Oscar Brand Turns 90!

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Join the WNYC family in celebrating host Oscar Brand’s 90th birthday! Whether you just recently discovered Oscar, or are a long-time fan of the folk music legend, send us your birthday wishes to share with Oscar and his many fans.

A two-time Peabody Award winner and Guinness Book's World Record-holder for radio longevity, Oscar Brand has hosted Folksong Festival on WNYC for nearly 65 years. His guest roster includes virtually every famous folk, jazz and blues performer of the post-war period, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Woody Guthrie, Arlo Guthrie, Huddie Ledbetter, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, the Weavers, Burl Ives, Josh White, Harry Belafonte, Odetta, Harry Chapin, and B.B. King. The show has long served as a platform for serious discussions of racial and economic equality, among other issues, and Brand was an early, public and very vocal advocate for integration. 

Folksong Festival turns 65 in December, 2010. WNYC is grateful for the many years of service Oscar has devoted to the show, the station and our audience. Thanks, Oscar and best wishes from all of us!

Be sure to check out the archival audio from Folksong Festival »

Oscar Brand in the studio, 1945
WNYC Archives Collection
Oscar Brand in the studio, 1945
Oscar Brand posing for the press
WNYC Archives Collection
Oscar Brand posing for the press
Oscar with folksinger Josh White and calypso singer Lord Burgess. Late 1940s or early 1950s.
WNYC Archives Collection
Oscar with folksinger Josh White and calypso singer Lord Burgess. Late 1940s or early 1950s.
Oscar Brand with his guitar
WNYC Archives Collection
Oscar Brand with his guitar
Oscar Brand at the 50th anniversary of Folksong Festival in December 1995
Oscar Brand at the 50th anniversary of Folksong Festival in December 1995
Oscar Brand at the 50th anniversary of Folksong Festival in December 1995
WNYC Archives Collection
Oscar Brand at the 50th anniversary of Folksong Festival in December 1995
Christine Lavin, Oscar Brand, and Guy Davis at the 60th anniversary of Folksong Festival
Christine Lavin, Oscar Brand, and Guy Davis at the 60th anniversary of Folksong Festival
Oscar Brand at the 60th anniversary of Folksong Festival
Oscar Brand at the 60th anniversary of Folksong Festival
An unproven urban legend claims Oscar Brand was the inspiration for Oscar the Grouch.
(c) 2010. Sesame Workshop. All Rights Reserved.
An unproven urban legend claims Oscar Brand was the inspiration for Oscar the Grouch.

Comments [58]

Hami from Down Memory Lane

When I was a kid in San Francisco (40 years ago), I was a Sea Scout, we would go sailing every weekend. This doesn't sound like a strange event, but you have to picture 5 to 15 kids 13 to 18 years of age, racing 30' open wooden boats, built in the 1920's. If you screwed up you swamped. There is no way to describe what it was like. Any way the reason I'm putting this here was we always sang shanties, and most of the time they were Oscars versions.

I was just going listening to some music files and there were a bunch I copied off my old albums.

What great Memories! Thanks Oscar, I hope you go another 90 years!!!


Aug. 05 2012 07:19 AM
Marv Wilkenfeld from Newton Ma

Golly Oscar: My sister and I took some guitar lessons from you back in the late 1940's and that same Martin O-18 has been with me ever since.
Thanks Oscar for the wonderful years of Folk Song Festival. Were did the years go? Me at 76 and you celebrating your 90th. Just grand to know that we can still wish each other happy birthday.
You were an inspiration and helped introduce me to folk music, hootenannies at Cooper Union, Jean Richie, The Weavers, and of course the incomparable Pete Seeger.
Very best wishes from me and my sister Helen.

Jun. 23 2012 08:51 PM
Damon singer from Orange county ca

Im 37 years old and just found your 2 cd compilation of military songs and absolutely loved them,you rock!

Dec. 18 2011 02:34 PM
Michael Gillum from Arkansas

I first heard Oscar Brand of all places on KXRJ now KARV in the '60's. Folk music could be heard now and then on it. Tom Dooley among others which my friend, Montie Sims, and I sang in Mrs. Morgan's 1st grade class.
But Oscar Brand had a show I couldn't wait to hear and did every chance I could.
Anyone else?
Happy Birthday, Mr. Brand.

