James Durst, troubadour and founding member of the Weavers tribute group Work o’ the Weavers, talks about the background of Solomon Linda’s ‘Mbube’ (recorded & performed by The Weavers as ‘Wimoweh’) and performs the song during a panel discussion at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, March 16, 2007. Pete was in the audience and James shared the panel with Pete’s nephew, UCLA ethnomusicologist Dr. Anthony Seeger and Pete’s half-brother, legendary traditional folk musician Mike Seeger.
After 37 years, in October of 2011 I returned briefly to Vietnam to honor my friend Pham Duy on the occasion of his 91st birthday. Even though Pham Duy was born October 5, 1921, the Vietnamese begin counting “one” at birth. He is that nation’s ‘Pete Seeger/Woody Guthrie’, singer/composer of poems, operas, symphonies and thousands of songs, and we had toured together throughout South Vietnam in the spring of 1974 at the invitation of the US Information Service. Our friendship led to a collaboration where each of us translated ten of the other’s songs into our own language and then published together a bi-lingual song book, Songs/Ca Khuc, under the auspices of the Vietnamese American Association. Someone at the party had actually found a copy at a used book store. I’ve recorded several of these translations and used two in my musical, Hue Manatee’s Quest. The distinguished red-jacketed gentleman seen briefly in the front row is Pham Duy. After living 30 years with his family in Southern California, he returned to Saigon in 2005 to live out his days. Together with his two oldest sons, Quang and Cuong — also respected musicians in their own right, he continues to fill the air — and our hearts — with wonderful music. –James
(UPDATE 5/13) Renowned poet/composer Pham Duy passed from this life in January, 2013. His eldest son, singer/entrepreneur Duy Quang preceded him in death in December 2012.