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Tony Saletan

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Birth name  Anthony D. Saletan
Role  Singer
Name  Tony Saletan

Years active  1955–present
Genres  American folk music
Tony Saletan wgbhalumniorgwpcontentassetswgbhalumniimage
Born  June 29, 1931 (age 84) New York City, New York (1931-06-29)
Occupation(s)  Musician, singer, folk dance caller/leader
Record labels  Folk-Legacy Records, Prestige Records
Associated acts  Pete Seeger, Peggy Seeger, Joe Hickerson

Instruments  Vocals, guitar, banjo

Let s all sing with tony saletan

Anthony D. "Tony" Saletan is an American folk singer and educator, who is responsible for the modern rediscovery of two of the genre's best-known songs, Michael Row the Boat Ashore and Kumbaya. Born and raised in New York City, he attended the Walden School and received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Harvard University. For a brief period during his childhood, Saletan's piano teacher was a young Leonard Bernstein. He was involved as a teen in the Henry Wallace presidential campaign of 1948, in which original music in the folk style was important. Saletan settled in the Boston area, where for several years he appeared on educational television (WGBH), taught music in the Newton, Massachusetts public schools and gave private guitar lessons. He also became involved in folk dancing and calling of contra dances. Saletan has often taught at Pinewoods Camp, in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Later in life, Saletan moved to Tacoma, Washington.


Shaker Village Work Camp

In 1954, Tony Saletan had been working as folksong leader at the Shaker Village Work Camp, and was searching the Widener Library of Harvard University for material to teach the Villagers that summer. He adapted the song Michael Row the Boat Ashore from the 1867 songbook Slave Songs of the United States to create the version that's well-known today. "I judged that the tune was very singable, added some harmony (a guitar accompaniment) and thought the one-word chorus would be an easy hit with the teens (it was). But a typical original verse consisted of one line repeated once, and I thought a rhyme would be more interesting to the teenagers at Shaker Village Work Camp, where I introduced it. So I adapted traditional African-American couplets in place of the original verses." He also spent the summer of 1953 at Buck's Rock Work Camp leading the campers in regular folk song sessions throughout the Summer.

That summer, Saletan taught Michael Row the Boat Ashore to Pete Seeger, who later sang it with the Weavers, one of the most important singing groups leading the American folk music revival of the 1950s to mid-1960s. Saletan's adaptation was included in the Village's 1956 songbook, Songs of Work. A single based on Saletan's version was released in 1960 by the American folk quintet the Highwaymen under the abbreviated title, Michael, and reached #1 on the U.S. and British hit parades in September 1961. Joe Hickerson, co-founder of the Folksmiths, credits Saletan for introducing him to the song Kumbaya in 1957 (Saletan had learned it from Lynn Rohrbough, co-proprietor with his wife Katherine of the camp songbook publisher Cooperative Recreation Service). The first LP recording of Kumbaya was released in 1958 by the Folksmiths. Folksinger Peggy Seeger was also taught several songs by Saletan, which she later recorded.

Television and recording career

Following a 1959-1960 world tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department, Saletan released the album I'm a Stranger Here on Prestige Records (1961 or 1962). During their marriage, Saletan and Irene Kossoy (formerly and subsequently of the Kossoy Sisters) performed together as Tony and Irene Saletan. In 1970, they released an album, Tony and Irene Saletan: Folk Songs and Ballads on Folk-Legacy Records. Tony and Irene performed together at the Fox Hollow Folk Festival in 1971, as well as with Irene's sister, Ellen, and Ellen's then husband, Robin Christenson. Saletan hosted a public television series for children, Let's All Sing with Tony Saletan, with an associated album mostly drawn from American folksongs, including those discovered and developed for teaching young Shaker Villagers. The first album to emerge from the show, Song Bag with Tony Saletan, likewise had an associated teacher's guide and songbook. Saletan also recorded Songs and Sounds of the Sea (National Geographic Society 1973), Revolutionary Tea (with the Yankee Tunesmiths, Old North Bridge Records 1975), and George & Ruth (songs of the Spanish Civil War, Educational Alternatives 2004).


  • I'm a Stranger Here (1961)
  • Folksongs & Ballads (with Irene Saletan) (1970)
  • Songs and Sounds of the Sea (1973)
  • Song Bag with Tony Saletan (1974)
  • Revolutionary Tea (1975)
  • Let's All Sing with Tony Saletan (1976) Episode available for viewing now on YOUTUBE
  • George & Ruth (2004)
  • References

    Tony Saletan Wikipedia

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