Dan Bern - guitar, vocals
Wavy Gravy said he was "at the cutting edge of folk music stuff," and singer-songwriter Dan Bern doesn't disappoint during this appearance at the 20th anniversary Seva concert billed as Sing-Out for Seva, in honor of its old school Greenwich Village-styled folk emphasis.
Doing his best to come on like a modern-day Dylan, Bern blazes through the Zimmie-inspired "Jerusalem," as well as the wordy "Fascist in Me," before bringing it all back home with "Wasteland," performing with good humor and cheer, all in the name of Seva. The Seva organization's been doing good turns in its own small way for third world citizens by bringing them eye healthcare and basic survival tools since 1978 when Wavy co-founded it—and they haven't stopped yet. Nor has Bern, an unrelenting Iowa native who's still going strong after bursting on to the singer-songwriter scene in the '90s with a critically acclaimed self-titled debut, released at age 32. Since then, he's made countless songs (some reports say over 600), some of them topical and many of them based on personal experience. As a "songwriter kind of person," as Bern refers to himself during this set, his songs draw on his real life—growing up the child of Jewish Lithuanian immigrants—as well as from popular culture and his imagination. He plays the poignant "Oh Sister" here, a tale of a little brother in big sister's shadow. He also sings one in memory of the passing of Frank Sinatra, mourning the fact that the Chairman of the Board will definitively never be able to cover "Marilyn" (in which Bern supposes what would've happened if the Hollywood icon had married writer Henry Miller instead of playwright Arthur Miller).
By special request of Wavy ("you don't say no to him") Gravy, Bern performs "Wasteland," another one of his pop-culture-filled socio-political commentaries concerning "the great minds of his generation." Drawing as he does from the '60s as well as the contemporary side of things, Bern goes down well with the Seva crowd, despite his cynical streak. And as Bern puts in his own earnest good turn for Wavy and the Seva cause, his set stands among the stand-out solo performances in a year that sported a stellar lineup of singers and songs for Seva. "With every Seva ticket sold there's one less blind person in the world," says the good, old Gravyman and thanks to "new kid," Dan Bern, there's a few more.