Alan Lomax Quotes

Alan Lomax (/?lo?mæks/; January 31, 1915 – July 19, 2002) was an American ethnomusicologist, best known for his numerous field recordings of folk music of the 20th century. He was also a musician himself, as well as a folklorist, archivist, writer, scholar, political activist, oral historian, and film-maker. Lomax produced recordings, concerts, and radio shows in the US and in England, which played an important role in preserving folk music traditions in both countries, and helped start both the American and British folk revivals of the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s. He collected material first with his father, folklorist and collector John A. Lomax, and later alone and with others, Lomax recorded thousands of songs and interviews for the Archive of American Folk Song, of which he was the director, at the Library of Congress on aluminum and acetate discs

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Alan Lomax


I knew Bobby Dylan back in the days when he lived in the village. He used to come and see me and sing songs for me, saying they ought to go into my next collected book on American folk music.

Alan Lomax


Folk Music is the map of singing.

Alan Lomax


People were saying that Southern folk song was dead, that the land that had produced American jazz, the blues, the spirituals, the mountain ballads and the work songs had gone sterile.

Alan Lomax


“My father and I met Lead Belly in the Angola Penitentiary in 1933. We came there looking for the roots of American black song, and we certainly found them with Lead Belly.”

Alan Lomax


“And the thing that I always tried to do with important singers when I met them was to sit down and record everything they knew, give them a first real run-through of their art.”

Alan Lomax


“You could hear him, literally, half a mile away when he opened up. He was at his peak then. He was, naturally, dying to get out of the place he was in, and he recorded for us his appeal for pardon to the governor.”

Alan Lomax


“The British ballads became a new kind of form in their hand. And out of them came the blues, a new kind of song of commentary and satire, a song form which, after all, has become the main musical form of the whole human species.”

Alan Lomax


“We went over Lead Belly's repertory with him. And we helped him round it off into concert form so that when he got up in front of his audience, he sang ballads and work songs and lullabies and children's games and square-dance tunes, the whole thing.”

Alan Lomax


We now have cultural machines so powerful that one singer can reach everybody in the world, and make all the other singers feel inferior because they're not like him. Once that gets started, he gets backed by so much cash and so much power that he becomes a monstrous invader from outer space, crushing the life out of all the other human possibilities. My life has been devoted to opposing that tendency.

Alan Lomax


The essence of America lies not in the headlined heroes...but in the everyday folks who live and die unknown, yet leave their dreams as legacies

Alan Lomax


The dimension of cultural equity needs to be added to the humane continuum of liberty, freedom of speech and religion, and social justice.

Alan Lomax


The modern computer with all its various gadgets and wonderful electronic facilities now makes it possible to preserve and reinvigorate all the cultural richness of mankind.

Alan Lomax


“He learned through the way that my father and I felt about his songs, his country songs, that they were great songs. And then he went out and sang them for the audiences that we found, and he found a tremendous reaction to that.”

Alan Lomax