A native New Yorker, Ronnie Gilbert was singing on the radio by age 12. After performing in various choral and vocal groups, Ronnie joined forces with Pete Seeger, Lee Hays and Fred Hellerman to form The Weavers in 1947. The quartet, featuring Ronnie’s soaring contralto, exposed their listeners in the late Forties, Fifties and early Sixties to traditional and newly-written folk songs ranging from early “world” music (“Wimoweh,” “Tzena, Tzena, Tzena,” “Guantanamera”) to classic, comforting standards (“On Top of Old Smokey,” “Goodnight Irene,” “Kisses Sweeter than Wine”) to idealistic social comment (“This Land is Your Land,” “If I Had a Hammer” and “Wasn’t That a Time.”
Despite the group’s commercial popularity (beginning with “Goodnight Irene,” their hit records sold in the millions of copies), the politically aware Weavers were blacklisted during the anti-Communist hysteria of the McCarthy era. With The Weavers unable to tour, Ronnie moved toward a solo career as singer and actor in the early Sixties, recording albums and appearing in plays off and on Broadway. She subsequently earned an M.A. in clinical psychology and worked as a therapist before returning to the theater.
Drawn out of musical retirement by longtime devotee Holly Near for a series of 1983 concerts (captured on Appleseed Recordings’ LIFELINE EXTENDED) Gilbert continued her musical partnership with Near and recorded three albums on Near’s record label (formerly Redwood Records) including a solo release, SPIRIT IS FREE. Ronnie and Holly’s historic tour with Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger is preserved on Appleseed’s H.A.R.P: A TIME TO SING. Another solo record, LOVE WILL FIND A WAY was released on Abbe Alice Music, a label owned by Ronnie and her partner, Donna Korones.
Ronnie’s 70th birthday tour with Holly in 1996 was celebrated with another Abbe Alice release, THIS TRAIN STILL RUNS. It contains two of her songs from her one-woman theater piece, “Mother Jones,” based on the life of the legendary American labor activist. Ronnie also wrote the lyrics and co-authored the musical play “Legacy,” inspired by Studs Terkel’s oral history “Coming of Age.”
Currently, Ronnie performs an auto-biographical song/talk called “Ronnie Gilbert: A Radical Life with Songs” for cross-generational communities. She coninues her commitment to feminism and global peace activism through strong participation in the Women In Black network, challenging U.S. policy in the Middle East and around the world. She is at work writing her memoirs.