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Connie Converse Walking In the Dark

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

During the 1950s Connie Converse lived in New York City writing and singing thoughtful, emotional, smart, witty, personal songs. She accompanied herself on guitar, a "singer/songwriter" before that term or style existed. Connie sang her songs at gatherings of friends, and once on television. The music industry of her day couldn't pigeonhole her, and didn't welcome her. Discouraged, Connie left New York in 1960, and in 1974 she wrote a series of farewell letters to her friends and family, packed up her Volkswagen Bug and disappeared. She has not been heard from since.

Connie Converse Walking In the Dark, a special edition of WNYC's Spinning On Air with David Garland, airs many of Connie's songs for the first time, and tells her story with interviews, commentary, and readings from her letters, journals, and poetry. Joining host David Garland are Oscar-winning animator Gene Deitch, who knew and recorded Connie in New York, and the voices of Connie's brother, Philip Converse, and actress Amber Benson, who reads Connie's writings.


Related Links:
David Garland's blog entry on Connie Converse
Connie Converse
Lauderette Recordings
order How Sad, How Lovely on Insound
Connie’s story in the San Francisco Chronicle
Connie Converse on MySpace
Gene Deitch

Background: The Deitch Connection

One of Connie's friends in New York was Gene Deitch, cartoonist, creator of Tom Terrific, and director of the Oscar-winning 1961 animated short "Munro," written by Jules Feiffer. Deitch is a music-lover who back in the '50s used a newfangled tape recorder to record jazz, folk, and blues (including John ...

Comments [1]

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Comments [50]

Andrea Kannes from Brooklyn, NY

Hey everyone,

I just started a Kickstarter campaign to make a documentary about Connie. Check it out and support it here! Share with all the Connie fans you know!

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/453344810/we-lived-alone-the-connie-converse-documentary

Best,
Andrea

Jul. 18 2012 01:00 PM
Brett Parker

Miss Von Pelt,

I am making inquiries regarding the case of the missing radio program. I will report any findings to you as soon as I obtain them.

B. Parker

Jul. 02 2012 03:11 PM
Opal Von Pelt from Brooklyn, NY

Why is the segment on Connie Converse now offline? I want to listen to it again! Does any one know where I can obtain a copy of WNYC's wonderful radio programme on this haunting artist?

Jul. 02 2012 01:23 PM
efirewood

Connie--whether you are with the living now or not, your music is. You made smart and beautiful songs while you were "plugged in" to the world. Thank you for this gift. Well done, girlfriend.

Nov. 02 2011 03:10 PM
Jon from Glasgow, Scotland

A very great show. Wonderful that many more people are now turned on to Connie. How can I download this show, to keep? Please help:

jdsmele@hotmail.com

Mar. 27 2011 11:18 AM
eastern_branch from D.C.

Beautifully done - thanks.

Jan. 15 2010 03:43 PM
TjB from New York

Thanks, what a great show--a really great song writer. Wonderfully poignant. And the mystery of her and her disappearance. Crazy stuff. I hope she some how knew/knows what a talent she is. I want to hear more.

Jul. 09 2009 11:52 PM
Celeste from Lafayette, LA

I came upon this segment quite by chance on wnyc.org. Never heard of this artist before. What a haunting, yet tender story. The fact that she disappeared illuminates the intensely personal depth of grief and longing of her songs and what they meant to her. We now have a glimpse. Thank you for continuing in your lovely story and music Connie's own.

Apr. 25 2009 10:43 PM
Patti Skondovitch from Fairbanks, Alaska

Thank you so very much for the introduction to Connie Converse. Her song, 'One By One' is absolutely awesome. I shall do anything to get hold of her music.

Apr. 25 2009 03:52 PM
Patti Skondovitch from Fairbanks, Alaska

What a wonderful experience to be introduced to her music. Any and all music of her's I would be so very happy to get my hands on. Her song: "One by One", is out of this world.

