Philip Converse, The Custodian Of A Mysterious Musical Legacy

In a bid to delay doing some assigned reading this afternoon — an Annual Review of Political Science article called “On Assessing The Political Effects of Racial Prejudice” — I spent a little time searching through archives I have access to while I’m still a grad student. After some searches to see if Newt Gingrich had ever commented on Rodney King or Amadou Diallo (I didn’t find anything) and if National Review had ever supported individual mandates before they were against them (they mainly urged Republicans to abandon the moderate GOP plans that included them), I decided to see what kind of presence seminal scholar Philip Converse has had in the media over the years.

Not too much. There were 28 hits in Lexis-Nexis for Converse, including a 2009 San Francisco Chronicle article about his older sister, a recently rediscovered folk singer from the 50s named Connie, that quotes him. The story of Elizabeth “Connie” Converse is actually quite tragic. She wrote the bulk of her catalogue in NYC during the 1950s. Eventually, she moved to Ann Arbor, MI, where her brother was studying public opinion. After years as the managing editor of the Journal of Conflict Resolution, in 1974, she disappeared:

Since Herman and Dzula heard “One by One” on Deitch’s broadcast in 2004, many people have been asking what happened to Connie Converse. Still no one knows. Dzula and Herman attempted to track her down, but had no luck. A relative hired a private investigator and found nothing. A Chronicle search could conclude only that Converse’s Social Security number has not been registered as a death. If she committed suicide, as her farewell note hints and as most of her family tends to believe, her body was either never found or not identified. If alive today, she would be 85.

Among the belongings that she left behind in her brother’s attic was a filing cabinet that included rejection letters from music publishers. In her will, she left clear instructions that her brother Phil be in charge of all copyrights and control of her songs.

In 2009, tiny independent record label Lau derette Recordings released an album of songs that were collected from her brother Philip and Gene Deitch, who recorded many of them. You can listen to and purchase the album here. I’m quite taken by the song, “Talkin’ Like You (Two Tall Mountains).”

Apparently, a documentary is being made about Connie. Watch a clip here:

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Philip Converse, The Custodian Of A Mysterious Musical Legacy

  1. Mihaela Dinu says:

    Philip Converse has published hundreds of scholarly articles, and some books. Google Scholar and some other (paid, such as Web of Science) scholarly search engines easily return all of them. Lexis-Nexis seems to be dedicated to publications outside of academia.

    • mattcorley says:

      Thanks! At the time I wrote this post, I was studying political science as a graduate student and had read a couple of Converse’s articles (The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics and 2 later essays responding to how other political scientists had responded to that seminal article, to be exact). I was curious to see if he had had much of a voice in the non-academic media over the years.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s