BRUCE “U. UTAH” PHILLIPS (1935-2008)
We are saddened to report the passing of a close friend of the RBR family, the folk music community, the American workforce and the homeless population of Nevada County, CA. Utah Phillips, a storyteller in the grand tradition of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, died in his sleep on May 23, 2008. Over the course of his career, Phillips was an inexhaustible performer, stressing the values of oral tradition more than the permanence of the recording studio. Each time he collaborated with Ani on an album (1996’s The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere and 1999’s Fellow Workers), it was a rare, absorbing treat.
Utah’s musical legacy supports the argument that life experience makes for the best art. His songs are informed by his Steinbeck novel-esque past, including a stint in the Korean War, a resulting period that found him riding the rails, trying to make sense of the devastation he had witnessed, a discovery of causes he believed in (pacifism and workers’ rights) and a bid for the U.S. Senate.
Utah Phillips will always be known as “The golden voice of the great American Southwest.” And like the precious metal in his nickname, Utah’s legacy will only become more valuable as time carries on.
His family requests memorial donations to Hospitality House, the homeless shelter Phillips started in 2005:
P.O. Box 3223
Grass Valley, CA 95945