Biography of Nancy Raven

by P.J. Swift

Nancy Raven’s career as a folk artist for children has spanned four decades. Raven was part of the folk movement for children in the ‘60s, and her recordings in that period reflect a deep appreciation of simple folk-oriented material for a preschool audience. Her later efforts reflect her appreciation of multicultural education and influences.

Raven was born in Glendale, CA in 1929. She was raised in Southern California and received a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in education from San Diego State University. But her first love was music. She started performing in 1958, and by 1960 had her first release, Lullabies. In an era dominated by Walt Disney and Golden Records, Raven’s simple folk songs were a refreshing change. She produced six more albums in that decade, each on the Pacific Cascade label. Raven was influenced by the work of Pete Seeger, Sam Hinton, and Marcia Berman, and their love of simple, spontaneously invented songs shows through in her own creative efforts.

In the following 15 years, Raven did not produce material for children. Rather, she taught them, as a high school art teacher. She was, however, a featured performer on a 1975 Malvina Reynolds release. Raven started her own Lizard Rock label in 1984, and then started another decade of prolific composing and recording. She released seven albums in seven years. Each of the albums featured her distinctive soprano and multi-talented musicianship on guitar, banjo, charango, and dulcimer. Two of the albums, Singing, Prancing, and Dancing and You Gotta Juba!, won Parent’s Choice Awards. Raven surrounded her performing schedule with workshops for teachers in the United States and Japan.

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