Cochran, Robert (Brady) 1943–

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COCHRAN, Robert (Brady) 1943–

PERSONAL: Born May 24, 1943, in Lake Forest, IL; son of Robert B. (an obstetrician) and Ruth (Gerwig) Cochran (a homemaker and religious educator); married Suzanne McCray (a teacher), 1982; children: Robert M., Jo Shannon, Masie E., Jesse E., Taylor G. Education: Northwestern University, B.S., 1965, M.A., 1966; University of Toronto, Ph.D., 1973. Politics: "Liberal Democrat."

ADDRESSES: Home—Route 5, Rocky Creek Rd., Fayetteville, AR 72701. Office—Center for Arkansas and Regional Studies, University of Arkansas, Old Main 506, Fayetteville, AR 72701. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: Ball State University, Muncie, IN, instructor, 1969–70; University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, assistant professor, 1970–71; National Endowment for the Humanities, lecturer/performer, 1971–72; University of Indiana—South Bend, assistant professor, 1973–76; University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, assistant professor, 1976–79, associate professor, 1979–87, professor, 1987–, director of Center for Arkansas and Regional Studies, 1989–, chair of American studies. National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar for School Teachers, project director, 1993; public speaker at universities and conferences. Collaborator on the "Lost Roads Project" (traveling multi-media exhibit), 1994; guest curator of exhibit Send You Back to Arkansas: Our Own Sweet Sounds II, 2003–04.

AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright Lectureship, Babes-Bolyai University (Cluj-Napoca, Romania), 1985, and Lajos Kossuth University (Debrecen, Hungary), 1986; honorable mention, Chicago Folklore Prize and Elsie Clews Parsons Prize, American Folklore Society, both 1986; John Simon Guggenheim fellowship, 1988; Guggenheim Fellowship for his continuing study of folk music, 1989–90; Fulbright Distinguished Lectureship in Korea, 1995.


(With Mike Luster) For Love and for Money: Vance Randolph, an Annotated Bibliography, Arkansas College Folklore Monograph Series (Batesville, AR), 1979.

Vance Randolph: An Ozark Life, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1985.

Samuel Beckett: A Study of the Short Fiction, Twayne (New York, NY), 1991.

Our Own Sweet Sounds: A Celebration of Popular Music in Arkansas, University of Arkansas Press (Fayetteville, AR), 1996, updated second edition, 2005.

Singing in Zion: Music and Song in the Life of an Arkansas Family, University of Arkansas Press (Fayetteville, AR), 1999.

A Photographer of Note: Arkansas Artist Geleve Grice, University of Arkansas Press (Fayetteville, AR), 2003.

Author of introduction, Come Walk with Me: The Art of Dorris Curtis, University of Arkansas Press (Fayetteville, AR), 2004. Also author of the films Beautiful Thing: Rugs by Jean Will and A Mountain Life: Walter Williams of Newton County, Arkansas. Contributor to books, including The Charm Is Broken: Readings in Arkansas and Missouri Folklore, edited by W. K. McNeil, August House, 1984, The Early Republic: The Making of a Nation, The Making of a Culture, Free University Press, 1989, and An Arkansas Folklore Sourcebook, University of Arkansas Press (Fayetteville, AR), 1992. Contributor of articles, poems, fiction, and reviews to periodicals, including Arkansas Times, Texas Observer, African American Review, South Bend Tribune, and Grapevine. The Robert Cochran Collection at the University of Arkansas contains materials Cochran collected related to folklorist Vance Randolph.

SIDELIGHTS: Robert Cochran is a professor with a special knowledge of folklore. His very first publication was For Love and for Money: Vance Randolph, an Annotated Bibliography, and Cochran followed this up with Vance Randolph: An Ozark Life, a biography of the notable folklorist, Vance Randolph. From folklore, Cochran turned to the modern playwright Samuel Beckett, analyzing the famed author's work in Samuel Beckett: A Study of the Short Fiction.

In the books Our Own Sweet Sounds: A Celebration of Popular Music in Arkansas, and Singing in Zion: Music and Song in the Life of an Arkansas Family, Cochran explored traditional music in the state of Arkansas. Our Own Sweet Sounds was published as a catalog for a museum exhibit at the Old State House Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas. In it, the author sets out to provide a full survey of traditional and popular music in Arkansas, taking in blues, gospel, folk, country, rock, soul, rhythm and blues, and even rap music. Since the book covers so much territory, its entries are somewhat brief, yet it provides a sense of the great variety of music to be found in Arkansas.

