Folk radio legend Oscar Brand dead at 96

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Folk radio legend Oscar Brand dead at 96

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LOS ANGELES - Oscar Brand, a longtime force on the American folk scene whose radio program “Folksong Festival” showcased Woody Guthrie and a young Bob Dylan among music greats and newcomers, has died, his manager said Saturday. He was 96.

Brand died Friday at his home in Great Neck, New York, after two bouts with pneumonia in recent weeks, said Doug Yeager, his longtime manager and friend.

He had been hospitalized before the decision was made to bring him home, Yeager said. Brand taped his final “Folksong Festival” for public radio station WNYC two weeks ago, and it aired Saturday, Sept. 24.

He was “a unique and extraordinary individual” and versatile artist, Yeager said.

“I don’t know of another artist who could perform alongside Woody Guthrie in overalls among the poorest of the poor,” move on to a radio performance with mainstream star Kate Smith and then conduct an interview with first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Yeager said. He also recorded some 100 albums, wrote eight books, created TV shows, composed Broadway musicals and made films.

The 70 years Brand spent with “Folksong Festival” earned him and the program a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-airing radio show with the same host (Guinness lists the program’s debut year as 1945). Brand did the show - a casual mix of song, conversation and humor - as a public service: He never accepted payment for his work.

He was honored with a George Foster Peabody Award for decades “in service to the music and messages of folk performers and fans around the world,” according to the 2005 announcement. AP
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