A folk voice made of gold

By Mike Dendurent

  Sometimes I wonder where I’ve been all my life. Like a few months ago when I was working around the house and listening, as I often do, to one of my favorite music stations on Internet radio.

  Suddenly, there came through the speakers one of the loveliest female singing voices I had ever heard. The voice was rich and inviting, the singer’s diction was perfect — every word was crystal-clear. The accompanying instrumental work was crisp and engaging.

  I dashed to the computer to find out who was performing. It was ... Kate Wolf.


  I have listened to music on the radio — including many different genres — nearly all of my life. But I had never heard of Kate Wolf.

  How was that possible? How had I lived my life without ever knowingly hearing the music of this angelic-sounding (and -looking) performer?

  It may be because Kate Wolf’s career — and life — were so brief. Kate was born in 1942 and died of leukemia in 1986, at age 44! The major part of her career lasted about 10 years. Yet, this folk singer-songwriter’s work continues to influence many of today’s young musicians.

  Born in San Francisco, Kate started her career in the band Wildwood Flower, which she helped form (one of her early influences was the Carter Family). She later produced a number of albums as a solo artist, including ‘‘Gold in California,’’ a retrospective of her recordings that she compiled after being diagnosed with the disease that ultimately claimed her life. ‘‘Gold’’ was released about a month after her death.

  Many of her songs reflect her love for northern California, where she is buried in a small church cemetery.

  Would you recognize the names of Kate’s songs? Probably not, unless you are a dedicated folk music fan. But there are a few of Kate’s live performances — with Kate playing guitar and piano and backed by two other outstanding musicians, Nina Gerber and Rick Byars — on YouTube.

  Kate was a pretty woman with long brown hair, a warm smile and an easy-going manner. And then there’s that voice ...

  As I watch her videos, I wish I could have seen her perform in person. And I’m not alone. One commenter on her ‘‘Green Eyes’’ video says, ‘‘I am so happy to find some live performances of Kate Wolf. I love the tone and easiness of her voice, and of course the lovely feeling she exudes.’’

  One of the videos features Kate’s most popular song — and certainly one of her most profound, ‘‘Give Yourself to Love.’’ The piece would make a great selection for a wedding, as it contains these words:

  Kind friends all gathered ’round, there’s something I would say

  What brings us together here has blessed us all today

  Love has made a circle, that holds us all inside

  When strangers are as family, loneliness can’t hide.


  Kate Wolf. Another marvelous musician who died too young but left the world a treasure chest of beautiful words and tunes. My life is richer for having discovered her.



  Awhile back, I came across a very peculiar word, ‘‘paraprosdokians,’’ figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is unexpected in a way that causes the listener (or reader) to reinterpret the first part. Comedians love paraprosdokians. Some examples:

  • Take my wife — please! — Henny Youngman

  • I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it. — Groucho Marx

  • I don’t belong to an organized political party; I’m a Democrat. — Will Rogers

  And some more ...

  • Where’s there’s a will, I want to be in it.

  • War does not determine who is right — only who is left.

  • Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

  • I used to be indecisive, now I’m not so sure.

  • They begin the nightly news with ‘‘Good evening,’’ then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.

  • Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

  • I’m supposed to respect my elders, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to find one.

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