Thursday, 17 March 2011

hall of dames #22 - malvina reynolds

singer, songwriter and activist Malvina Reynolds' most famous song, Little Boxes (made famous by the great Pete Seeger), recently enjoyed renewed popularity as the theme song for the showtime TV series Weeds - and thank goodness for that, 'cause that's how i first came across her music.

Malvina was born in San Francisco in 1900. she married a carpenter and labor organizer in 1934 -William "Bud" Reynolds- and the two had a child, Nancy Reynolds Schimmel, now a songwriter and performer herself. though refused her highschool diploma because of her parents' vocal opposition to World War I, Malvina went on to earn a doctorate in Romance Philology from Berkley in 1939, long before it was considered proper for women her age to return to school. it wasn't until her late 40s, after meeting Pete Seeger and other folk singers, that Malvina began writing songs in earnest. Malvina's songs have since been recorded by Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, the Seekers, Harry Belafonte and Elvis Costello, among others.

Malvina wrote songs for Women for Peace, the Nestle Boycott, the sit-ins in San Francisco on auto row and at the Sheraton-Palace, the fight against putting a freeway through Golden Gate Park and other causes. she wrote songs for children and contributed material to PBS's Sesame Street, on which she made occasional appearances as a character named Kate. when Malvina passed away in 1978, the world lost an extraordinary and inspirational human being, who lived as an example that it's never too late to discover and pursue your passions, that it's cool to be smart and to express your opinions and that blindly conforming to the status quo will only prevent you from truly becoming yourself. thank you Malvina!

if you'd like to know more about Malvina, check out her daughter's blog about writing her mother's biography.

this last one is a short song that you must listen to all the way to the end. the last verse makes me want to cry.

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