Available for your fund raising functions or educational/historical entertainment:
MICHAEL J. COHEN, Ph.D.
Traditional Song, Organic Musician. Facilitator of Monday Night Organic Contra Dances. Free. Every Monday Night, San Juan Island Grange Hall, Friday Harbor, WA 98250.
Founder and Director of Project NatureConnect, School of Applied Ecopsychology/Organic Psychology.
Traditional songs and ballads of courting and complaining, hero’s, hard cases and fools.
“Thanks so much, you just made my day!” said the grinning visitor at the San Juan National Historical “Pig War” Park. She expressed her delight to Mike Cohen, a volunteer interpreter there who sings old time songs of the period accompanied on the 5-string banjo.
The woman had just selected this question from Cohen’s published Antique Song Menu: “Do pigs have any pride with regard to alcoholism?” Mike’s rendition of the ditty provided an answer to the question and some big laughs. For the next question she selected, Mike responded with a dramatic ballad that conveyed this country’s sentiment during the American Revolution.
Most of us forget that before electricity was available, rural America was like a local folk opera written and directed by nobody. It just happened. Either you helped make music or you had none until performers arrived. Intimate, heart-felt, folk tunes, songs and poems punctuated rural life. They served as yesterday’s newspaper, talk show and morality story.
Mike’s museum quality musical antiques celebrate the history, quirks and values found in rare folk songs. A lifetime friend of old time music, Mike, a veteran performer and collector, plays the 5-string banjo, guitar and button accordion. The Smithsonian Institute credits him with being a catalyst for the 1950’s NYC folk music revival where he professionally and informally sang and recorded with well known folk artists.
This folk artist’s repertoire of over 200 delightful songs results from his musical family (including brother John Cohen, of the New Lost City Ramblers,) contact with many traditional singers in outdoor settings, and from Oscar Brand’s Folk Song Festival broadcasts on NYC public radio where Mike sang and played for years as part of Electra Record’s Shantyboy folk trio in 1956-59.
Mike has had two song collections published and has enjoyed performing since he was encouraged to by Burl Ives in 1940. A San Juan Island resident, his music is sought at local contra dances, the County Fair, George Picketthistorical programs, period reenactments, elderhostel and coffee houses and the Sugar on the Floor folk group. He often lines out words and tunes so that audiences can join in the fun. He also has written a fascinating article about his adventures with root music and nature.
Mike’s “Menu of Antique Songs“ contains questions from events described in the musical gems in his repetoire. Audience members select a question of interest and he sings a song that answers it. His programs capture three centuries of unheralded frontier memoirs that listeners relive with pleasure and increased respect.
In his professional life, Dr. Mike is an Ecopsychologist who directs nature-psychology distance learning courses and degree programs on the internet for the Institute of Global Education and Portland State, Akamai and West Coast Universities. Some of his published material and song programs center around this topic.
Folk Song Antiques: Pig War Period and the George Pickett stage show
Farm Songs and their Stories
Michael J. Cohen
With 5-string banjo, guitar, and button accordion
60 minutes…by donation.
A collection of 21 museum quality antique songs and tunes used in
San Juan Island National Historical Park interpretive programs to depict
homemade rural music 1850-75.
Questions these old songs raise and answer:
1. How do young folks foolishly agonize?
2. Where did his love wear skins and rags?
3. Who became a winner as he lost a war?
4. How can the sex of a baby make a man quit sailing?
5. What Celtic fiddle tune caused feet to fly?
6. What harmless “crime” caused a mother great pain?
7. How did killing buffalo weirdly kill him?
8. What made her darling look so queer?
9. Who on the river makes the valleys ring?
10. What gleams like blue gentian on the shieling?
- How can you make no mean yes?
2. How do you resolve an insult to the Irish?
3. Who was vital to the success of the Union Army?
4. What was the most popular dance and tune?
5. What must you do before crossing over the plains?
6. What war resulted from insulting Rogers?
7. Where do you make a great haul while sailing?
8. What made Lucy weep her poor life’s heart away?
9. Who didn’t give a damn about the Constitution?
10. Why does a woman 2 feet tall make a good wife?
11. How could his penmanship win him true love?
12. Where did the pretty maiden chew tobacco?
Menu of Antique Songs, admission free, donation to cooperating local community organizations requested. 1.360.378.6313 (Mike) Call or write for summer schedule.
By appointment at the American or English Camp Visitors Center, San Juan Island, WA. For information/confirmation call