Dec. 28 2010 07:25 PM
Tzipie Freedman from Montreal, Canada

I just heard your interview with Michael Enright on CBC Radio this morning (July 25), which was a repeat of the piece you had done on your birthday.
I missed it the first time, and was delighted to get it now. Hope you had a very happy birthday.
I've been a fan for a very long-time..
Keep up the good work!

Jul. 25 2010 11:26 AM
Jeffrey Ingber from Sweet Briar,VA

As always, very best wishes to a national treasure!


Jeffrey Rl Ingber

Apr. 30 2010 03:56 PM
Jeannie BRAND Derienzo from Washington, DC

Listening via the internet with James and our old dog Rosie every Saturday night, with our family review at 11:15pm by phone. Love you Dad. You never disappoint.
Your Biggest fan, Jeannie

Apr. 24 2010 10:21 PM
Dave from Llano, Texas

A belated happy birthday. How did you get to be 90 and me 70? Wasn't it just a few nights ago that I was sitting in the Bitter End listening to you belting out a sentimental little ballad about a fellow
"who had no hips at all"? Sharing the bill that night was The Big Three. Many's the night was spent curled up by the radio back then: You, the Shep and Long John Nebel. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!Keep looking for those New York Gals.

Apr. 18 2010 10:32 PM
Dr. Ada Kelley Silverstein from Manhattan

I am writing to tell you how much I enjoyed hearing Lou Mitchell's (I believe that was the name) song about teachers. You asked us to let you know how we felt about her song, and I would love to hear more of her songs.
I always listen to you Saturday night, even though I don't often e-mail you, and I enjoy both the old and the new.
Thanks for your program.
Ada Silverstein

Apr. 18 2010 09:16 PM
Dennis from Astoria from Astoria NY

Happy 90th Birth Day, and many more.
I just started learned of your wonderful prog on WNYC. And am now a member. I'm just lovin' it.
Very best and regards.

Mar. 31 2010 10:41 PM
Sheila White from Brooklyn, New York

Happy 90th, Oscar - and wishes for many many more years of music. I've been a devotee for more years than I care to say. Keep well and enjoy the accolades: you deserve them!

Feb. 11 2010 12:30 PM
Laurel Paulson-Pierce from Northern California

As a musician and a folk music fan for many years, I appreciate your love of music and thank you for sharing it! I have a radio show myself, and love to introduce my audience to music (new and old) thanks for the inspiration! Happy Trails....Laurel

Feb. 10 2010 01:59 PM
Tea Repo

Happy Birthday from Helsinki, Finland!

Feb. 10 2010 04:06 AM
Gaye Leslie from Brooklyn, NY

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, OSCAR! And many more of them, after all Irving Berlin lived to over 100, why not you!
Listening to your show since Sat eve was the American Music Festival -- Dave Sear, you, Prairie Home, all featured American music. Now that's changed, split apart.
Still listen whenever I can & I expect I'll check out your Presidents' Day pgm.

Feb. 09 2010 06:31 PM
Kiyohide Kunizaki

from Tokyo

A Happy Birthday

Sometime I am listening to your show
at Tokyo.


Kiyohide at Tokyo Folklore Center

Feb. 08 2010 09:46 AM
Abby and Jerry from Roslyn Heights, New York

Wishing you much happiness as you celebrate your 90th birthday and continue to bring great joy to all of us who are your faithful radio fans.
You are an inspiration and we hope we can be as productive and bring as much joy to people as you do if and when we reach our 90th birthdays.

Feb. 07 2010 09:38 PM
Susan Sternberg from Brooklyn NY

Warmest congratulations & happy birthday wishes! Have long enjoyed your show & am so glad you are on the air, inspiring us all.

Feb. 07 2010 08:06 PM

Congratulations. You have educated and enlightened many of us for many years.

