Fred Hellerman, the last surviving member of The Weavers, died on Thursday at 89.
The New York Times obituary does not discuss Hellerman’s relationship with Woody Guthrie (except indirectly, where it notes that Fred produced Arlo’s first two albums). Hellerman nevertheless played an important part in the musical story of 1913 Massacre — singing with Pete Seeger and other members of the Weavers “for unions, at picket lines and at hootenanies.”
It was this musical activity, exactly the kind of “singing and dancing” Woody Guthrie writes about in “1913 Massacre,” and the political sympathies it suggested, that aroused suspicion during the Red Scare of the 1950s. Fred, along with Pete Seeger and Ronnie Gilbert, was blacklisted from performing in public. Like Pete, he continued to make music throughout the 60s and 70s and well into his old age.
“His was not a standout voice,” said producer David Bernz, “but it made everything meld together.”