August 1999



Join Montana Singer/Songwriter Judy Fjell and Songwriter/Storyteller Nancy Schimmel (Malvina Reynolds' daughter) for a Montana tour in November (of 1999) celebrating the wit and wisdom of the late Malvina Reynolds.

Tickets for all concerts are $10 ($9 in advance), $5 Children or Seniors. General information about the tour can be obtained by contacting Laura Bray at 222-5122 (Livingston) or email at lauras.garden@prodigy.com.

Following is the schedule of concerts as of September 14.
Tue Nov 9th, 7 PM - Big Timber, First Congregational Church 402 Anderson
      Info# Judy 932-6468 or WoMaMu@aol.com
Thur Nov 11th, 7 PM - Bozeman, Emerson Auditorium 111 E. Grand
       Info# Laura 222-5122 (Livingston) or lauras.garden@prodigy.com
Sat Nov 13th, 7:30 PM? - Missoula, University Congregational Church
       Info# Suzanne 549-7989 or suzwas@hotmail.com
Sun Nov 14th, 3 PM - Helena, Myrna Loy Theater
       Info# Beth or hfco@mcn.net
Tue Nov 16th - Butte, Orphan Girl Theater
       Info# Diane 782-5605
Fri or Sat Nov 19th or 20th - tentative in Billings


Thur Oct 28th, 8 PM - Berkeley, Freight and Salvage Coffee House $12.50 advance, $13.50 at the door.
      Info# Freight (510)548-1761,


It's official--Smithsonian-Folkways will be putting out a compilation CD from Malvina's four lp's. Release date is March 17 (22nd anniversary of her death) rather than her birthday, because August is not such a good month for release concerts. Besides, we hope everyone will be selling the CD at the Malvina concerts planned throughout the year to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of her birth in 1900.


The lead-in to the cover article in the East Bay Express, July 23, 1999 was:

“The rally in front of KPFA was more than fifty years removed from the old Spit and Argue Club, but for songwriter and storyteller Nancy Schimmel--like her mother, Malvina Reynolds--some commitments just don't change.”

The staff of Northern California's listener-supported radio station, KPFA, was at that time still locked out of the station by the five-station network's governing body, Pacifica Foundation, in a struggle over local control. (They are back in now, but the situation is still iffy, and they need money to repair the damage done to KPFA's building when Pacifica bolted plywood over the windows to “protect” it from its own supporters who were demonstrating outside. ) In the sixties, Malvina had a program of commentary on KPFA, mostly talk but including whatever topical song she had just written. Nancy substituted for her from time to time when she was out of town.

And the Spit and Argue Club? Formally called the University by the Sea, it was a wide deck off the Rainbow Pier in Long Beach, California, with a range of benches in front of a covered speakers' platform. Anyone could speak for five minutes; then the audience could vote to hear ten minutes more. Malvina spoke there often--always for fifteen minutes. This was back in the late '40s, before she became mildly famous as the writer of “Turn Around” (1956) and “Little Boxes” (1965). She was writing campaign songs for Los Angeles area rallies for the Progressive Party in 1947, and in 1951 launched a run for city council from the Spit and Argue club, but national fame was yet to come.

dear nancy~~~

i've been trying to keep up with the happenings at our dear, kidnapped KPFA, and while at one of the demos heard a song to the tune of 'wabash cannonball' about KPFA...heard you wrote it...malvinas promo for pledge drive on kpfa, done so long ago now, still echos in my brain thru this whole thing..something about who would gladly take over should the listeners no longer support the effor

anyway...have been wanting the words to the song...could you send it?
thanks again


by Nancy Schimmel To the tune of Wabash Cannonball:

Listen to the jingle, the rumble and the roar
We're coming from the woodlands, from the hills and by the shore
We've sent our pledges through the years but now there's hell to pay
We're going down to Berkeley to save KPFA.

Pacifica Foundation, fifty years ago
Had a pacifist position to put on radio,
Said civil disobedience can put an end to war
We've learned that lesson truly, as we sit down in the door.


But where is old Pacifica? we all would like to know,
And who are these folks on the board who want to run the show?
They hire plain-clothes armed guards and arrest their listeners brave,
If Lew Hill knew about this he'd be turning in his grave.


When Reagan dropped the tear gas, when Nixon came undone
We knew that we could trust the word from ninety-four point one,
But now who can we turn to? The truth has been retired,
And anyone who tells it like it is is getting fired.