Feb. 07 2010 07:45 PM
Ken Berv from Stamford, CT

I was in High School in Oceanside, NY from 1958-62-a high point during that time were your visits to the outdoor folk song festival at Nathan's on Long Beach Road. My friends and I gathered 'round to hear you and your buddies-of course, many of us took up the guitar and carried the music of America with us when we left our hometown..

Feb. 07 2010 05:37 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

Oscar, I had my own program, 1958 to 1960, "Operatic Spotlight" on WNYC on Sundays at 5 PM immediately following your program. I would talk to you when you were leaving as I was about to begin my program of opera singing and interviews with "Met" Opera singers with whom I often sang duets. My cousin Michael Blankfort who wrote the films "The Juggler" and "Broken Arrow" also was attacked by the House Unamerican Committee for his stands on behalf of those victims of prejudice. Your dedication to enlightening, entertaining and making this a BETTER WORLD FOR US ALL deserves many more than your 90 years. We are so lucky to have such an articulate spokesman. HAPPY 90th BIRTHDAY! --Kenneth Lane

Feb. 07 2010 03:23 PM
George Hiller

errr...the title of the song that I heard might have been "Come All Ye Fair And Tender Maidens" or it might have been "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme", but what I remember is the "Bitter Rue"....

Feb. 07 2010 12:17 PM
George Hiller

Hi Oscar Brand:

I am not a big fan, having come across your music occasionally- more so in the 1950s and 1960s, since I was near NYC then. However, one morning, I think in the early 1970s, I saw you, on a little black-and-white tv, do "Bitter Rue" sang it as though it had happened to is one of the 2 or 3 peak musical experiences in my life. I am happy to be able to thank you for it, and I wish you continued health and happiness. Go for the ton!

Doc George

Feb. 07 2010 11:47 AM
John Simpson from Brandon, MB., Canada

Happy birthday Oscar. I've been a fan since the 1960s when I regularly watched your program Let's Sing Out on Canadian TV. Your birthday is "something to sing about".

All the best,

John Simpson

Feb. 07 2010 11:11 AM
paul schulman (cousin)

Wonderful to send this message to you now that you are 90----(and I am 80 in two weeks)--
love (belatedly)--
(paul schulman)

Feb. 07 2010 10:29 AM
Judy and Leonard Hyman

Dear Oscar:

Happy 90th and many more. You have provided a wonderful combination of provocation, education, and entertainment. Keep it up and may you succeed in your quest to find a memorable right wing political song. Maybe you should write it.

Judy and Leonard Hyman

Feb. 07 2010 10:06 AM
Ron from Oshawa, Ontario

As I write this I am listening to Oscar being interviewed on CBC radio from Toronto. I have listened to Oscar's music from my early teens to now my early 60s. Best wishes Oscar on such a marvelous achievement. Something to Sing About!

Feb. 07 2010 10:03 AM
al roth from Newark, NJ

I have your collections of bawdy songs on 78, 33, CD and have been a fan for as long as I can remember. One of my favorite musical memories is a set you did at The Main Point, in Bryn Mawr, PA, in 1967 (my wife of forty years worked there and joins me in wishing you 'abondanza'!) and an especially rousing rendition (a word that people like yourself can help us wrest from the abusers) of your signature song (...til we get to Buffalo-o-o). Your radio show has been a home away from home whenever we happen not to be away from home in some foreign locale (less an issue of late thanks to the Internet). Thanks for the (many) memories, and Happy, Happy Birthday!

Feb. 07 2010 09:42 AM
Christina from Lower East Side

Happy Birthday Oscar!! Enjoy this milestone. Thanks for sharing your love of folk music.

Feb. 07 2010 09:23 AM
Connie Coates Schroeder

Dear, wonderful, precious Oscar Brand, I discovered you when I was 13, listened, memorized and warbled through the next dozen years, pictured my mother in her flapper years each time the dolly with the hole in her stocking danced, marveled over how you could have your own show so young, right after serving in World War II, worried each time WNYC changed its schedule. Thank you for all you have given in so many ways to so many people. Happy, happy birthday.

