She Vanished in 1974; Now Her Music Is Catching On

The fascinating life of Connie Converse
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 12, 2016 11:55 AM CST
Updated Jan 16, 2016 6:43 AM CST

Connie Converse would be in her 90s if she's still alive, perhaps more surprised than anyone that the music she made back in the 1950s has finally found an audience. As Priceonomics explains in a fascinating profile, Converse tried to make a go of it as a musician in New York City decades ago with little success. She wrote her own songs, then a rare thing, but the labels weren't interested. She left New York in 1961 and took a more traditional job before disappearing, seemingly of her own accord, in 1974. "Let me go," she wrote to family and friends at the time. "Let me be if I can. Let me not be if I can’t. [...] Human society fascinates me & awes me & fills me with grief & joy; I just can't find my place to plug into it."

Her brother suspects she took her own life, and that might have been the end of the story, if not for a remarkable string of events: A guy named Gene Deitch recorded her at a party in 1955; five decades later, he played one of those songs on NPR; a listener named Dan Dzula became entranced, contacted Deitch, and then made it his personal mission to spread her music to the world via Deitch's amateur recordings. The result is the album "How Sad, How Lovely," and passionate fans who've made her a hit on Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube. "I think she deserves a place at the table with the great 20th-century songwriters," says musician Howard Fishman, who has written a play about her. Click for the full story. (More music stories.)

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