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Real Music - Reunion - February 2017


Real Music - Reunion - February 2017

by Robert Feuer

Veteran Greenwich Village folk/country/pop singer, Lucy Kaplansky, will hold a solo performance at the Occidental Center for the Arts on Feb. 18. Speaking from her home in the Village, she indicates she’ll accompany herself on guitar, with some piano and mandolin. Three-quarters of her songs will be originals.

Married to an NYU professor, with a 14-year-old daughter, her last couple of albums focus on themes of motherhood, home, and family – “my daughter growing up, my parents, both gone now, growing old. My most important job is being a mother.” She speaks of reaching out to audiences. “People want to find something together, with the artist, with each other. Ideally, a song has some emotional truth to it.”

Kaplansky started singing as a teenager in Chicago’s important folk scene, which included John Prine and Steve Goodman. Just out of high school, she left for New York City, the folk music scene being more dynamic there. 

She landed at the Village’s Folk City, site of Bob Dylan’s first professional gig. Working there as a performer, bartender, and waitress, she met people like Suzanne Vega and Shawn Colvin

Kaplansky developed a reputation as an excellent harmony singer, and, in 1980, joined Colvin as a duo, leading to their harmonizing on Colvin’s 1990 Grammy-winning “Steady On.” Kaplansky also collaborated in the late ‘80s on recordings with Suzanne Vega and Nanci Griffith.

Torn between music and an interest in clinical psychology, she says, “I was so conflicted about letting myself have what I wanted.” With her singing career going well, she chose clinical psychology, achieving her doctorate and working in hospitals, while also having a private practice.

When Colvin approached her about making another record, Kaplansky decided she didn’t want to be a psychologist because “I wanted to sing.” Looking back on the academic career she dropped, she adds, “I learned so much and it helped me in my life.”

 1994 found her signing with Red House Records for the first of seven solo albums, “The Tide.” She’s recorded three collaborations, also. 

Kaplansky has been applauded by the New York Times, the New Yorker, and Entertainment Weekly, and has won two awards for best pop album of the year from the Association for Independent Music. 

A 1998 book, SOLO: Women Singer- Songwriters in Their Own Words, includes her among Colvin, Ani DiFranco, Sheryl Crow, and Jewel. Her TV appearances include “quite a few” on CBS and NPR. She also sang two songs on Bob Dylan tribute albums.

Interestingly, her father, Irving Kaplansky, a renowned University of Chicago mathematician, was also a talented pianist, “who wrote songs for fun,” Kaplansky relates. An EP in 2000 includes him on piano for some of her shows. 

Her latest solo release, “Reunion,” includes Eliza Gilkyson and Buddy Miller. The title song celebrates her pioneering grandmother who sailed from Poland to Toronto in 1913.

As she ages, Kaplansky feels “wiser, understanding more about what’s important. I’m clearer about what I believe.””

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