Graham and Barbara Dean
GRAHAM AND BARBARA DEAN
I grew up in Queens, New York, listening to the music of Paul Robeson, Josh White, Leon Bibb, Harry Belafonte, Pete Seeger and the Weavers, Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie. I went to a progressive summer camp where many of the kids came from similar backgrounds, and I especially relished singing wonderful folk songs every night around the campfire. Those songs were so nourishing, so life- and health-enhancing.
I went to Music and Art High School in Manhattan, playing saxophone and piano, and learned both bassoon and folk guitar while in high school. Though I loved the rock music of the 60’s and 70’s, I never forgot my love of folk and protest music — it always brought me the greatest joy both to hear and to sing good folk songs.
As a child, I was surrounded by coal mines. The village I grew up in, in Derbyshire, was part of one of the largest coal fields in England. Almost every adult I knew worked in the mines. During my teenage years, all that changed. Most of the mines closed and the motorway was built, bringing with it new industries. Farms gave way to factories. I went south to attend college, and after graduation, taught science for a few years.
Like many of my generation, I was thrilled when I heard the Rolling Stones, and went on to discover Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and other great bluesmen and women. My musical interests expanded; my ears were always open. The Grateful Dead, Little Feat, Jackson Browne, Tim Buckley, Michael Nesmith, John Stewart and many others were added to my record collection. Eventually I picked up a guitar and taught myself to play. With friends I played in a rock band for several years. In college, I took up the acoustic guitar more seriously, and was also listening to more songwriters and traditional music.
Graham & Barbara
We met in Sherborne, England in 1975 during a 10-month course in spiritual development based on the teachings of George Gurdjieff, a Russian mystic. One of the things that attracted Barbara to Graham was his guitar-playing and singing the songs of John Stewart, Michael Nesmith, the Grateful Dead, Little Feat, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and other icons of the era. Graham came to New York to marry Barbara in 1977. Barbara already had one child, Tanya, from a previous marriage, and together we had three more children — Naomi, Rachael and Jordan. During the years of raising our kids, singing and playing music together took a back seat to our other responsibilities. For a while, though, we performed together at our kids’ school fundraising coffeehouses, and were happy to hear from people how much they enjoyed our music. All this time, Graham had been busily writing songs, many about the political and social climate, and problems of our times, some more personal. In the year 2000, as a 50th birthday present, Barbara’s family sent Graham off for a week of music camp, to Summer Acoustic Music Week on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, run by WUMB, the folk music station out of Boston. It was life-changing. Ever since, each summer we have gone together to camp, working with such folk luminaries as Kim and Reggie Harris, Bob Franke, Kate Campbell, Joel Mabus, Robert Jones, Anne Hills, Sparky and Rhonda Rucker, Rolly Brown, and many others, and in the process, found our own love of performing again. Since our “baby” went off to college in 2002, we have had more freedom to pursue our passion for music. We recorded our first CD “Tom Paine’s Blues” in 2004, and are looking forward to recording another one!