The mysterious true story of mid-century New York City singer songwriterConnie Converse…
What happened to Connie Converse? When she vanished in 1974 at age 50, never to be seen again, was it to start a new life or to end her debilitated old one? Don’t know who Connie Converse was? Here’s her song, “Talkin’ Like You,” recorded by her friend, the comic artist Gene Deitch, in 1954.
With a mellifluous singing voice that could convey joy and melancholy in equal measure, Converse never achieved fame in her lifetime, though she did appear once on CBS in the 50s, and left behind a single posthumous album, How Sad, How Lovely. Composing three-minute songs in the classic sense, she accompanied herself on guitar on “Empty Pocket Waltz,” “Roving Woman,” “There is a Vine,” and fifteen others. On the surface, they seem simple, but her lyrics are sharp, cutting, witty and often devastating. She uses her tone to disarm listeners. Her sing-song ditty “The Witch and the Wizard” is set in “a rose-colored cottage in hell,” and tells the story of a Saturday-night affair, a baby with lavender eyes, and vengeance.
How Sad, How Lovely came out in 2009, and its release generated a decent amount of attention. Those who connected with it did so with a certain obsessiveness. Last year a 40-minute documentary, We Lived Alone: The Connie Converse Documentary, arrived on YouTube. It features interviews with those who knew Converse. Here are its release notes:
This 40-minute experimental documentary will explore the life of Elizabeth Eaton ‘Connie’ Converse. After being commercially ignored as a singer/songwriter, Connie disappeared in 1974 at the age of 50, leaving only goodbye notes and a filing cabinet full of her extraordinary life’s work. Her deeply personal songs were ahead of their time. Faced with major surgery and a crippling sense of failure, Connie Converse drove off in her Volkswagen bug and was never heard from again. ‘We Lived Alone’ uses an archive of recordings, photos, interviews, and symbolic footage to investigate the life of Connie Converse through the lens of her own music.
On May 2, the first major book on Converse will be published by Dutton. Written by musician and New Yorker contributor Howard Fishman, it tells the story of, per advance notes, “The mysterious true story of Connie Converse—a mid-century New York City songwriter, singer, and composer whose haunting music never found broad recognition—and one writer’s quest to understand her life.”
More from the notes:
Supported by a dozen years of research, travel to everywhere she lived, and hundreds of extensive interviews, Fishman approaches Converse’s story as both a fan and a journalist, and expertly weaves a narrative of her life and music, and of how it has come to speak to him as both an artist and a person. Ultimately, he places her in the canon as a significant outsider artist, a missing link between a now old-fashioned kind of American music and the reflective, complex, arresting music that transformed the 1960s and music forever.
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