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Alan Lomax: Recording The World

Alan Lomax
Michael Ochs Archives
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Getty Images
Alan Lomax

Alan Lomax wanted to create a record of world sound. From 1933 until he stopped working in 2002, two years before his death, Lomax devoted his life to preserving the folk songs of the past.

He traveled everywhere from Mississippi to Japan searching for folk music, collecting thousands of songs and recording musicians such as Muddy Waters, Woody Guthrie, Vera Hall and Leadbelly, whom he met in a prison.

"[Lomax was] in Angola prison and they ran into one guy who was singer par excellence," says John Szwed, professor of music and jazz studies at Columbia University and the author of the new biography, Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World.

Szwed tells Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz, "Everything about him radiated confidence and security in what he was doing."

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