Monday, June 12, 2017

Ron Israel: Bringing the art of Protest Songs to the Paris of New England

Ron Israel: Bringing the art of protest songs to the Paris of New England

By Doug Holder

I met singer/songwriter Ron Israel at the Bloc 11 Cafe in Union Square. Although I was unable to secure my usual seat in the back of the bustling cafe, I did manage to get a window seat in the front for our interview. Israel is a man of a certain age, with an elfin and inquisitve look about him. He proved to be contemplative and deliberative in our conversation.

Israel told me that he wanted to talk about an event he is organizing that will take place at the Somerville Arts Armory titled, “The Art of the Protest Song.” It will take place July 2, at 7PM. All the proceeds from the concert will go to the Mass. Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Center.

The performers will be Sarah Lee Guthrie, the granddaughter of Woody Guthrie, folksinger David Roth, noted poet and performer Regie Gibson, and the Clave &Blues Band—a jazz influenced Cuban group.

Israel has an interesting background. He identifies himself as a folksinger even though he feels the term may be antiquated. He revealed in an interview, “ I am fortunate to have had my music blessed by the many folks who attend my shows, and by a number of people I admire in the 'music business,' like the late Columbia Records producer John Hammond, Sr. , Richie Havens, Stephen Davis of Rolling Stone magazine, Susan Stamberg of National Public Radio, etc...

Israel has long been a practitioner of the Protest Song, which he considers an art—rather than just a rant about politics. He traces his influences back to Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Pete Seegar and others. He feels that there has long been a dormancy of politically-conscious music, but he feels it is reviving-- spurred on by the ascent of Donald Trump.

Israel's latest CD is titled, “ Homeless in America: Blues and Protest Songs in an Era of Trump.” Israel reflected on his latest release, “ I've been motivated by the divisive path that the new administration is taking.”

Although Israel has been involved in music for many years—he has been long involved in work that addresses the needs of developing nations. It is evident that Israel is someone who firmly believes that protest music can bring change and he is going to bring it back home to Somerville, Ma.

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