Newsletter Archive

Friendship--A Creative Force

I've been thinking a lot about friendship, and what it has to do with folk music.

For musicians, friendship is a huge creative and productive force in our lives.

And not just for musicians.  I just finished reading "Bowling Alone," by Robert Putnam.    The author argues that social capital, which is a social science-y term for the combined webs of social relationships each one of us weaves, is central not just to creative careers, but to the stability and productivity of society as a whole.  More face-to-face social activities means greater social capital:  more people who we know, trust, and can turn to for expertise, support, and counsel on big and small matters in life.

Putnam correlates a high degree of social capital with greater economic prosperity, better health, safer neighborhoods, higher educational achievement, and a well-functioning political system.

I'd also add--though I can't prove--that it's correlated with greater creativity, musical / artistic and otherwise.
Musicians' careers are built on social capital.  None of us would get anywhere without lots of people expressing support and care--not just for our music, but for us personally as well.  And creatively, most of us would improve very little without interacting with our musician friends, picking up musical tips, sharing ideas and knowledge.
Folk music is special in that friendships form between everyone involved in it--musicians, audience, presenters, radio DJs, journalists--and help keep it running.  Unlike other genres (where money and status often divide people), everyone's basically got the common goal of supporting the music, and it makes for an incredibly rich creative environment for performers to operate.

Friendship is front and center, the herald, midwife, and protector of our music, and the people who make it and enjoy it.  Thanks to all of you, my friends.  Here's to friendship, and the good it does in our world.

Pick up a copy of "Bowling Alone," and let me know what you think. Also check out what other books I'm reading and what other musicians I recommend. Let's make some more social capital together.


Robert D. Putnam, "Bowling Alone:  The Collapse and Revival of American Community."
buy the book

      Ears and Eyes (what I'm listening to and reading )

•-- Music

  • Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama, "Live at the Apollo."
Listen and buy the cd:

  • John Jackson, "Front Porch Blues."
Listen and buy the cd:

•-- Books

  • Os Guinness, "The Dust of Death:  The Sixties Counterculture and How It Changed America Forever."
buy the book:  
Thought-provoking and substantial, from a perspective very different from my own.

  • Steve Kowit, "In the Palm of Your Hand:  A Lively and Illuminating Guide for the Practicing Poet."
buy the book: