'She Was the Female Bob Dylan,' Then Vanished

Connie Converse was a folk pioneer before she disappeared, as the 'New York Times' explains
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2023 2:40 PM CDT
Updated May 13, 2023 6:30 AM CDT

If she had recorded her songs just a few years later, Connie Converse might very likely be a household name to this day, writes Howard Fishman in the New York Times. Instead, she's an enigmatic footnote in modern music history, though interest appears to be growing in her legacy. Converse lived in New York City from 1945 through the '50s, mostly in its bohemian neighborhoods, working a day job while writing and recording her own songs. She even scored a TV appearance in 1954 with Walter Cronkite on CBS' The Morning Show, but her musical career never quite clicked. Her songs were seen as "lovely, but not commercial," she herself put it in a letter to her brother at the time. She left New York in 1961, ironically just as Bob Dylan arrived and as the folk scene of Greenwich Village took off.

"She was the female Bob Dylan," folk music scholar Ellen Stekert tells Fishman, who's working on a book about Converse. "She was even better than him, as a lyricist and composer, but she didn't have his showbiz savvy, and she wasn't interested in writing protest songs." Converse is known today mostly because NYU student Dan Dzula stumbled upon a bootleg recording from 1954 and, with a friend, assembled a 2009 album. After leaving New York, Converse went to Ann Arbor, Michigan, "where she reinvented herself as an editor, a scholar, and an activist," per Fishman. And in 1974, just after her 50th birthday, she vanished without a trace. (Read the full story, which calls her "a pioneer of what's become known as the singer-songwriter era.")

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