Andy's Notes - An Intermittent Article Series

The Stuff of Art and Songs

by Andy May

I often hear folks using Paris in the 1920’s as an example of a time and place of great artistic atmosphere and importance. I wasn’t there, but I believe that it was so. I lived in New York City in the 1960’s, however, and I also believe that New York back then had a similarly powerful atmosphere and importance. Like Paris before it, New York was a world art center.

I was a teenager then, and that’s when and where I caught the songwriting bug. There was music on the airwaves and live in concert halls, clubs, coffee houses, parties and jam sessions. Rock and Roll, Broadway show tunes, all kinds of Jazz, commercial Folk, and ethnic music- plus Classical music of all varieties: That was the musical backdrop for me in NYC in the early 60’s. Then came the music of Bob Dylan and the Beatles, and the subtle, but very real influence of “American Roots Music”: Old-Timey, Bluegrass and Blues- wonderful ingredients for a new and tasty musical stew!

Black-and-white photo of five men in long-sleeve shirts and neckties singing together
NY Folklore Center, New York

A place, a time, a market, a community of artists, and an audience – these are some of the things it takes for a strong art and music scene to occur and develop. Add to that a country whose government was founded on the principals of personal liberty, and folks who value and exercise their rights, and you have the environment for lively rapport and self-expression. I came of age and cut my teeth in that world, as a musician, songwriter, and visual artist. It’s where I started out. I got to hear and be around some of the greatest musicians and artists of the times – and then got to work with, learn from, and become friends with many of them. I had successes and disappointments, amazing experiences and hard ones as well. Light and dark. Contrasts. The stuff of art and songs!!

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