In 1932, Florence Reece, the wife of a Kentucky coal miner, wrote one of the classic topical songs preserved in the folk musical revival. The song, "Which Side Are You On?," contrasts the lot of the working class and the bosses, and asks the listener to choose. This politically charged song was performed again during the Civil Rights Movement, with its lyrics appropriate to the 1960s. It was recorded more recently by Billy Bragg. Indeed, the story of this song might serve as a microcosm of the entire history of the folk music revival. Dick Weissman, former member of the Journeymen and a musician still releasing CDs of his original compositions, brings his personal and professional involvement to this definitive history. "Which Side Are You On?" includes chapters and sections on the Lomaxes, Harry Smith, the little known Lawrence Gellert, Woody Guthrie, Josh White, Leadbelly, Pete Seeger, groups such as the Weavers and the Kingston Trio, Dave Van Ronk, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Natalie Merchant, Ani Difranco, Bela Fleck, Nickel Creek, the Indigo Girls, and many others. "Which Side Are You On?" also explores the folk music business in depth: how it all works, where the power really lies, how the artists have been manipulated and often exploited, the dynamic between artist and audience.
Dick Weissman is a musician and writer. His book The Music Business: Career Opportunities and Self-Defense, now in its fifth edition, has sold 100,000 copies. The Folk Music Sourcebook, which Weissman co-authored, won the Deems Taylor ASCAP Music Critics Award. Dick Weissman lives in Portland, OR.