While Toshi Reagon is OK with all the Pete Seeger questions she gets from people, she’d prefer to talk about Seeger’s wife, Toshi.
“I was named Toshi, so like I tell people, ‘they were both really important people in my life,’ ” said Reagon, who, along with her band BIGLovely, will perform at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall tonight at 7:30.
‘Toshi Reagon and BIGLovely’
WHERE: Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 30 Second St., Troy
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
HOW MUCH: $34-$20
MORE INFO: 273-0038, www.troymusichall.org
“I adored and loved Pete, but Toshi was the one really responsible for the path of my career. She’s the one, along with my parents, who had the most influence on me.”
Reagon was born in 1964 in Atlanta. The daughter of civil rights activists Bernice Johnson Reagon and Cordell Hull Reagon, she has an eclectic musical repertoire that includes folk, country, pop, blues and spirituals.
Her parents were original members of The Freedom Singers, a group formed in 1962 to give voice to the Civil Rights Movement. “It was Toshi who knew how to put things together like tours to bring protest music to college campuses and folk musicals,” said Reagon.
“She worked very closely with my mother to get that first booking for The Freedom Singers. She knew how to create something that could travel and move, and make a difference in the world. I can tell you, Pete wouldn‘t have gone too far without Toshi, and he’d be the first one to tell you that.”
While Reagon can’t remember a whole lot from the 1960s, she says it was a time not unlike today.
“I remember my life, and I remember growing up in Atlanta, and what it was like to be a black person in Atlanta or a black person anywhere,” she said. “And if you don’t know what was going on in the ’60s in America, then you’re trying not to know. It’s just like now, so let’s talk about today.
“Change comes slowly in America. People have to find out what they are protesting and then people have to ask themselves if they’re going to help.”
She is hopeful that change will come.
“The ’60s were something, and the question is, is this generation going to be as transformative as that one?” she said. “Are we going to spring forward and create something as spectacular as what they did back then? Hopefully there are young people willing to keep pushing forward. I feel like they’re right, so we shouldn’t have to spend too much time convincing ourselves of that.”
Reagon has played at Carnegie Hall, the Paris Opera House and Madison Square Garden, and has been called “fierce and uncompromising” by The New York Times. “A shower of retro funk, urban blues and folk. To hear her is to believe.”
Reagon, who lives in New York City with her partner and their daughter, a Skidmore College student, is certainly not “fierce” in casual conversation. She is easily approachable and encourages debate.
She and her band members will participate in an outreach program today with the YWCA of Northeastern New York and the YWCA of the Greater Capital Region.
“Our show is a collaboration with the New York State Presenters Network, and they don’t want you to just go into a community, do a show and then leave,” explained Reagon.
“They want to have an interactive aspect of the show, and we did one at Lincoln Center last year. People can come and ask me questions, I try to answer them and they give me some feedback and tell me what they thought.
“The talk is open to everyone, and it’s a conversation about how people formulate their existence as an artist. It’s about the creative process and I talk to them about how it works for me. Hopefully it will help keep moving us in the right direction.”
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]