I Wonder as I Wander: The Life of John Jacob Niles

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This iconic song has been performed by folk artists ever since and may even have inspired the opening line of Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe. The Life of John Jacob Niles , the first full-length biography of Niles, Ron Pen offers a rich portrait of the musician's character and career. Using Niles's own accounts from his journals, notebooks, and unpublished autobiography, Pen tracks his rise from farm boy to songwriter and folk collector extraordinaire.

Niles was especially interested in documenting the voices of his fellow World War I soldiers, the people of Appalachia, and the spirituals of African Americans. In the s he collaborated with noted photographer Doris Ulmann during trips to Appalachia, where he transcribed, adapted, and arranged traditional songs and ballads such as "Pretty Polly" and "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair.


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Niles's dedication to the folk music tradition lives on in generations of folk revival artists such as Jean Ritchie, Joan Baez, and Oscar Brand. I Wonder as I Wander explores the origins and influences of the American folk music resurgence of the s and s, and finally tells the story of a man at the forefront of that movement. Read more Read less.

John Jacob Niles: “I Wonder As I Wander”

Prime Book Box for Kids. Review "A gracefully written biography of a performing artist, composer, and folklore collector who was a powerful cultural force in twentieth-century America.

University Press of Kentucky August 24, Language: Related Video Shorts 0 Upload your video. Try the Kindle edition and experience these great reading features: Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. There was a problem filtering reviews right now.


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Please try again later. Kindle Edition Verified Purchase. I am perhaps not the most objective party here, but still I did want to weigh in on this book. This biography is very accurate if somewhat detailed almost to a fault.

There are things discussed in the book that I really did not know about. Never the less, it does very accurately cover some of the more interesting parts of my father's life. Pen's clears this up and by using clear documentation--much of which is public record--the matter is put to rest. I think you should find the book informative and entertaining. This book traces the life of an American original from his youth in Louisville, through his life as a veteran of WWI, collector and performer of traditional folk songs, savior of songs which would have been lost without his research and his family.

I Wonder as I Wander - Wikipedia

John Jacob Niles was a renaisance man who could build his own instruments, and furniture and grow his own food. Equally at home on his tractor at his Kentucky home and white tie and tails in New York, Niles married a white Russian and they raised two very sucessful sons. This is the lost American story. Marking a lifelong trend, he was not content to notate and imitate what he heard. Instead, he adapted the folk idiom to compose original songs.

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He returned to folk music in the s, teaming up on the concert stage with Marion Kerby and presenting interpretations of American folksong before a trans-Atlantic audience in ways that brought him more financial than personal satisfaction. Niles created a more fulfilling partnership with the photographer Doris Ullman, and their work in the Appalachian mountains had a particularly powerful influence on his style and repertoire. The growing professionalization of folklore and its standards for song-collecting made Niles an increasingly controversial [End Page 93] figure, but he impressed audiences with his talent at crafting a coherent artistic statement.

I Wonder as I Wander

This leaves Pen less room to explore the analytical issues he raises only sporadically and with more insight than enthusiasm. Pen seems tired of the debate, and perhaps reasonably so. Nevertheless, in a quieter way he seems to concur with Niles that the dilemma is not so hard after all: In the s he collaborated with noted photographer Doris Ulmann during trips to Appalachia, where he transcribed, adapted, and arranged traditional songs and ballads such as "Pretty Polly" and "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair. Niles's preservation and presentation of American folk songs earned him the title of "Dean of American Balladeers," and his theatrical use of the dulcimer is credited with contributing to the popularity of that instrument today.

Niles's dedication to the folk music tradition lives on in generations of folk revival artists such as Jean Ritchie, Joan Baez, and Oscar Brand. I Wonder as I Wander explores the origins and influences of the American folk music resurgence of the s and s, and finally tells the story of a man at the forefront of that movement. At the age of sixteen Niles wrote one of his most enduring