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THE WORDS AND MUSIC THAT ROCKED THE NATION

In the scope of today's mantra of profit as everything, Broadside was perhaps the most dangerous magazine that never succeeded. It was downright un-American.

In 1962, social activists Agnes "Sis Cunningham and Gordon Friesen founded the magazine as a vehicle for "topical music -- music that addressed a growing dissatisfaction with life as usual in the post-'50s U.S.A., music that chronicled the events of the day.

Financially, Broadside staggered through a couple of decades, reaching the end in 1986. Politically, it kicked butt.

The magazine was published from a small rent-controlled New York City flat that was home to Cunningham, Friesen and their two daughters, Aggie and Jane. The flat also was home to a primitive mimeograph machine, reel-to-reel tape-recorder and a roster of musical visionary-missionaries who crossed the threshold to get their music into print as well and make music.

A partial list: Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Malvina Reynolds, Janis Ian, Phil Ochs, Eric Andersen, Arlo Guthrie, Tom Paxton, Thom Parrott, Peggy Seeger, Mike Millius, Matt McGinn, Elaine White, Nina Simone, Peter La Farge, Buffy Sainte-Marie, The Fugs, Lucinda Williams and Mark Spoelstra.

From an undercurrent of dissatisfaction, these bards of the broadside conjured up mighty words.

Chet Huntley, David Brinkley and Walter Cronkite brought footage of the everyday horrors of Vietnam to the American public. But Ochs, Seeger, Dylan and company served notice -- with an exclamation point -- that the war was an abomination.

From the cloisters of the underground, these musicians became what was happening in the '60s. Hootenannies and folk jams were as common to the early '60s as sock hops were to the '50s.

No issue escaped the gun sight of Broadside. The music followed the freedom riders south to the hornet's nest of segregation and punctuated the cries of young African-Americans demanding black power.

The late Peter La Farge sang of injustices to the Native Americans, from the deaf ears to Seneca protests of a dam called Kinzua, which forever inundated sacred tribal land, to a World War II hero of Iwo Jima named Ira Hayes, who survived the war only to die of alcoholism at 32, a casualty of the poverty of the reservation.

There were broadsides against corporate indifference, the hidden victims, nuclear testing, sexism, suburban sprawl, housing policy, public transit policy, the death penalty and "Fields of Shame working conditions for migrants.

These ghosts of long ago are chronicled in sound and literature, "The Best of Broadside 1962-1988, subtitled, "Anthems of the American Underground From the Pages of Broadside Magazine.

This is more than a coffee table product.

Eighty-nine songs are crisply reproduced on five discs sandwiched evenly in 158 pages of a historical retrospective laden with delicious anecdotes.

Produced, compiled and annotated for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings by Jeff Place and Ronald D. Cohen, "The Best of Broadside is a lavish model of modesty, bound by spiral rings.

Pictures are glorious black and white and sepia tones. It is a scholarly treatment of this dynamic era, each artist given her or his due.

Bob Dylan, also known early in his career as "Blind Boy Grunt, his immortal "Blowin' in theWind debuting in the fledgling magazine's sixth issue, had many peers.

Among them, Buffalo expatriate Eric Andersen, who found lodging with the Friesens as an emerging stalwart of the Greenwich Village folk scene in the '60s. Known as one of the more introspective of a legion of topical songwriters, his "Thirsty Boots and "Violets of Dawn are indelible of the era.

In this chronology, Ochs sings backup on "Plains of Nebrasky-o, the artist's "impression of when I was hitchin' west to San Fran-cisco.

"In school I learned of men who died by the gun,

But not of those who died by the hoe.

The land has drunk the rains of many a farmer's blood,

Now forgotten and buried long ago.

"Best of Broadside is a trip to the morgue of a great newspaper, headlines spilling forth an undercurrent of events coloring the memories of people over many years, an invaluable grist for the history books of generations yet to be alphabetized.

Does the name Benny "Kid Paret ring a bell?

In 1962 he and Emile Griffith fought for the welterweight championship of the world. Paret went down in the 12th round and never stood again, dying 10 days later. In his song "Benny Kid Paret, singer Gil Turner wrote:

"You've heard about your Romans, long many years ago,

Crowding the big arenas just to see the slaves' blood flow,

Things have changed a lot since these days and now we're civilized,

Our gladiators they kill with gloves instead of swords and knives.

Ochs, who committed suicide in 1976, turns prophet in "Changin' Hands, words about a world emerging from the yoke of colonialism:

"Now Africa and Asia and the Caribbean shores,

No longer can be counted as the spoils of the wars,

They were bought and sold together,

now together they will stand,

'cause this old world is changing hands.

To the shell of Kurt Weill's "Mack the Knife, a monster 1959 hit for the late Bobby Darin, Pete Seeger detonates explosive satire in "Mack the Bomb, a discomforting ditty that uncloaks a dirty little secret of the Cold War's cloak-and-dagger -- that Strontium 90, a byproduct of a wave of atomic bomb tests in a game of superpower "one-upsmanship," had already entered the food chain and inflicted the misery of leukemia and bone cancer on tens of thousands:

"When the shark bites with his teeth, dear, scarlet billows start to spread,

Strontium 90 shows no color, but it leaves you just as dead.

Janis Ian's "Baby, I've Been Thinking, released in 1966, brings interracial romance down to the level of a society focused solely on black and white.

"Walk me down to school, baby, everybody's acting deaf and blind,

Until they turn and say, 'Why don't you stick to your own kind?

My teachers all laugh, their smirking stares,

Cutting deep down in our affairs,

Preachers of equality.

Think they believe it, why don't they just let us be?

Ian, a.k.a. "Blind Girl Grunt, also pulls the plug on the nation's warehouses for the elderly in "Shady Acres, where "there's no need to worry, we have our own mortuary and a beautiful ceme-tery.

These ghosts from the past are not that out of place in the year 2000. The complexion of injustice has changed a bit. But, really, little has changed.

America still dines on the backs of cheap labor. Our cities are still segregated. And a bloated military -- albeit somewhat restrained by the lesson of Vietnam is ever game for foolish adventurism.

Today, there are politically charged topics blowin' in the wind, scattered in a media barrage of rap, hip-hop and rock.

But there was a time a few decades ago when the message commanded the attention of a nation.

This is the legacy of Broadside.