It is with great sadness that we report the passing of guitarist, singer, writer, songwriter and producer Artie Traum on Sunday, July 20, 2008.
Artie’s work appeared on more than 35 albums. He produced and recorded with The Band, Warren Bernhardt, Pat Alger, Tony Levin, John Sebastian, Richie Havens, Maria Muldaur, Eric Anderson, Paul Butterfield, Paul Siebel, Rory Block, James Taylor, Pete Seeger, David Grisman, Livingston Taylor, Michael Franks and Happy Traum, among others. His songs were featured on PBS, BBC, ESPN, and CBS. He toured in Japan, Europe and across the USA.
Born and raised in the Bronx, Artie became a part of the Greenwich Village folk music scene in the late 1960s. Early on, he co-wrote songs for the Brian de Palma debut film Greetings – the first role for Robert DeNiro – with Eric Kaz and Bear.
1969 saw Traum joining forces with his brother Happy Traum in a duo. Their self-titled debut album, Happy & Artie Traum (Capitol Records) was cited by the New York Times as “one of the best records in any field of pop music.” The Traums were managed by Albert Grossman (manager of The Band, Dylan, Janis Joplin, etc.). The duo performed at the 1969 Newport Folk Festival on stage with James Taylor, Kris Kristoferson and Joni Mitchell.
In November 1971 both Artie and Happy Traum (together with Bob Dylan, David Amram, and others) participated in an extended Record Plant (NYC) session backing up Allen Ginsberg in various songs and chants. Ginsberg wrote the liner notes for the duo’s Hard Times in the Country LP.
During the ’70s and ’80s, Artie Traum produced The Woodstock Mountains Revue featuring himself, his bother Happy, Pat Alger, John Sebastian, Maria Muldaur, Rory Block, Eric Andersen, Paul Butterfield and Paul Siebel. In the mid 1980s, Artie teamed up with singer/songwriter Pat Alger (Thunder Rolls, Unanswered Prayers). The duo recorded the album From The Heart.
Artie’s 1994 release – the jazz project Letters From Joubee – captured #1 on the Smooth Jazz Radio Charts (Gavin AA chart). In 1999 his Meetings With Remarkable Friends – which included tracks featuring Artie playing with The Band, Bela Fleck, Jay Ungar, and other notables – received the Best Acoustic Instrumental Album award from the NAV.
In 2003 Traum released a singer/songwriter project, South of Lafayette, which was featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered”. In 2007 Traum released the album Thief of Time.
During recent years, Traum enjoyed a small side career as a documentary filmmaker. In 2002, his film Deep Water: Building the Catskill Water System (co-produced and co-directed with Tobe Carey and Robbie Dupree) was featured at the Woodstock Film Festival. Two years later, in 2004, Traum co-produced Hudson River Journeys: A Celebration of America’s First River for WMHT Public Television. The latter film featured artist Len Tantillo, folksinger Pete Seeger, and Traum’s close friend, the writer/musician Ed Renehan, with Renehan having crafted the screenplay for the production.
Traum also wrote numerous guitar instruction books, and hosted many video productions for his brother Happy’s Homespun Tapes. Traum lived with his wife Beverly in Bearsville, New York, just outside of Woodstock. At the time of his death, Traum had been at work on a memoir.
“Aside from being a *great* guitarist, tasteful producer and thoughtful songwriter, Artie was one of the “best friends” one could have in this biz,” noted Sing Out! editor Mark D. Moss. “Always funny, self-effacing, generous with an honest caring, he was one of those rare people that always lived up to his own press. This is a sad, sad day.”
A memorial gathering at the Bearsville Theater on June 24th gathered several hundred of Artie’s friends to celebrate his life through rememberances and song. He is survived by his wife Bev, his brother and sister-in-law Happy & Jane, along with nieces and a nephew. In his own words: “Guitars, blood oranges, a great family, good friends, and one true love. Life was wonderful.”