Someone Always Takes Me Home: On Howard Fishman’s “To Anyone Who Ever Asks”

Someone Always Takes Me Home: On Howard Fishman’s “To Anyone Who Ever Asks”

CONNIE CONVERSE is remembered now, if at all, as a rediscovered relic of blog-era music oddity. Like Rodriguez, Donnie and Joe Emerson, Sibylle Baier, Lavender Country, or Converse's near-contemporary and kindred spirit, Molly Drake, the cracks she slipped through became her calling card. Converse was notable for preserving a greater level of obscurity more extreme than any of the others: recordings never commercially available; no connections to any scene or famous figure; being a guitar-playing singer-songwriter (and home-taper) in the early 1950s, before such a thing existed, who played only among friends before dropping out of music in the 1960s and ultimately disappearing shortly after. It was not until the 2000s that some of her work was finally made available for those who were never in a room with her. This is how musician and New Yorker contributor Howard Fishman came across Converse: overhearing How Sad, How Lovely , her first commercially available album, at a party in 2010, just a year after its long-delayed release. This chance encounter (itself born of a chance encounter, that of recording engineer Dan Dzula overhearing cartoonist and animator Gene Deitch play a song he recorded of Converse's in the 1950s on WNYC in 2004) led to an escalating obsession, with Fishman visiting the home of Converse's brother, exploring her archives there, arranging concerts of her unreleased music, a Converse-centric play, and ultimately embarking on 10 years of travel, research, and writing that would eventually yield To Anyone Who Ever Asks: The Life, Music, and Mystery of Connie Converse (2023), a totemic accomplishment and indispensable guide to a vast body of work that is—outside of 20-odd songs on Spotify and brief “Did You Know?” and “Unexplained Disappearances!” articles of varying veracity—glimpsable for the first time in its pages. The subtle shading of a truly quotidian life and the gaps in the that, for all his diligence, Fishman could not fill in invite the imagination and make To Anyone Who Ever Asks an oddly personal experience for such an extensive and well-researched biography. Born in 1924 into an insular New England family […]

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