The music community has suffered several losses in the past several weeks. Alan Lomax (pictured), a musicologist who made thousands of recordings of traditional folk, blues and jazz musicians, died on July 19 in Sarasota, Fla.; he was 87. On July 13, jazz drummer Jerry Fuller died in his sleep in Toronto; he was 63. Edmund Anderson, a one-time stockbroker, producer and dear friend to Duke Ellington, died on June 29 at his home in Quogue, N.Y.; he was 89. Seymour Solomon, who co-founded Vanguard Records with his brother Maynard, died at his summer home in Lenox, Mass., on July 18; he was 80.
Born in Austin, Texas, in 1915, Alan Lomax began his career in his teens, accompanying his father through the South and West, dragging a 500-pound machine to record cowboys, plantation workers and prisoners. By the end of the 1930s, Lomax and his father had recorded more than 3,000 songs on 78-rpm discs. Over his career, Lomax’s interest in indigenous folk music would take him across the globe-from the south and west of the United States to the Caribbean, the Georgia Sea Islands, England, Spain and Italy. The Lomaxes recorded several musicians who would later become household names, including Woody Guthrie, Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter, Jelly Roll Morton, Muddy Waters and Son House.
Alan Lomax’s book The Land Where the Blues Began won the 1993 National Book Critics Circle award for nonfiction, and his 1938 interviews with Jelly Roll Morton spawned the off-Broadway show Jelly Roll and the book Mister Jelly Roll. In 1959 Lomax recorded a Mississippi prisoner, James Carter, singing the work song “Po’ Lazarus,” which became the opening track to the Grammy Award-winning soundtrack of O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Universal). In addition to his recording duties, Lomax was a radio host during the ’30s and ’40s, a research associate in Columbia University’s department of anthropology and Center for the Social Sciences, and worked on the Global Jukebox, a database of thousands of songs and dances cross-referenced with anthropological data.