Harry Smith

WHEN I BEGAN PLAYING the Anthology of American Folk Music, I started bouncing the name of its compiler, Harry Smith, off art-world friends, and also the not completely coidentical group with whom I like to swap opinions about rock ‘n’ roll, and no one had heard of him. But Smith—born 1923, died 1991—was certainly some kind of artist, and rock music would not be what it is without him. Issued in 1952 as a set of eighty-four recordings from the late ’20s and early ’30s, all culled from Smith’s collection, the Anthology was hugely important to the musicians and audiences behind the folk revival of the ’50s and early ’60s—a movement that left a massive legacy in our concept of the possibilities of rock. Eventually, though, as popular taste changed, Smith’s album largely vanished from public view. An archaeological excavation of records released only twenty-odd years before its own creation,

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