A really fine article on Lee Hays, singer and songwriter, a favorite of mine from The Weavers. The People’s Singer
At the end of 1955, the Weavers held a reunion. Their manager beat the blacklist by renting Carnegie Hall for a nameless quartet and then selling it out before anyone could complain. Their opening number was â€œDarling Corey.â€ If youâ€™ve ever wondered what the Left once was in America â€” the Old Left that organized American labor and did FDRâ€™s heavy lifting and fought fascists in Spain in 1936 and in Peekskill in 1949 â€” listen to â€œDarling Coreyâ€ as the Weavers sang it in 1955. Itâ€™s a ghost, a memory even then, but still itâ€™s more thrilling than anything that played on the radio that year â€” or last year, for that matter â€” a punk battle hymn for four voices. Pete tears it open with a single note, spitting bullets out of his long-necked banjo. He was mad and proud and bitter, playing for the fallen and the falling, for Leadbelly and Woody â€” who was two-thirds gone now, dying of Huntingtonâ€™s Disease in Brooklyn â€” and for the Weavers themselves. It was a new sound for Pete, Woodyâ€™s sound. Not the jokes, but the anger. The difference between Pete and Woody could be seen on their instruments. In a neat circle bordering his banjo, Pete wrote, this machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender. Across the hips of his guitar, Woody scrawled, this machine kills fascists. That night in 1955, Pete turned his banjo into Woodyâ€™s old killing machine. The first spray of notes is followed by a plummeting spiral like a man stepping â€” leaping â€” off a cliff. Enter four voices: Wake up, wake up, darling Corey!