Cover for Hawes: Sing It Pretty: A Memoir. Click for larger image

Sing It Pretty

A Memoir
Awards and Recognition:

Received an honorable mention from the International Alliance for Women in Music, 2009

The personal account of a giant in American folklore and folk music

A leader in the development of state and federal programs supporting traditional arts and folk cultures, Bess Lomax Hawes grew up with her father John Lomax and brother Alan in the first family of American folk music. Her compelling account of the folk music boom of the mid-twentieth century and the development of "public-sector" folklore includes family friends Ruth Crawford Seeger and Carl Sandburg, fellow Almanac Singers Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, and other musicians and artists. Her own creative endeavors as producer of American folk culture films, author of academic papers and books, and coauthor of the Kingston Trio's hit "MTA Song" (adapted from a local political campaign jingle) unfold alongside her legacy of teaching guitar and American folk music to thousands of adults in Los Angeles. Whether teaching anthropology to college students, learning singing games from the Georgia Sea Island Singers, or directing the Folk and Traditional Arts Program at the National Endowment for the Arts, Hawes remains dedicated to preserving and appreciating the traditional cultures of America.


“She learned the tools of folklore fieldwork by transcribing the songs of rural musicians and taught herself how to play these songs, eventually joining the Almanac Singers, which included Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, as part of a growing folk movement. . . . Libraries with comprehensive folk music collections will want to own her memoir.”--Library Journal

"This volume covers much . . . of Hawes's fascinating public and private lives in folk music, and includes numerous photographs and a helpful chronology. . . . Recommended."--Choice

"This book is loaded with enjoyable anecdotes from throughout Ms. Hawes' 89 years. . . . Along the way, we meet many seminal folk music figures and, though these are characters we've all met before, thanks to Bess' storytelling skills, we often see them in a new light."--Sing Out

"This valuable book will establish Bess Lomax Hawes's reputation more widely as a folklorist, musical teacher and musicologist, while also making a worthwhile contribution to the music history of mid-20th-century North America."--European Journal of Communication

"The Lomax family made an indelible mark on American musical history and vernacular culture, combining performance, scholarship, collecting, administration, and so much more, part of which is well captured in Bess's wonderful memoir."--Labour/Le Travail

"A great American story that deserves to be read by millions over decades to come. An immediate classic that is a delight to read."--Daniel Sheehy, director of Smithsonian Folkway Recordings and former director of Folk and Traditional Arts at the National Endowment for the Arts

"An important and totally delightful autobiography--a model of the genre. Written by a master in her field, this engaging and charming book is a very significant contribution to folkloristics."--Sylvia Ann Grider, author of Let's Hear It: Stories by Texas Women Writers

"An insightful tale into the life, thought, and persona of a significant actor in the American culture scene. Hawes's brilliant personality shines through her writing."--John H. McDowell, author of Poetry and Violence: The Ballad Tradition of Mexico's Costa Chica


Bess Lomax Hawes (1921–2009) was a renowned folklorist, teacher, and musicologist. Awarded a National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton in 1993, Hawes was the first director of the Folk and Traditional Arts Program at the National Endowment for the Arts.

To order online:
//www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/82nad7be9780252033131.html

To order by phone:
(800) 621-2736 (USA/Canada)
(773) 702-7000 (International)

Related Titles

previous book next book
Sweet Dreams

The World of Patsy Cline

Edited by Warren R. Hofstra

The Never-Ending Revival

Rounder Records and the Folk Alliance

Michael F. Scully

Bill Clifton

America's Bluegrass Ambassador to the World

Bill C. Malone

Czech Bluegrass

Notes from the Heart of Europe

Lee Bidgood

Live Fast, Love Hard

The Faron Young Story

Diane Diekman

Pretty Good for a Girl

Women in Bluegrass

Murphy Hicks Henry

American Music

Edited by Neil Lerner

Bluegrass Generation

A Memoir

Neil V. Rosenberg

Bluegrass Bluesman

A Memoir

Josh Graves

Peggy Seeger

A Life of Music, Love, and Politics

Jean R. Freedman

Music and the Moving Image

Edited by Gillian B. Anderson & Ronald H. Sadoff

In It for the Long Run

A Musical Odyssey

Jim Rooney

Don't Give Your Heart to a Rambler

My Life with Jimmy Martin, the King of Bluegrass

Barbara Martin Stephens

Foggy Mountain Troubadour

The Life and Music of Curly Seckler

Penny Parsons

Twentieth Century Drifter

The Life of Marty Robbins

Diane Diekman

Air Castle of the South

WSM and the Making of Music City

Craig Havighurst