Singing in Zion, on the other hand, is a tightly-focused work that explores the musical tradition of one family, the Gilberts, who live in the northwest region of the state. Through family songs and stories, Cochran shows the richness of the Gilberts' heritage as they celebrate their lives and transitions. Because the Gilberts often sang for their friends and neighbors as well, their story really provides a detailed portrait of an entire community and its musical tastes. Singing in Zion had its genesis when sisters Phydella Gilbert Hogan and Helen Gilbert Fultz presented Cochran with a large family songbook; the author reproduces selections from this family heirloom and offers commentary on them as well. Kip Lornell, a contributor to Notes, faulted Singing in Zion for numerous minor errors of fact, concluding that Cochran had produced "a useful but flawed book." He went on to say that Singing in Zion "helps the reader understand the social and familial context for the songs performed by a nonprofessional family musical group." Cochran has also contributed to museum exhibitions on Arkansas music and folklore.

In A Photographer of Note: Arkansas Artist Geleve Grice, Cochran used the photographs of Geleve Grice to form a historical portrait of some six decades in the life of a small African-American community. Grice lived most of his life in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, working on the staff of an African-American newspaper, for the Arkansas State Press, and for the Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College. The selections in the book are taken from Grice's newspaper work as well as his personal collections, and include everyday events as well as visits by heroic figures, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., covering the years from 1942 to 2000. Cochran worked with Grice to select the images, drawing from the thousands the photographer took over the course of his long career. Black Issues Book Review contributor Clarice Taylor pointed out, "The vivid black-and-white images and text provide a deeper look into the extraordinary and complex world of an ordinary segregated town."

Cochran once told CA: "Two circumstances gave me my start as a wordmonger. Within my family, my precocious talent for purple prose gained me the task of writing all condolence letters to grief-stricken relatives while I was still in elementary school. I've since learned that this is a bit unusual. When Uncle Orville died, or Cousin Rupert lost a leg to a boat propeller, our family's sympathy card, with elegy or pep talk as the case required, was written by me. This bred a cool objectivity, since both the recipients and the subjects of my effusions were often unknown to me. At about the same time, my teachers at school began to substitute me for themselves at storytelling time. 'Just tell the class a true story,' they would say, knowing I would lie. 'Last summer Duke Snider asked me to hold his beer,' I'd begin (and this was true), and all ears were mine as the tale plunged from Cincinnati's Crosley Field (now gone) to lands remoter than Atlantis.

"I remember that as a fourth grader I wanted to write for National Geographic, but I never have. My declared major as an undergraduate at Northwestern University was journalism, and indeed my B.S. is in that field. But I never worked for a newspaper or magazine. The writing I've done as an adult seems to me as varied both in its form and in its motivation as the condolences and tall tales I spun out as a child. I seem to have become a folklorist around 1976, more or less by accident, much as I became a graduate student to stay out of Vietnam in 1966, and a professor of English to avoid more demanding employment in 1970. I found that I liked folklore most of all for its usual focus on unrespected figures. The work I'm proudest of now is that which calls attention to such people. My biography of Ozark folklorist Vance Randolph, or my study of ballad singer Emma Dusenbury, or my documentary film portrait of maple syrup maker Walter Williams—all these have insisted upon the accomplishments of their subjects. I believe that the true mind, running on all its cylinders, is totally without fastidiousness and contemptuous of taste and its canons. I bring the same attention to Dante and to Emma Dusenbury, and I make no apologies. That's as close as I can come to credo."



Black Issues Book Review, May-June, 2003, Clarice Taylor, review of A Photographer of Note: Arkansas Artist Geleve Grice, p. 35.

Chain, Volume 3, no. 1, C. D. Wright, "The Lost Roads Project: A Walk-in Book of Arkansas," 1996.

Choice, June, 1992, J. A. Wiseman, review of Samuel Beckett: A Study of the Short Fiction, p. 1539; July-August, 2003, W. S. Johnson, review of A Photographer of Note, p. 1902.

Journal of American History, September, 1986, Durwood Dunn, review of Vance Randolph: An Ozark Life, p. 500.

Library Journal, May 1, 2003, Eric Linderman, review of A Photographer of Note, p. 108.

Notes, June, 2000, Kip Lornell, review of Singing in Zion: Music and Song in the Life of an Arkansas Family, p. 960.


Arkansas Times, (February 28, 2003), review of A Photographer of Note: Arkansas Artist Geleve Grice.

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Cochran, Robert (Brady) 1943–

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