No musician ever had a better friend or role model. Many of us can say this about Artie Traum.
I have struggled with words since his passing, trying to characterize this lovely, supportive, gracious, and talented man. I could not look at a story discussing him, let alone write one. I am still upset.
To say he was an inspired guitarist is not enough said. To say he was inspiration to many still falls short. To say he was always there for me with advice and encouragement is closer to my personal thoughts. Artie and his brother Happy raised a generation of young folk performers to the next level. They set a standard for the rest to follow. They continued to contribute to our betterment. Now Artie is gone, just as we all shall follow.
I have a deep admiration for this thoughtful, bright, pensive, selfless and kind man. Our last conversation relates to his insight. I had begun to work on my 50th Sing Out! column, with phone calls to friends, thinking it would be a good idea to ask each to write a section of the column. I was on my way – then I dialed Artie.
Artie balked. “Bad Idea,” he said, even before I could finish my question. “You want to write your 50th yourself. It’s yours. Don’t give it away and don’t ever let anyone take it away from you. It’s you, not us.”
He was, as usual, correct.
I felt a “brotherly” inclusion when asked now and then to recite a story and play a song on the Traum brother’s Bring It On Home radio show on WAMC in Albany, NY – even as I got to the last few blocks that took me past Albany Medical College, a place that looms in my memory as, well, not home. The gatherings with Happy, Artie, his Woodstock friends and other stellar performers was unlike any other experience I have ever known. Pure frenetic (pre-show) then sublime (during the show). I felt part of the club.
I remember so many good meals (always Chinese food), so many bright conversations, retorts, observations. I have just re-read the liner notes Artie asked me to write for the first Sony Bring It On Home album. And the best prose I ever wrote (Grandpa’s Knife) was to meet a deadline, a story for one of the shows.
Although I will smile when I remember his kindness and wit, there will always be a wisp of sadness for losing him.
Here is a link to a Sing Out! article I wrote about Artie. It should give a broader picture in my words and more importantly, in his words.