Folk singer Malvina Reynolds is long gone, but the message in her music is just as relevant in 2018 as it was in the 1960s.
Reynolds sang about activism and protest, civil rights and the environment.
"What my mother said she was trying to do with her political songs was to sing about things people know, but don't know they know, or to sing things that people have been thinking but haven't articulated," says her daughter, Nancy Schimmel.
Schimmel and longtime singer-songwriter Judy Fjell are making sure Reynolds' songs and the stories behind them live on. The two bring their tour, "Malvina Reynolds Rides Again," to Corvallis Monday night for a concert at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. The six-city tour coincides with the release of a new album, "Malvina Spirit."
Schimmel and Fjell, who have collaborated and written songs together for 30 years, will perform many of Reynolds' well-known songs, including "Little Boxes," "Magic Penny," and "Turn Around." "Little Boxes" gained fame from being featured on the TV series "Weeds."
Schimmel will provide background on many of her mother's songs during the concert. The pair will also play several songs they have co-written in the "spirit of Malvina."
Reynolds was born in San Francisco in 1900. She had always written poetry and worked as a journalist. But Reynolds didn't get serious about writing songs until she was about 40, after World War II, Schimmel said.
"She wrote political songs, love songs and children's songs," Schimmel said. "As time went on she began to write more about the environment, as we became more aware what was happening to it."
Fjell came to know Reynolds when a friend in college gave her the record, "Malvina Reynolds Sings the Truth."
"Tremendous songs," Fjell said. "It's one of those great collections. I listened to that quite a bit."
As Fjell became more familiar with Reynolds' music, she fell in love with it.
"I have a reference to it now, I just call it my scripture because there's so much wisdom in what she has to say," Fjell said. "Even today when Nancy and I play our concerts there's always something relevant in Malvina's body of songs."
For the pair, many songs come to mind.
Her song, "The Battle of Maxton Field," written in 1958, was about a raid in North Carolina involving the Ku Klux Klan. The klan was harassing a local Native American tribe, the Lumbee Indians.
The Lumbee raided a KKK rally and shot out the microphone and lights, ending the rally. And they chased the Klan away, Schimmel said.
The story struck a nerve with Reynolds: Years earlier, Klan members had raided a fundraising party at her parents' home in Long Beach, California.
"My mother pounced on that story," Schimmel said. "For her seeing the Klan raided was just delicious. She just had to write that song."
Reynolds performed the song at a concert the following day, she said.
Reynolds' 1966 song, "The Story of the Lambeth Children," was inspired by a small newspaper clip someone sent her. A road-widening project in the neighborhood of Lambeth in the city of London, Ontario, was going to cause the removal of several maple trees. When the date was set to cut down the trees, many children climbed up them and refused to move.
The song reminds Schimmel and Fjell of current youth activism, and how it's changed public dialogue on important issues.
Many of Reynolds' songs were recorded by other artists during the 1960s, including Pete Seeger, Peter Paul & Mary, Joan Baez, The Seekers, and Harry Belafonte.
A song called "It Isn't Nice" was recorded all over the South during the Civil Rights movement, Schimmel said.
Her song "What Have They Done to the Rain" was originally written about nuclear testing, and then was revived when people were worried about acid rain, Schimmel said.
"We would like a large part of her songs to go out of date, but they don't," she said. "The political problems that were there then are here now, so we keep singing them."
Their 18-song album features a couple of songs by Reynolds, and several original songs written by Fjell and Schimmel that were inspired by Reynolds.
It will be available for purchase at the concert, along with all of Reynolds' children's albums, "Little Boxes and Magic Pennies," on one CD.
"We also have hard copies of Malvina singing on a Smithsonian Folkways Collection called "Ear to the Ground," which are not that easy to come by," Fjell said.
Fjell, who has released 20 albums during her career, will also sell some of her CDs at the concert, some of which feature songs by Reynolds.
March 17 marks the 40th anniversary of Reynolds's death. The two will perform a concert that day on Vashon Island in Washington, Fjell said.
The tour's final concert is in Corvallis.
For Fjell, the Corvallis show is a return to her former home. She lived in the area from 1973 to 1982 and graduated from Oregon State University in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Fjell taught music at Mountain View Elementary School, and played in The Maple Trio, with Mark Weiss and Nancy Spencer.
"We did many songs of Malvina Reynolds during those music classes," she said.
The two intend to continue celebrating the life and music of Malvina Reynolds after the tour ends.
"This is an ongoing collaboration between Nancy and I. We have a very long-lasting conversation about the kinds of topics that Malvina wrote about," Fjell said.