Apr. 25 2009 03:47 PM
andres from La Paz, Bolivia

Beautiful story and songs, I'll think about them for a long long time. Thanks Mr. Garland, thanks Connie Converse, wherever you are.

Apr. 25 2009 10:59 AM
J.K. Frazier from Temple, Texas

When you say she has never been heard from again, does that mean she disappeared and no one knows if she is living or dead.

Apr. 25 2009 12:32 AM
Ron Bulla from Poplar Bluff, Mo.

How badly do I want it for you, Connie Converse
How badly do I want you to still be alive
To hear your songs played on the radio
To know that people love the words
To know that they get the innuendo
Or is your secret clever and forever
Are you clever and forever
How badly do I want it for you, Connie Converse
So badly that I give up my life today
So that yours may live
So that the world is not cheated out of your retribution
How badly do I want it for you, Connie Converse
Very badly today indeed

HOW BADLY
By: Ron Bulla

Apr. 24 2009 04:59 PM
Ron from Poplar Bluff, Mo.

How badly do I want it for you, Connie Converse
How badly do I want you to still be alive
To hear your songs played on the radio
To know that people love the words
To know that they get the innuendo
Or is your secret clever and forever
Are you clever and forever
How badly do I want it for you, Connie Converse
So badly that I give up my life today
So that yours may live
So that the world is not cheated out of your retribution
How badly do I want it for you, Connie Converse
Very badly today indeed

HOW BADLY
By: Ron Bulla

Apr. 24 2009 04:58 PM
Fred Jacobs from merrick, LI, NY

I was just preparing "In Just-" for a spring-themed high school class, when I heard your recording of Connie Converse--a perfect setting of the poem. I'd never heard of her, of course, & assumed this was a recent kitchen-recording. Instead, an amazing story, a story with a smile and a tear. I've been listening to her all night now, including your show of a couple of weeks ago. I am, though, a little disappointed that the Cummings setting is not available: I'd love to play it for my class.

Mar. 27 2009 11:14 PM
ILKER

She is truly amazing.

Mar. 23 2009 08:58 AM
Chuck from Pittsburgh

I was floored by your show on Connie Converse. I rarely download shows/music, but I love that show so much, I have re-listened to it repeatedly. What a gem she was. Thankyou Connie Converse!

Mar. 19 2009 08:33 PM
Bryce from Brooklyn

A coworker told me about this and I listened to the podcast while commuting on the subway yesterday. I have been moved by this story, in much the same way a great book or film stirs the soul. Thanks for keeping wonderful radio alive!!

Mar. 19 2009 06:48 PM
Francisco Figueroa from Bayamón, Puerto Rico

Thank you so much for preparing this program about the life and songs of Connie Converse. I am a musician myself. I play the viola in Puerto Rico Symphony and also teach in the public music school system, but I did not know about this wonderful musician and human being. I already put out some messages sharing this broadcast, which I find really touching and emotional.

Mar. 19 2009 12:51 PM
GG from NYC

This music and Connie's story just stopped me in my tracks and broke my heart. Sad, but with such resilience and wit. Especially loved the images of "That Squirrel Thing." I can well understand how Deitch, the great animator and hipster cartoonist, was drawn to her.

Thanks,

GG

Mar. 17 2009 03:54 PM
Erik M. from New York

Radio at its best - thank you

The album is available for download on amazon.com

Mar. 17 2009 01:51 AM
Keith Troester from Kew Gardens, NY

This was an incredible Spinning On Air episode, and it was an excellent accompaniment to my creation of a music video for John Cage. After several attempts, I finally came upon an idea that I liked, perhaps partially because of her music and her story. I may very well have to purchase the CD.

Thank you,
Keith

Mar. 16 2009 03:51 PM
Luke Higgins from South Orange, NJ

David, What an incredibly touching program. Such a fascinating mind and soul - and so tragic she didn't find an audience in her time. We're so incredibly lucky to have SPINNING ON AIR.