Feb. 07 2010 08:07 AM
Kimberly Miller

Dear Mr. Brand,

I want to thank you for so generously, tirelessly sharing your knowledge of and passion for the music of this land of ours. You're one of the people who keep this world spinning on its axis instead of on its arse!

Happy, Happy Birthday, dear Mr. Brand! Long may you airwave!

Best wishes and sincere gratitude,
Kimberly Miller

Feb. 07 2010 12:00 AM
Janet Weinberg from East Norwich, Long Island

Happy Birthday, Oscar. I have been following you for years and enjoy staying home on Saturday nights and listening to you on my computer. Listen to Karen and eat well and exercise so we can have you for a long time to come.

Feb. 06 2010 11:15 PM
Richard Spiegel from Staten Island

Happy Birthday to a true treasure of the airwaves.

Feb. 06 2010 10:02 PM
Bob G from Humble, TX

Happy Birthday, Oscar. After living 16 years at the far end of the block on Charlton, it took a move upstate a couple years ago to discover how enjoyable Saturday nights can be. Now I enjoy your program from Houston and look forward to listening for the next 90 years.

Feb. 06 2010 09:23 PM
Leslie Hogan from The Bronx

Happy 90th birthday, Oscar!
Keep going strong. Saturday night would not be the same without you.
My high school senior year term paper, in 1959, was about American folk music. I never finished writing the paper, but you have kept the topic fresh for me ever since. I love you and your show and everything you do to keep American folk music alive and well.
You keep well for years to come.

Feb. 06 2010 09:05 PM
Amy F.

Happy Birthday, Oscar! Long have you shown us what there is to sing about in this great land of ours, & long may you continue to do so on that great show of yours!

Feb. 06 2010 09:05 PM
Miriamne Spector from NYC

I have fond memories of attending a few of the broadcasts in the Municipal building studio, and then of going to the festivals at Cooper Union. I was in elementary school so that must have been about 60 years ago. I continue to enjoy your broadcasts. I still look forward to the day that I can meet you and introduce myself as "a New York gal who dances by light of yon municipal moon".

Feb. 06 2010 02:06 PM
Roger Bergman from NYC

Oscar, you have been one of my heroes for the last half century. I used to listen to your show in the 1950's. I tried to play my guitar like you....and Joan Baez, Judy Collins, the Weavers, and Theodore Bikel, and you get the picture. I memorized and sang for my friends, songs from Sports Car Songs for Big Wheels. Okay, so I've been a fan for a long time.

Thank you for enriching my life, and I hope to hear you for a long time into the future.

Happy Birthday, my radio friend.


Feb. 06 2010 02:05 AM
Sheila Michaels from Manhattan

I have only listened for a few decades, so I don't know if I qualify as a fan, but I surely know how to wish you a happy birthday.

Feb. 06 2010 12:02 AM
zara cohan from New York City (now)

dear Oscar Brand. HAPPY BIRTHDAY. I have enjoyed your radio programs forever. my personal experience reaches back to America's bi centennial especially in Union County, New Jersey celebrating the area history and you came to sing a wonderful selection of transportation folk songs in Warnaco Park to the delight of the audience. It was my back yard so to speak and you came to our home to meet with the local commissioners for refreshments. we have remembered this occasion long past the celebration.

here is to many happy years of folk songs. best with zest, zara cohan

Feb. 05 2010 07:33 PM

Hearty congratulations on your 90th! I've been listening to your program since I was a teenager (going on 77 this year) and at least once was in the audience during a broadcast from the Municipal Building...Jean Ritchie was the guest. Wonderful memories. my wish for you is that you continue to go from strength to strength.

Feb. 05 2010 06:23 PM
Clare Juddson Kagel

Dear, dear Oscar,

Many good wishes on this momentous occasion, both the birthday and the radio anniversary. You know that I have been a caring and involved fan for almost as many years as you've been on the airwaves!


Feb. 05 2010 02:51 PM
Pat Rolls

Hi Oscar,
Happy Birthday, we at Buckley still remember the great concert you played for us and we are still singing the song you wrote. You are an insperation to us all!

Feb. 05 2010 09:03 AM
amy hagedorn

Happy Birthday, Oscar. You rule radio!

