Listen to this track by New Hampshire native transplanted to New York City and singer-songwriter progenitor Connie Converse. It’s “One By One” one of seventeen home-taped songs she recorded sometime at the end of the 1950s. After many years of awaiting discovery, this song and Converse’s other material was commercially released in 2015 on the album How Sad, How Lovely.
Converse’s songs and her general approach to making music — by writing, singing, and playing it herself — have become cited as the earliest example of the singer-songwriter genre. Now, that claim is perhaps tenuous if you want to take it apart on a musical level. Lots of people were writing their own songs and singing them by the fifties. But, when connected to the scenes in the late sixties and into the seventies, maybe you can see why this claim has been made, so common are the threads found in her music when compared to, say, Judee Sill, Tim Hardin, Bridget St. John, or Nick Drake. Like those writers, Connie Converse dealt in contemporary themes while referencing traditions of the past, along with a love of imagery and wordplay that goes beyond the confines of pop music of her times. In Converse’s case, it was early twentieth century parlour songs, folk ballads, hymns, and cowboy songs.
But, like some of those examples given earlier of singer-songwriters, Converse had a limited body of work due to its lack of commerciality. And in addition to that, there’s a certain amount of mystery surrounding the fate of Connie Converse. Read more