Today is musician Laurie Lewis’s birthday. She’s 62, born in 1950.
Laurie Lewis plays bluegrass and a jazzier fiddle music called “newgrass”. She’s from California and discovered the work of Bill Monroe through a community of musicians in the San Francisco Bay area – not the standard path but certainly effective. She’s not an imitator, but finds inspiration in the tradition. Lewis told an interviewer earlier this year, “How am I ever going to be able to imitate a man from Kentucky, I’m a woman from Berkeley.”
She turned out to be a trailblazer in her chosen style of music. As far as the impetus for breaking gender barriers and being unconventional, it seems to come naturally out of her upbringing. Here’s a quote from another interview:
“You know, I grew up in Berkeley, and it took me years of getting out of the area before I got over the feeling that everything was weird, everybody thought differently than I did, everything was strange. I realized after awhile that, no, I was the weird one, and that Berkeley was the strange place. And outside of modern European countries, there weren’t many places in the world that were like this. You know how Europeans claim they can spot Americans all the time? When I was 16 I went to Europe for the first time with my family. Nobody thought we were an American family. They all thought we were maybe German or Danish or something. The way we dressed and the way we were was just different. But that’s what I grew up in.”
What are some of the lasting effects of your upbringing?