Feb. 05 2010 08:59 AM
Eric J Lawrence from Ridgewood, NJ (now)

You are, and your work is, inspiring and comforting and challenging, all at once. And of course very educational. Thank you very much, Sir. I wish I had met just a few of the folks you worked with, helped along, and played with. Wish I had met YOU! But I'm a devoted listener. Happy Birthday.

Feb. 04 2010 07:28 PM
Andrew Campbell from Mahopac, NY

We used to see you at the South Street Seaport in the 70's. We would come down from Putnam County on Wednesday evenings in the summer for music on the pier. They were just getting started developing things there--always a very enjoyable evening!

Feb. 04 2010 04:48 PM
john farago from nyc

hi oscar --

you've been among my heroes for as long as i can recall, and those roots go back to the respect with which my father always used to speak of you when he came back from a meeting of the Dissenters in the 1950s ... and from when i started going to those meetings myself in the 1960s...

it's a joy to have your ongoing presence and voice brought to mind by this celebration today

Feb. 04 2010 04:38 PM
Ann from Brooklyn

Happy Birthday Oscar - I go to sleep with you every Saturday night! What a joy it is and what an inspiration you are!

Feb. 04 2010 02:12 PM
Matthew Katz from Roosevelt Island

Happy Birthday, Oscar. I performed with you on the stage at BAM as a three-year-old, sixty years ago. Something must have clicked: I've been performing folk songs with my guitar for fifty years now. We folk singers are a durable lot!

Feb. 04 2010 12:23 PM
Joe Adams

Dear Oscar,

I've been listening to you since the 1948 presidential campaign when you suggested that the theme song of it should be the "Foggy Foggy Dewey". Thank you for your work only please do not donate anything to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Feb. 04 2010 08:13 AM

I started my fascination with folksinging and guitar playing in summer camps through the 1960s, especially at Oleana. Visits to Newport Folk Festivals, the Village Gate, and other city spots only fanned the flames. Your program keeps such wonderful and diverse singers alive, and introduces me to new ones. But I'm still waiting to hear some cuts from Mr. and Mrs. Garvey...and Dick and Mimi Farina. With great thanks to you.

Feb. 03 2010 08:51 PM
Richard Wolloch from Manhattan

Dear Mr. Brand (May I call you Oscar?):

It is due, in no small part, to your love of country that we take such great pride in "this land of ours." It truly is "something to think about."

Oscar, may you live until 120!

Feb. 03 2010 03:26 PM

Wishing you a VERY Happy Birthday and many, many more. I do enjoy your show and you are so knowledgeable!

Feb. 03 2010 02:54 PM
Jim from Brooklyn

Your show was introduced to me by my sister sometime around 1963. Since then there has been a lot of great music played "by yon municipal light."

Feb. 03 2010 12:26 PM
Elke from WNYC

Happy birthday! I've been a fan of yours since I was a child in Camp Kinderland in the '60s.

Feb. 03 2010 09:16 AM
Douglas from Brooklyn, NY

Happy Birthday Oscar!!!
Thanks for all you do.
I've learned a lot from your show!

Feb. 03 2010 08:37 AM
Steve from Fanwood, NJ

Happy Birthday Oscar! And many more.

Back in the 90's, I was lucky enough to see you perform in Silver Springs, MD. A wonderful evening of music, humor and history. You have enriched our lives with all of those things so well for so many years.

Thank you and good health!

Feb. 03 2010 06:56 AM
Ruth from Bronx

Dear Mr. Brand,
When I've listened to you on Saturday nights driving my kids to their parties -- as they are plugged in to rap and hip hop on their Ipods -- I have told them to take out their ear phones and listen to you... just to connect them with the music and history you bring to the world as no one else does. Hearing the music with you playing and commenting directly makes us all six degrees from Woody, the Weavers, and all that history. The themed shows--around the holidays and elections--are the best! Keep it up - to 120! Best, Ruth & family

Feb. 03 2010 05:57 AM
Bobby Gorman from East Village

The Best of Birthdays, Oscar!
Thanks for everything so far, and please give us more.


Feb. 03 2010 12:05 AM

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