nico), Tammy Faye Starlite (as Nico)
“License to Kill” (Bob Dylan), Maria and Jenni Muldaur
“Masters of War” (Bob Dylan), Maria Muldaur
“Richland Woman Blues” (Mississippi John Hurt), Maria Muldaur and John Sebastian
“Peace Will Come (According to Plan),” Melanie
“What Have They Done to My Song Ma,” Melanie
“Lay Down (Candles in the Rain),” Melanie
“Ain’t No Sunshine” (Bill Withers), José Feliciano
“In My Life” (The Beatles), José Feliciano
“Light My Fire” (The Doors), José Feliciano
“Four in the Morning,” Jesse Colin Young
“Sunlight” (The Youngbloods), Jesse Colin Young
“Darkness, Darkness” (The Youngbloods), Jesse Colin Young
“Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?” (The Lovin’ Spoonful), John Sebastian
“Do You Believe in Magic” (The Lovin’ Spoonful), John Sebastian
“Get Together” (The Youngbloods), Jesse Colin Young and Ensemble
And here are some videos: