Von Schmidt, Eric 1931–2007

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Von Schmidt, Eric 1931–2007


See index for SATA 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, and gained a following of students from Harvard University and elsewhere who were interested in his upbeat and energetic interpretations of blues and folk songs; among these disciples 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, with 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). He was also 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 also 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 von Schmidt's primary passion, and he faced difficulties when throat cancer, diagnosed in 2000, robbed him of his ability to sing. Because he was also ill with Lyme disease, he was unable to play music, so he consoled himself with painting a series of works titled "Giants of the Blues." In 2007, von Schmidt also suffered from a stroke, which may have been in a factor in his death.



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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