von Schmidt, Eric 1931-2007

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von Schmidt, Eric 1931-2007


See index for CA sketch: Born May 28, 1931, in Bridgeport, CT; died February 2, 2007, in Fairfield, CT. Artist, musician, and author. Von Schmidt was a folk musician and composer who influenced such legends as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. The son of a painter, he learned to be an artist from his father. Instead of going to college, he continued his education in Florence, Italy, on a Fulbright scholarship and then served two years in the U.S. Army. Von Schmidt settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1957. Here he began to gain a following of students from Harvard University and elsewhere who were interested in his upbeat and energetic interpretations of the blues and folk songs. Among these were Baez, Dylan, and Tom Rush. Dylan was perhaps his most ardent pupil. The legendary folk-rock artist learned many songs from von Schmidt, and did not forget to credit his mentor's influence. Though not as famous as Dylan or Baez, von Schmidt had a successful music career, too, having thirty copyrighted songs to his credit. He released albums such as The Folk Blues of Eric von Schmidt (1964) and Who Knocked the Brains Out of the Sky? (1969). Interestingly, von Schmidt had another career, too. He was a graphic artist and author and illustrator of children's books. He illustrated over fifty juvenile titles by such writers as Eve Bunting and Sid Fleischman, and wrote and illustrated several of his own books. Among these are Come for to Sing (1963), The Ballad of Bad Ben Bilge (1965), and Feeling Circus (1970). Music, however, was his primary passion, and so it was difficult for him when he contracted throat cancer in 2000 and could no longer sing; Lyme disease robbed him of the pleasure of playing music, so he consoled himself with painting a series of works titled "Giants of the Blues." More recently, von Schmidt also suffered from a stroke.



Chicago Tribune, February 8, 2007, Section 3, p. 9.

New York Times, February 3, 2007, p. A13; February 7, 2007, p. A2.

Times (London, England), February 6, 2007, p. 48.

Washington Post, February 5, 2007, p. B5.

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von Schmidt, Eric 1931-2007

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