HappyTrees Studio

Aug 12, 2013

Where is Connie Converse?

Artwork by Sarah Wilmer

Ever since we met the world’s been upside-down,
and if you don’t stop troublin’ me you’ll drive me out of town.
But if you go away, as trouble ought to do,
where will I find another soul to tell my trouble to?

My bed is made of stone, a star has burnt my eye,
I’m goin’ down to the willow tree and teach her how to cry.
But if you go away, as trouble ought to do,
where will I find another soul to tell my trouble to?

They bid me wear my hat, put on a nice new gown;
I tossed my bonnet over the roof and I guess it won’t come down.
But if you go away, as trouble ought to do,
where will I find another soul to tell my trouble to?

Ever read a story, see a photo or hear a song and think "Wow! I need to find out about this person/artist!" I am obsessed with the story of Connie.

Elizabeth Eaton Converse was born in Laconia, New Hampshire, in 1924. She grew up in Concord as the middle child in a strict Baptist family; her father was a Baptist minister. She attended Concord High School, where she was valedictorian and won eight academic awards. She was awarded an academic scholarship to Mount Holyoke College inMassachusetts. After two years' study, she left the College and moved to New York City.[1]
During the 1950s, she worked for the Academy Photo Offset printing house in New York's Flatiron District and lived in Greenwich Village. She started calling herself Connie, a nickname she had acquired in New York. She began writing songs and performing them for friends, accompanying herself on guitar.[1]
Her music came to the notice of animator and amateur recording engineer Gene Deitch, who had made tape recordings of artists like John Lee Hooker and Pete Seeger in the 1940s. Deitch made a number of tape recordings of Converse in the kitchen of his house in Hastings-on-Hudson in the mid-1950s. But she failed to attract any commercial interest in her music. Her only public performance was a brief television appearance in 1954 on "The Morning Show" on CBS with Walter Cronkite, which Deitch helped to arrange.[1]
In 1961, she left New York for Ann Arbor, Michigan, where her brother Philip was a professor of political science at the University of Michigan. She worked in a secretarial job, and then as Managing Editor of the Journal of Conflict Resolution from 1963.[1] Her only musical involvement continued to be playing for friends at parties.
By 1973, Connie was burnt out and depressed. Her colleagues and friends pooled their money to finance a six-months' trip to England for her. The journal, which meant so much to her, had left Michigan for Yale at the end of 1972, after being "auctioned off" without her knowledge. She was facing the need for major surgery.[1]
In August 1974, she wrote a series of letters to her family and friends, talking about her intention to make a new life somewhere else. By the time the letters were delivered, she had packed her belongings in her Volkswagen Beetle and driven away, never to be heard from again.[1]
In January 2004, Gene Deitch – by then 80 years old and living in Prague since 1961 – was invited by New York music historian David Garland to appear on his radio show Spinning on Air. Deitch played some of his own recordings, including one of Connie's songs, "One by One".
Two of Garland's listeners, Dan Dzula and David Herman, were inspired to try and put together an album of Connie's music. There were two sources: the tapes in Deitch's collection in Prague, and her brother Philip's collection of recordings which she had sent him in the 1950s. In March 2009, How Sad, How Lovely, containing 17 songs by Connie Converse, was released by Lau derette Recordings. There have been indications that Converse's musical approach and singing style has had an impact on indie folk artists such as Quinn Marston.[2]
The Australian singer-songwriter Robert Forster, co-founder of the Go-Betweens, describes the album as "making a deep and marvellous connection between lyric and song that allows us to enter the world of an extraordinary woman living in mid-twentieth-century New York."[3]

What happened to Connie? How could such a soulful and haunting artist just drop off the face of the earth? Her music is tear worthy, and i hear something different every time I listen to it...If you have further knowledge of Connie Converse- please comment here! I have to know more!

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