Monday, August 11, 2008

Folk musician Darling passes away in Chapel Hill

"Erik Darling, the reedy-voiced guitarist and banjo player who deftly stepped in when Pete Seeger left the pioneering folk music group The Weavers, has died after battling lymphoma," said the Associated Press. "He was 74."

Darling passed away in Chapel Hill on August 3.

The AP states that Darling was known for his hit "Walk Right In," as well as for his arrangement of the Southern crime ballad "Tom Dooley" -- which was based on the real-life story of Tom Dula. (Dula was a former Civil War soldier who was tried, convicted, and hanged in Statesville for the murder of his fiancée, Laura Foster. The trial and hanging received national publicity, and Dula became a folk legend. According to Wikipedia, there "was considerable controversy around his conviction and execution. In subsequent years, a folk song was written (entitled 'Tom Dooley,' based on the pronunciation in the local dialect), and many oral traditions were passed down, regarding the sensational occurrences surrounding the murder of Foster, and Dula's subsequent execution." Darling's arrangement would go on to be a hit for The Kingston Trio. That song topped the charts in 1958.)

Darling was also a member of the Tarriers, "known for its version of 'The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)' — the signature tune of Harry Belafonte."

He replaced venerable folks icon Seeger in the Weavers in the late 1950s, a few years after the band was blacklisted for its political views.

Weavers member Fred Hellerman told the AP that Darling moved to Chapel Hill a couple of years ago to be near Willard Svanoe, a fellow member of The Rooftop Singers, the band with which he recorded 'Walk Right In,' a No. 1 hit for Vanguard Records in 1963.

"He was an absolutely logical person to be brought in" after Seeger's departure, Hellerman said. "Of the next generation of Weavers, I mean he was so outstanding that it was hard then or even now to imagine who else we could have brought in other than Erik."

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