Welcome to my music webpage!

My love of folk music began with my playing music with the Seeger family when I went to their summer camp in Vermont as a child. From there, I began to expand my repertoire, and added songs from Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Hank Williams, Kate Wolf and many others too numerous to name. After playing many venues New York, I relocated to the West Coast for several years and continued my passion for performing there. I recently moved back to my hometown of NYC, and am enjoying reconnecting with my folk roots here.

Thank you for visiting my page and I hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Abandoned (Carolina Pines)

This is a shot I took of the  Redman-Hirahira House in Watsonville, Ca was built by local architect, William Weeks in 1897 for James Redman, a sugar-beets farmer.

In the 1930's, a Japanese-American family, the Hirahira's, bought the house and the farmland surrounding it. During WWII, the Hirahira family vacated the house and lands when they were forcibly re-located to Manzanar detention camp located in a desolate spot on the Eastern side of the Sierras.

As many as 10 percent of the population of Watsonville, Ca where this house is located, were forcibly removed from their houses, businesses and friends and bused to various internment camps during WWII. It has stood empty in the fields between Highway 1 and Highway 152 in Watsonville since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake made it uninhabitable.

This is a shot I took of the memorial at Manzanar in 2009 on my cross-country road trip.

Only a few of the innocent Japanese-Americans who died  during their illegal internment at Manzanar during WWII remain in this lonely cemetery on the Eastern side of the Sierras.

From Wikepedia: "On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the Secretary of War to designate military commanders to prescribe military areas and to exclude “any or all persons” from such areas. The order also authorized the construction of what would later be called “relocation centers” by the War Relocation Authority (WRA) to house those who were to be excluded. This order resulted in the forced relocation of over 120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were native-born American citizens. The rest had been prevented from becoming citizens by federal law. Over 110,000 were imprisoned in the ten concentration camps located far inland and away from the coast. Manzanar was the first of the ten concentration camps to be established"

The Manzanar cemetery site is marked by a monument that was built by prisoner stonemason Ryozo Kado in 1943. The characters on this monument are translated to mean "Soul-Consoling Tower" .

There are many places across the USA that are desolate and abandoned...this song sung by me and written by Kate Wolf, captures the feeling a continent away:

Carolina Pines

Saturday, May 9, 2015


When you wander through the Salinas Valley today, if you go down a certain back highway, you will pass these gigantic wooden figures of happy farm workers picking heads of lettuce while their boss watches them work on the side of the road. As you drive through mile after mile of farmlands, you can see actual farm workers looking not so very happy as they labor in the hot sun. Our fruits and vegetables are picked by Mexican immigrants (both legal and "illegal") in much the same manner as they did more than 60 years ago when Woody wrote Deportees. I took this shot a few years ago, when I still lived on the Central Coast of California.

Woody heard a report on the radio in 1948 about the plane crash carrying Mexican farm workers who were being deported back to Mexico by U.S. Immigration authorities,  and he wrote a timeless classic song about it. Recently, these nameless "deportees" were given names and a memorial nearby. For more, see the article here.

Here is a version I sang in honor of Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday at the last Woody Guthrie birthday bash at the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC in 2012.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Water is Wide (Traditional) (+playlist)

The Last Time I Saw Pete Seeger

We were all gathered in Hancock Vermont at Camp Killooleet for the John Seeger Memorial in the summer of 2010. It was a full day, that included the Seeger family making music (which is when I shot the picture posted below), an outdoor picnic, a campfire sing-along and mainly sharing remembrances of John and Ellie Seeger and our collective memories of this beautiful camp in Hancock Vermont that nurtured my love of folk music that has lasted my entire life. Pete was a fixture at the camp throughout my childhood there, along with the rest of the Seeger family, and they all instilled in me my love of sharing and swapping songs, and the sense of community that comes from raising our voices in song together.

Just a quiet moment with Pete Seeger in the main house at Camp Killooleet from that day in the summer of 2010…. Pete came in to get his famous banjo (with the writing “this machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender”) while I was looking around the room that hadn’t changed at all in the 44 years since I was last there as a camper. We talked about the books on the wall, that Pete said were there from when his brother John Seeger and his wife Ellie bought the camp in the 1940’s.

We got to talking. One thing led to another, as it often does with Pete, and he started to discuss one of the secrets to his longevity: he said he sleeps every night with his feet propped up by pillows, higher than his head, to keep the blood flowing to his heart. He told me he learned this from his father, Charles Seeger (musicologist and teacher), who Pete said had studied Yoga and practiced it well into his old age.

He then shared a humorous anecdote: He said that Charles Seeger practiced yoga every morning in the nude, upstairs at his home. One day, a young woman journalist who had been sent there to interview him got the shock of her life when she arrived a little earlier than expected and saw the aging Charles Seeger, doing a headstand in the nude!

We had a good laugh about this, and spoke of many other things in our moments together that day. He noticed my guitar case and knew who had made it for me. Encouraged me with my music as he always did, and then moved out to help set up for the memorial service for his older brother, John. When I strolled down to the lake, I was shocked and amused at the sight of then 90 year old Pete, picking up the long benches that the guests were to sit on, and moving them into place all by himself. But that was Pete!