Mar. 16 2009 02:36 PM
Gene Deitch from Prague

David! I'm overwhelmed - especially when I think back to my 2004 appearance on your show with my son Kim. I had planned a program of my favorite jazz records... but thinking of my commitment to keep trying and trying to get Connie's music heard... I wondered, "Can I sneak in at least one Connie Converse song?" Reading the above comments fills my heart with joy. I made the right decision! These reactions are all I dared to dream of!
Do all these enthusiastic writers realize that a Volume 1
Connie Converse CD is now available??? I hope so!

Mar. 16 2009 11:37 AM
Justine Cullinan from Jamaica, Queens

I was struck by both Connie Converse's lucidity and her sadness and how she transcended her own depression to make art. Thanks for finding what was nearly lost ... and in the cosmic web may Connie Converse know how many souls she touched tonight ... and how edifying it was to know how many people loved her during her post New York life ...

Mar. 16 2009 01:13 AM
Barrett from Brooklyn, NY

Amazing...I was working at someone else's home (who also happen to be WNYC listeners). Your program is almost always ear- and mind-expanding for me, but this time it really took me for a journey. Converse was someone of talent and insight, creating in a time when that second quality wasn't of high value, and in fact might have been more than a little threatening, particularly from a woman.

Thank you yet again for taking me (and others) places we'd never get to otherwise.

- Barrett

Mar. 16 2009 12:28 AM
Sam Leopold from In between two tall mountains

How sad, how lovely. Thanks. Great program.

Mar. 15 2009 10:59 PM
Guy Klucevsek from Staten Island, NY

Beautiful program, David.
Thanks for introducing us to the singer-songwriter, Connie Converse, an intriguing and wonderful artist.
Enjoyed your thoughtful and heart-felt commentary, it is obvious how much she moves you, and, through you, we are moved as well.
You showed what radio can be at it's best.

Mar. 15 2009 10:17 PM
Jo-Jo from Brooklyn

Thank you so much for a wonderful show this evening. Hearing Connie Converse's songs sent chills up my spine. A lovely and unique talent she was.

Mar. 15 2009 10:16 PM
Jane from Georgia

What an interesting show! A remarkable singer/songwriter. Too bad life didn't go easier for her. Thanks for bringing her to life.

Mar. 15 2009 09:38 PM
anna from brooklyn

Connie gave us a unique opportunity to glimpse into the frustrated mind of a young independent woman of the 1950's. She was an example of humanity as continuum regardless of time or decade. People were the same then as now in many ways. She is important as an historical figure because of the perspective she gave us about life then as compared to it is now - not as different as is sometimes perceived. Thank you for this inspiring show!

Mar. 15 2009 09:28 PM
RJ from brooklyn

Lovely. If she chose to continue living, I hope it was for long enough to know that her music was finally heard.

Mar. 15 2009 09:15 PM
Morgan from Queens

excellent show

Mar. 15 2009 09:12 PM
Linda Fillat from Montague, NJ

I was fortunate to be traveling a very long distance to get home, giving me the chance to listen to your complete program about Connie Converse and reflect on her music and life. She was indeed a neglected talent who should have been cherished, much like Eva Cassidy. What is the dichotomy between music companies and intelligent women?

Mar. 15 2009 09:06 PM
Marian from New Jersey

Just amazing. I tuned in about five minutes into the program, and at first I thought: "This is a parody concocted by David Garland and Sara Fishko" (Connie's voice sounds a bit like Sara's to me). When I realized Connie was indeed real, I was riveted. Puts me in mind of how WNYC's Tim Page unearthed the brilliance of writer Dawn Powell some years back, Powell being another underappreciated, ahead-of-her-time woman whose artistry has since enriched many lives. Thank you!

Mar. 15 2009 09:05 PM
Ben from Brooklyn

One of the best hours of radio I've ever had the pleasure of hearing!

Immense gratitude for introducing us to Connie's singular voice and brilliant mind. So much about her and her captivating story actually justifies that old cliché: she was truly "ahead of her time."