So here's to Robbie Osman, Nicole Sawaya too,
Likewise to Larry Bensky, and all that stalwart crew,
And all of those arrested, may their names forever stand
For freedom and integrity in this beleaguered land.


What Have They Done to the Rain?

Storyteller Linda King Pruitt asks:
Now for my question: we like to add music with our stories - my husband plays guitar, banjo, whatever he picks up, and grew up on Peter Paul & Mary, Pete Seeger, your Mom and others. One song in particular he loves to sing is “What Have They Done to the Rain”. That is your Mom's song, isn't it? I noticed on your site that you have a song about acid rain. Now, when my husband Bob asks people what they think has been done to the rain, they answer “acid rain”. Children of the 50's, we hear the message of nuclear fallout. My question (actually Bob's) is, “it was nuclear fall-out, wasn't it, that she was writing of?” The songs are so timeless and just continue to prod our environmental awareness as old/new issues arise.

And the answer is...Yes, it is my mom's and it was originally about nuclear fall-out, but many people use it as an acid rain song.

Malvina's Writings in Music Therapy

Hi, I am a music therapist in the NYC area and I am employed in the inpatient Psychiatry dept of a general hospital. As I am also a...socialist and a composer of political music, I am very aware of the importance of a Malvina Reynolds to the cause of music as a tool of social change. I have used “Little Boxes” in groups when we speak of a person's individuality (very important with many patients whose egos have been seriously damaged) and I present The Soul Book every winter holiday season. I have many of the patients in a given music therapy group recite one section [of The Soul Book] a piece, all with my improvised piano music behind them. I'm told that that group has been inspirational and mystical. This is a specific example...of how music therapy is the clinical arm of the protest song.
John Pietaro, MT-BC

Malvina wrote a poem and wanted to send it to the newspaper, but knowing that the Chronicle did not print poetry, she took out the line breaks to make it look like prose and sent it in as a letter to the editor:

The San Francisco Chronicle, August 29, 1954


Editor--the food is bewitched. There is so much wheat that it is piled in mountains on the ground. The elevators cannot hold it...There are miles of tunnels in caves packed with barrels of butter and dried eggs and milk, but they are bewitched.
Children faint from hunger in the classrooms and babies die of malnutrition...but their parents do not feed them the wheat or butter...They think it is something that belongs to someone, not something children should eat, and it is not called food, but surplusses.
Therefore the children are hungry and die, because the food is bewitched, and the people are bewitched and the whole country has gone slightly mad.


After the letter appeared, a friend phoned Malvina and said, “I saw your poem in the paper today.”

The Hunger Site

My friend Annie forwarded an e-mail about the Hunger Site. Anyone can go there once a day and click on a box that will tell the sponsoring businesses how much money to send to the United Nations World Food Program. This program sends grain and beans to refugees and to countries where war or drought or hurricanes or other disasters have destroyed the local food supply. Schroder/ Sisters' Choice is going to sponsor the site for a day. Once poeple click on the box, they then see a page with sponsors' banners on it, and can click to the sites of any that interest them. So it is advertising with a humanitarian side effect. Try the site, and tell your friends about it. See if a business you own or work for might sponsor it.

“Evening of Malvina Spirit” Tour

Judy Fjell and Nancy Schimmel will repeat their popular “Evening of Malvina Spirit” at Berkeley's Freight and Salvage Coffee House on October 28, then will tour Montana in early November (details to come). The show combines Malvina's songs with the stories behind them, plus family stories and a few songs by Nancy and Judy that carry on Malvina's tradition. The Freight and Salvage show will be filmed by Lucy Phenix.

Malvina concert for the Community Health Center

Our last issue of Sporadic times ended with this item:
March 15th
Nancy Spencer, her daughter Lisa, Crystal Reeves and I did a concert of your moms songs last month. I think you knew about that. Anyway, it went great, with a large and loving crowd. It felt kind of like a house concert as it didn't have that “us and them” energy. I think those songs lend themselves to that feel. We've been asked to play again in the fall as a benefit for the women's health center, and may just repeat that concert.
-Thanks again, Pam Vellutini.

And, indeed, they are doing a Malvina concert for the Community Health Center on Sunday, November 21, 1999 at 2pm. Venue to be announced.