January 4, 2010
Check this week's classifieds to learn about Help Wanted positions, including one Executive Director and one Executive Director, Operations!
Also, be sure to watch for Passenger Transport's next issue, which will focus on 2010: The Year Ahead!
Bess Lomax Hawes Dies; Co-Author of ‘MTA’ Song
Well, let me tell you of the story of a man named Charlie
On a tragic and fateful day.
He put 10 cents in his pocket, kissed his wife and family
Went to ride on the MTA.
The co-writer of the famed “MTA” song, Bess Lomax Hawes, died Nov. 27 in Portland, OR, after a stroke. She was 88.
Hawes championed folk arts throughout her life, both as a performer and an official with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). As a child, she helped her father, folk musicologist John Lomax, collect and transcribe field recordings for the Library of Congress. Her brother, the late Alan Lomax, also became a major collector of folk music of the 20th century.
Hawes joined the Almanac Singers—a group that also included Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie—soon after graduating from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, where she majored in sociology. In 1970, she received a master’s degree in folklore from the University of California at Berkeley.
During her time with the Almanac Singers, Hawes co-wrote the MTA song with her friend Jacqueline Steiner, adopting two folk tunes for the music.
The song was originally created as a campaign tune for a 1948 Boston mayoral candidate opposed to a transit fare increase; the candidate lost. A decade later, the Kingston Trio released its version, which became a hit. Other musical groups created their own variations: "Skinhead on the MBTA," from the punk band the Dropkick Murphys, and "The Man Who Finally Returned," by the Front Porch Country Band. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston immortalized the song and its lead character in 2004 by naming its electronic farecard the “CharlieCard.”
Hawes became assistant director of the Smithsonian’s celebration of the national bicentennial, and in 1977 became director of the NEA’s folk arts program in 1977. Funding for folk arts increased from approximately $100,000 to $4 million during her tenure. In 1993, just after she retired, President Clinton awarded her the National Medal of Arts.
In retirement, she created the National Heritage Fellowships, a way for the nation to honor trailblazers in folklore.