I was driving back to Brooklyn from Pennsylvania and the show came on as we were nearing the Holland Tunnel. I was so worried that we'd miss a portion, but somehow the signal remained steady all the way under the Hudson. What wonderful luck!

Thank you so much!

Mar. 15 2009 08:45 PM
Joan from Manhattan

Really wonderful program. Amazing that she has been so unknown -- thank you so much for the opportunity to share her music. My husband and I are longtime folk/singer-songwriter followers and are so surprised to learn of her. We hope that your program will spread the word -- though, of course, too late.

Mar. 15 2009 08:26 PM
Julia from New Jersey

Thank you, thank you, David Garland and your team for producing this program. Your respectful and compassionate portrayal introduced me to a woman whose knowledge of the world and production of music went beyond her considerable erudition into an alchemy of artistry, unflinching self-reflection and deep sincerity. I'm off to find her CD.

Mar. 15 2009 08:18 PM
Michelle from New York

Beautiful and really moving. Thanks for putting together a great piece.

Mar. 15 2009 08:13 PM
Michelle from New York

Beautiful and really moving. Thanks for a great piece.

Mar. 15 2009 08:12 PM
Kenny Woods from Summit, NJ

I just heard​ The Witch​ and the Wizar​d on NPR think​ing - is this some unear​thed Joni Mitch​ell song?​ But the voice​ was older​ and evoca​tive of the commo​n depre​ssion​ of human​kind.​ Astou​nding​ to turn the pages​ of her sorro​w.​

Ditto Madeleine...Hope she found peace as well...

Mar. 15 2009 08:05 PM
lois burke from Manhattan

I was very moved by this show. Connie's "farewell letter" touched me and brought to mind my own friends who have said "let me go"

Mar. 15 2009 08:04 PM
david from brooklyn

an incredible show, thank you so much--haunting and lovely. how wonderful to have access to her voice.

Mar. 15 2009 08:03 PM
Madeleine from East Village, NYC

Thank you so much for this terrific radio-documentary and for introducing us to Connie's music. It's odd for me to happen to hear of all this for the first time today, after having spent the afternoon re-reading the poetry of Weldon Kees — one of my favorites — who disappeared in 1955 after having struggled with his own darknesses. The honesty and singularity and melodic beauty of Connie's music is really something I am grateful to have come across. I hope she found peace somewhere.

Mar. 15 2009 08:03 PM
Jonathan from Brooklyn

Thank you for introducing this remarkable artist to me.

Mar. 15 2009 07:55 PM
John from Bklyn

Thank you for putting this program together. The music is beautiful and the story is devastating.

In a different era, Connie would have been able to release her recordings on an "indie" label.
It's a small victory that her music will finally be heard by a wider audience.

Mar. 15 2009 07:52 PM
Ann from Upper West Side/NYC

I was driving home from Long Island listening to Connie Converse's songs. They are so moving and beautiful. I didn't want to get out of the car when I got home. A wonderful musical experience.

Mar. 15 2009 07:47 PM
Raina Elsner from nyc

Thank you for introducing me to this amazing, new (for me) musician!

Mar. 15 2009 07:43 PM
Gene Deitch from Prague

The Connie Converse excitement mounts! I want to tell you how beautifully presented and well edited your show was. You covered all the main points of Connie's story, and presented a well-selected number of her songs. There were even revelations for me! Philip Converse answered what was the greatest mystery to me: how come Connie was never found? His answer was simpler than I thought; Phil decided not to try; he respected her wish not to be found. Her genius was surely headed for oblivion. I feel incredibly gratified that through a series of chance encounters, and your allowing me to play my recording of Connie on your show, that her songs will at last have a new life!

Mar. 15 2009 03:42 PM
gina ballinger from Graz, Austria

thank you so much for this moving hour with connie converse. shes of the high art that i've studied as an autodictact all these years in austria through such people as whitney chadwick.giving her her voice spinning on air people is very exciting. my respect.

Mar. 15 2009 09:22 AM

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