Malvina Reynolds: Song Lyrics and Poems  

Introduction and Notes

     All of the songs in the accompanying menu were composed by Malvina Reynolds; in the vast majority of instances she supplied both the lyrics and the music, but in a couple of dozen or more cases she either collaborated as lyricist or turned to already existing melodic sources (either by particular individuals, or from the folk tradition). Malvina's collaborators included, among others, Pete Seeger, Lou Gottlieb, Janet Smith, Margret RoadKnight, Nancy Schimmel, and Jack Lyons.

     Not all material we are aware of appears in the menu at this time. Malvina's daughter Nancy Schimmel owns the rights to (and copies of) all but a few of her works at this point, and I (C.H.S.) have asked her to serve as a judge of just which items--published and unpublished--should be included here. Such review takes time (as does related transcription and web production work), and some decisions had to be made at the outset as to scope lest there be an unwanted delay in opening the site. In the future, as time permits, we may well add further works. If in the menu a title appears but the first line of its lyrics has not been added yet, it can be assumed that we have not yet finalized the online file.

     Where has this material come from? Well, several places. To start with, all songs appearing either in any of Malvina's songbooks or any of her commercially recorded lp and cassette releases are included: this in sum amounts to around two hundred works. Beyond this are close to fifty songs that appeared in print only in one or both of the serial publications Broadside and Sing Out! over a period of nearly thirty years. Malvina contributed some forty-seven songs to the latter magazine and perhaps seventy-seven to the former, and many of these did not make their way into her songbooks. This total has been augmented by 150 or more works that come straight out of the files--songs that, with only a few exceptions, have never been seen or heard performed by almost anyone.

     Nancy has identified several particular categories of the songs that never got recorded or published in songbooks, but whose lyrics we are including in this site:

     (1) Songs written for a public event or campaign, like 'Senate Bill One' or 'Nestle No!' We have included a number of these here, as they add to the historical record. A few such songs actually have outlasted the campaigns, such as 'Skagit Valley.'

     (2) Songs written for friends, like 'Log of the Echo III,' though two such songs appeared in The Muse of Parker Street: 'Down to Hanson's' and 'The Good Ship O'Connor.'

     (3) Songs on subjects that were treated more skillfully in other of her songs. A few are included here, most remain in the files.

     (4) Complaining or discouraged songs. Malvina wrote many of these but only recorded or included in songbooks the ones that are funny enough ('There's a Bottom Below') or poetic enough ('World Gone Beautiful') to engage, rather than depress, an audience. We've included a few of these.

     With respect to the individual lyrics pages here, you will notice that each set of lyrics is followed by, as occurring, lists of: (1) MR songbooks that included the song's music (2) other places that have printed the song's music (for example, Broadside and Sing Out!, and various multi-artist songbook compilations) (3) MR recordings of the song, and (4) other artists' recordings of the song. Only three of Malvina's songbooks (Tweedles and Foodles for Young Noodles, The Malvina Reynolds Songbook, and There's Music in the Air: Songs for the Middle-Young) are as of this writing (3/2006) still in print; these may be obtained by writing to Schroder Music Company, 704 Gilman Street, Berkeley CA 94710 (order form at; send a stamped, self-addressed envelope and the song title to Schroder if you want a lead sheet for a song that is only in an out-of-print songbook, or a song on this site that is not in any songbook--almost all are available). Two or three dozen of her best known songs have also appeared in various multi-artist songbook compilations, however, and there are always the original Broadside and Sing Out! contributions if you have a large university or public library handy and want to do a little digging (and you may want to: in either publication your efforts may additionally reward you with early contributions by the likes of Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger, Eric Andersen, Dave Van Ronk and Janis Ian, among many others--a thrilling reminder of the vibrancy of the New York scene in the late fifties and sixties). Or, and of course, music to any of the songs (save a small handful for which she does not own the copyright) can be purchased directly from Nancy Schimmel, at: .

     One of my (C.H.S.) contributions to this project was an investigation of the Malvina Reynolds song discography; i.e., her songs as recorded by other artists. This effort took me to a lot of interesting places; most Malvina fans know (or would not be surprised to hear) that her compositions were recorded by, for example: Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, The Limeliters, The Kingston Trio, Sally Rogers, Rosalie Sorrels, Marsha Berman, Utah Phillips, Josh White Jr., The Wiggles, Glenn Yarbrough, Tom Paxton, Anne Hills, Raffi, Holly Near, Claudia Schmidt, Gale Garnett, Cathy Fink, The Seekers, The Searchers, Michael Cooney, Priscilla Herdman, Sandy & Caroline Paton, Jay Ungar, Ann Mayo Muir, Harry Belafonte, The Brothers Four, Gerri Gribi, Victor Jara, The (London) Spinners, Margret RoadKnight, The Lettermen, Nanci Griffith, Cris Williamson, John McCutcheon, Marianne Faithfull, and Melanie. But I'll bet few of you knew that the following have also recorded her material: Margaret MacArthur, Foster & Allen, Eugene Chadbourne (!), Lightnin' Hopkins, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, The Irish Rovers, Esther and Abi Ofarim, Dick and Dee Dee, The Everly Brothers, Lonnie Donegan, Rosemary Clooney, Perry Como, Helen Merrill, Freddie and the Dreamers (!), Kenny Loggins, Jimmie Rodgers, Diana Ross, Dick Smothers, Sonny and Cher (!), and Rude Girls!

     Although I found plenty of recordings to list, I have little doubt that I have overlooked as many as several hundred or more additional ones--many bibliographic sources do not list the composers of particular cuts on a record, and beyond this many recordings have just never made their way into such sources. I would be pleased to add to the existing list in the future; please contact me with particulars for any given recording you know (please do not guess!) I have left out. One caveat, however: the list is closed in terms of time frame as of this writing (3/2006): any recordings of Malvina material made after that date are on their own so far as this discography goes!

     Note, finally, that where possible we have added links to performances of individual songs on the internet, whether from original recordings, or amateur covers.

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This page copyright 2006 by Charles H. Smith and Nancy Schimmel. All rights reserved.

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