Lonesome Traveler: The Life of Lee Hays

Doris Willens, Author, Doris Willins, Author W. W. Norton & Company $17.95 (281p) ISBN 978-0-393-02564-4
The youngest son of a rural Arkansas Methodist minister, cantankerous, opinionated Lee Elhardt Hays (1914-1981) bummed around the country, writing and performing ``folksongs,'' until, as a member of The Weavers, he became famous in the 1950s. In this warmhearted biography, his former Brooklyn Heights neighbor, who collaborated on four record albums with him, sets out to explain this difficult, self-doubting, Paul Bunyanesque radical, from his Ozark boyhood to the legendary Carnegie Hall 30th-reunion concert of November 1980 (which formed the centerpiece of Wasn't That a Time!, one of the most popular documentary films of recent years). Willens explores Hays's troubled relationships with siblings, friends, agents and especially Pete Seeger, who broke off with him at least three times. She notes that, although Hays admitted to being a fellow-traveler and had close ties to the left-wing ``movement,'' his entire life ``was marked by his negating authority figures, disrupting groups he was a part of, questioning everything out of existence, and deep psychological inability to make a commitment.'' A well-balanced tribute. Photos not seen by PW. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/03/1988
Release date: 06/01/1988
Paperback - 299 pages - 978-0-8032-9747-0
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