The video clip above is from a performance I gave at a Folk Festival in 1994 of a traditional tune that I learned at Camp Killoleet. I am pretty sure that Tony Seeger, Pete's nephew and son of John Seeger, taught me the arrangement. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Circle Game

In 1968, I saw Joni Mitchell live for the first time. She was playing in the Village in NYC in a special concert that was put together shortly after Martin Luther King was assassinated. 1968 was going to be a horribly traumatic year, with the riots after King's murder and the assassination of Robert Kennedy only a few months after we lost Rev King. This was quickly followed by the police riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the election of  "tricky Dick" Nixon and his so-called "secret plan" to end the Vietnam War, which in reality meant escalation, the bombing of Cambodia and many more years of death destruction.  

But the night I saw Joni Mitchell in the village, we did not know the horror that was to come. Jimi Hendrix was on the bill with her, and I was front row center for both of them. Little did I know what I was in for. I learned how to tune to her turnings by watching her closely, and the chord formations for many of her early songs, including Circle Game in G tuning. Hendrix followed her amazing set, and it was shocking and exciting for me as a young teenager to watch him with no idea what to expect, as I had barely even heard of him at the time. He danced around the stage, made love to his guitar and the audience, and set fire to it when he was finished. I left the concert feeling both overwhelmed and exhilarated.

The clip of me singing Circle Game is from 1994 at a folk festival in the Santa Cruz mountains, where I was living at the time. Singing this song brings me back to those years long before I turned 20 (14 springs and 14 summers gone now...).

 I will never forget.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Waltz For You"

Another one of my favorites written by Sarah Elizabeth Campbell. When I sing this, I always think of being on the Eastern side of the Sierras, as the song says, "all alone, me and the stars", one magical night in the high desert when the Perseid showers seemed close enough to reach out and touch in the night sky.....

Friday, December 30, 2011

"Bristlecone Pine"

Methuselah Tree (11000 feet)

High in the White Mountains of California, above 10,000 feet, grow the oldest living trees on earth. Many of the ancient Bristlecone Pines here have lived more than 40 centuries. The Bristlecone Pines in this forest started as seedlings when the pyramids of Egypt were being built. They only grow in six states of the Western USA, and the oldest of them are in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest of the White Mountains of California, where this shot was taken of me when I visited.

These Bristlecone Pines thrive in the harshest of conditions in the highest altitudes, between 10,000 and 11,000 feet. These trees live longer than any other living tree in the world. Some of the downed wood, like what you see in this shot I took in the White Mountains of California, date back to the last ice age. The average age of these trees is 1,000 years old. But there are a few still living that have been around for over 4,000 years.

This is the Patriarch Grove, which is named after the oldest living tree that resides unmarked in this area. The "Methuselah" tree is somewhere in this grove at the White Mountains, and is over 4,767 years old. It is not marked due to fears of vandalism. The Methuselah Tree is the oldest living organism that is known and documented, with an estimated germination of 2832 BC.

They don't tell you exactly where it is when you visit these trees in the White Mountains. It's identity is a closely-guarded secret.

More here

I recorded a song about the Bristlecones, the live recording of "Bristlecone Pine" (from 2001). It was written by Hugh Prestwood) and is my only duet with a Raven who wanted to sing along...

Bristlecone Pine

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"There But For Fortune"

I had the privilege of organizing local moms and dads from Santa Cruz California for the Million Mom March in 2000. I met many families who had lost their children to gun violence. It was an incredibly moving experience that has stayed with me vividly.

The shot is from the Million Mom March in DC in 2000. It was the largest audience I had ever played for (over 100,00). In this shot of my performance in DC, I have a poster that is leaning against my legs with the faces of some of the local Santa Cruz Ca youths who had died from gun violence in the small Central Coast community where I was living in at the time. I was invited to perform a song that was originally penned by Phil Ochs, with updated lyrics by me.

Sadly, they still apply.

My brother Jon took this shot. It was the last time we were all together: my brother, my sister-in-law, my nephew, my mom and me.

"There But For Fortune" original words/music by Phil Ochs

updated lyrics written by Beth Kotkin

"Show me a playground, show me a park
Show me the classroom wall where the bullets made their mark
And I’ll show you a young child, with so many reasons why
There But For Fortune may go you or I

Show me a woman who leaves on the run
Show me an angry man who is grabbing for his gun
And I’ll show you a young wife with so many reasons why
There But For Fortune may go you or I

Show me a veteran who knows no one cares
Show me the trembling hands pull the trigger in despair
And I’ll show you a young man with so many reasons why
There But For Fortune may go you or I

Show me a country where guns are in style
Show me the families who have lost their dearest child
And I’ll show you some young lives with so many reasons why
There But For Fortune may go you or I"

The MP3 posted below is a studio version that was made with the help of many great musicians who donated their time to have this appear on the CD that was put out shortly after this event. Unfortunately, it never made the CD. I was bumped to allow Emmylou Harris contribute a song. That's show business folks!

But luckily I can share it with you here..... ( I want to thank Ray Frank for all his work on this project: this was his arrangement, and he rounded up all the musicians and the studio all of whom donated their time and creativity, including the wonderful Patrice Haan, on harmony vocals....)

There But For Fortune