Sing Out!, the preeminent folk music journal since 1950, passed away on Wednesday from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. Irwin ran Sing Out! for its first 17 years, a time that included the folk boom – what Utah Phillips liked to call “the great folk scare” – of the late-1950s and early-‘60s.
It was 1970 or ’71 when I began subscribing to Sing Out! – and it was sometime in the ‘80s that I became a regular contributor to its pages – so Irwin’s tenure was before my time. But, as a student of the folk music revival, I am well aware of his legacy with the magazine (in the '70s I had the opportunity to go back and read every issue of its early decades from cover to cover) and in such other endeavors as People’s Songs, Oak Publications and Paredon Records.
All of us who have practiced folk music journalism over the past 60 years are somehow rooted in Irwin's pioneering work.
I never met Irwin in person, although we did exchange e-mails on several occasions when I turned to him as a source for research I was doing. He was gracious and helpful whenever I had a question for him. He was particularly helpful when I wanted to find out about John Gates (born Solomon Regenstreif), the long-time editor of the Daily Worker and political commissar of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade during the Spanish Civil War.
I send my condolences to Irwin's wife, Barbara Dane, and the rest of his family and friends.
The New York Times obituary on Irwin can be read here.