Profile: Dave Isay, Audio Documentarian and “Storycorps” Founder

Meet David Isay, a humane and immensely talennted radio documentary maker and oral historian who has probably won every broadcasting award out there.  Isay has dedicated his career to celebrating the lives of everyday Americans by recording their stories, and chronicling the experiences of underdogs and colorful characters, many of them living outside the American cultural mainstream.  We meet him, and sample some of them, in this profile.

See also “Listening is an Act of Love” and “Storycorps” stories also in this blog.


Posted in Americana, History, Immigrants and Ethnic Life, Person on the Street Interviews, Profile Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Provincetown’s Vanishing Portuguese Community

Provincetown, Massachusetts, at the tip of Cape Cod was once home to one of the thriving Portugese communities anywhere in the world outside Portugal (and the Azore Islands, where most of those “Portagees” come from). Fishing was their livilhood (once mixed with whaling) was their livelihood.  But with the near decimation of the North Atlantic fishing stock, the price of real estate, the out-migration of youth, and the town’s growth as a gay resort town, these Provincetown Portuguese and their culture are disappearing. This story focuses on those who remain, what they remember, and what they see as their prospects.


Posted in History, Immigrants and Ethnic Life Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Doo Wop Revival

Oyez oyez ooh bop she-bop ooh bop she BAM! Doo wop was a great musical form that teens loved and parents often detested. In any case. its melodiousness has resurfaced big time on the revival circuit. This story here is one from one I attended at a cheesy (grand) venue in Atlantic City.


Posted in Americana, History, Music, New York

The Freedom Riders

The American South was a segregated society 50 years ago. In 1960, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed racial segregation in restaurants and bus terminals serving interstate travel, but African-Americans who tried to sit in the “whites only” section risked injury or even death at the hands of white mobs. In May of 1961, groups of black and white civil rights activists set out together to change all that. The “Freedom Riders,” An integrated group of young civil rights activists, decided to confront the racist practices in the Deep South by travelling together by bus from Washington D.C. to New Orleans, Louisiana.  This is a brief look at what happened.


Posted in Americana, History Tags: , , , , ,

The Island at the Center of the World: Dutch New York

2009 marks the 400th anniversary of English sea captain Henry Hudson’s arrival in what’s now New York harbor.  British colonists would play a major role in the development of Manhattan Island.  But historian Russell Shorto says it was largely the 17th century Dutch and their pioneering settlement of New Amsterdam that influenced what Manhattan, New York City and to some extent, even America itself, would become.  Shorto explains how in his book, “The Island at the Center of the World — The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America.”


Posted in Americana, Books, History, New York Tags: , , , , , ,

The Pentacle and the Wand: Contemporary Witchcraft in America

The witch has come in for some pretty hard knocks in previous centuries, but lately there has been a resurgence of interest in what she has to offer both as a way of seeing, and a way of being that is female, strong, earthy, connected and wise. This is a half hour documentary that explores witchcraft in all its wholesomeness and mystery. Appearances by Z. Budapest, Starhawk, Gina Banghart, Matthew Fox, Joseph Campbell and many others. Come on in! The magick’s fine!

(Also of interest: my NPR long form documentary “The Goddess in the USA” )


Posted in Americana, History, Long form docs (15" and up), Religion, Spirituality, Women

The Romance and Poetry of Space (VOA 1995)

In which Adam explores the biological and the spiritual pull toward the great “Out There” through interviews with an astronaut, Terence McKenna, astophysicists, and many others.  Cameo appearance by his son Noah as an infant.


Posted in Americana, Arts, History, Science, Spirituality Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Spiritual Music of Hawaii

Even given its colonial past and present day kitsch, Hawaii remains both an earthly paradise and a place of natural numinous power.  This is evident in its variety of spiritual musical idioms. Here is a taste of some of them,culled from a Smithsonian Festival a few years back.  Aloha!


Posted in Americana, Arts, History, Immigrants and Ethnic Life, Music, Religion, Spirituality

The Status of Women in Israel

Due to religion, socialism, the Zionist ideal, the militarization of the society, Western feminism, Arab culture and many other factors, Israeli women have complex competing factors that inform their self-image and their social roles.  This is a half hour documentary I did for National Public Radio back in the 1990s that is still relevant today.


Posted in History, Immigrants and Ethnic Life, Long form docs (15" and up), Religion, Spirituality, Travel outside the USA, Women

The Status of Women in Israel (NPR 1990)

Between Zionism, Socialsim,  Feminism, Judaism, the Holocaust, and all the American, Eastern European, Middle Eastern and Asian cultural influences that compete for primacy as models for women in Israel, their status and self-image is deeply multi-layered and complex. This half hour documentary, which I completed for National Public Radio back in the early 1990s, offers a sound-rich and varied sampling through the eyes of real women living, working and raising families in that amazing place.


Posted in History, Long form docs (15" and up), Religion, Spirituality, Travel outside the USA, Women Tags: , , , , , , ,
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