James in Ho Chi Minh City to Honor Pham Duy, 2011 (VIDEO)

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.

One comment

  1. John Fontaine says:

    James, we just got home from you outstanding concert in Fort Myers. It would have been fun to talk with you especially about your time in Vietnam and relationship with Pham Duy. My wife, Jackie, is Vietnamese and we travel there almost yearly. I am a would-be Dan Bau player and am familiar with the work of Pham Duy. My music teacher, who lives in HCMC, is Nguyen Vinh Bao, who you may know. He is 93+ and still teaching via the internet.

    Thanks for a great concert. Hope to see you again next year.

    John Fontaine
    Jackie Posey (Mai Loan)

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