In 1991, Paredon Records founders Irwin Silber and Barbara Dane
sat down with Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
archivist Jeff Place to discuss why they founded the label
and tell the stories behind each album.
Download a PDF of the transcribed interview here.
On the occasion of his 80th birthday an interview with Mr. Silber was published giving details on his role in the progressive folk music circles of the 40s, 50s and 60s as well as his appearance before McCarthy's House Un-American Committee in the 1950s.
Activist and author
After leaving Sing Out! in 1968, Silber became cultural editor of the independent radical newsweekly, the Guardian (US) and also its film critic. He began to write on more directly political subjects, specializing in analysis of both national and international developments and developing a broad and appreciative readership. He became the Guardian's executive editor in 1972 and led it into the milieu of the New Communist Movement. Factional disagreements led to a split within the Guardian staff, and Silber left the newspaper in 1979, moving to California to join the leadership of a current within US Marxism known as the "rectification movement." 
Among Silber's most important political writing is Socialism; What Went Wrong, an examination of the theoretical and practical events in the USSR leading up to its collapse. His only non-political book in the last 20 years is A Patient's Guide to Hip and Knee Replacement based on his own experience with these operations. Silber's most recent book, Press Box Red, tells the story of sports editor Lester Rodney, whose decade-long campaign in the pages of the Daily Worker helped pave the way for the racial integration of major league baseball.
In the December 24, 2007 issue of Newsweek magazine Garrison Keillor of "Prairie Home Companion" fame was asked to name his five most important books. His #2 choice (after the Acts of the Apostles) is The Folksinger's Wordbook by Irwin Silber, a huge collection of "hymns, blues, murder ballads, miner's laments-the whole culture."
The open letter to Dylan
"I saw at Newport how you had somehow lost contact with people ... some of the paraphernalia of fame were getting in your way".
Dylan did not like being told how to perform or how to write, and he didn't really like any criticism much either. He replied by telling his manager Albert Grossman that his songs were no longer available for publication in Sing Out!.
Eventually, in 1968, Silber retracted his criticism in the Guardian (US):
"Many of us who did not fully understand the dynamics of the political changes ... felt deserted by a poet". "Dylan is our poet - not our leader ... Dylan .. is communicating where it counts."
The words quoted above are from page 314 of "No Direction Home: the Life and Music of Bob Dylan" by Robert Shelton.
In "Chronicles Volume One" (2004), Bob Dylan commented:
"I liked Irwin, but I couldn't relate to it. Miles Davis would be accused of something similar when he made the album Bitches Brew ... what I did to break away was to take simple folk changes and put new images and attitudes into the
Socialism: What Went Wrong? - An Inquiry into the Theoretical and Historical Roots of the Socialist Crisis, Pluto Press (1994)
A Patient's Guide to Knee and Hip Replacement, Simon & Schuster (1999)
Folksingers Wordbook, (with Fred Silber); Music Sales Corporation (1973, reissued 2000)
Press Box Red: The Story of Lester Rodney, the Communist Who Helped Break the Color Line in American Sports, Temple University Press, 2006; ISBN 1-56639-974-2