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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Old Testament reading project

If anyone would like to join our 2011 Old Testament reading, I've started a separate blog and Twitter account devoted entirely to this undertaking.

The Old Testament is one of many texts we're including in our Sing and Read the Civil War's 150th with the Deedle Deedle Dees project.

It's also something I want to read for a number of other reasons unrelated to the war between the states. If you're interested in these other reasons, check out:


Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Week Between Christmas and New Year's: A Survival Guide

The day after Christmas is always the beginning of a long week for me. It's great to have all those consecutive days with my family, but it's also a challenge to find things to do, especially when so many friends are traveling and playdates are hard to come by.

This year, though, I've made a plan. Maybe you'd like to steal some of my ideas:

1. The Houdini show at the Jewish Museum - Reading Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (our book club selection for January) recently got me thinking about Houdini. He hovers at the periphery of this book as a sort of muse for the author and the characters. His presence reminded me how much he meant to me to as a kid. I used to check a different biography out of the school library every week and although I retain some major timeline points from the lives of various people (Bart Starr, Douglas MacArthur, Louis Pasteur...) I mainly only remember a few powerful scenes from these books. The most vivid by far is Houdini swimming under the water looking for a hole in the ice to escape, possibly hearing the voice of a dead relative to help guide him to safety. I can't remember the exact details, though. Some Houdini research is in my near future.

Can't wait to see this show!

2. Kwanzaa at the African Burial Ground In Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin (our book club selection for February), a character declares "New York kept going forward precisely because it didn't give a good g------ about what it had left behind." I think this is true to a point. New York often disregards history in favor of new things, more profitable things, or things that are simply different.

But there are still a few little corners of our city where things are preserved, places where you can think about all the other lives that made our current ones possible. Of these, the African Burial Ground is one of the most fascinating and important.

A must-visit for families, whether you make it during their Kwanzaa celebration (December 28) or not.

3. The Museum of the City of New York Although it consistently has some of the most thoughtful and unique exhibits, this is a museum I visit far too little. I'm planning to go there as soon as possible to see their exhibit dedicated to Denys Wortman's newspaper drawings.

Got some other ideas for beating the post-Hanukkah&Christmas / pre-New Year's blues? Send 'em to us. I'd especially like to pass on brainstorms for things to do in other cities.


Monday, December 20, 2010

January reading: Douglass, Genesis, Chabon

The Deedle Deedle Dees will be beginning an ambitious year for our book club on January 1st. We'll not only be tackling texts related to our "Sing and Read the Civil War's 150th with the Deedle Deedle Dees" project, but also checking out some of our -- and our fans' -- favorite books about New York City in connection with the first performances of our stage musical, Major Deegan, How Ya Feelin'?

Here's what's on the itinerary for January:

My Life and My Bondage by Frederick Douglass - The first of our monthly Civil War selections. We'll be reading a different book every month throughout the five-year commeration of the war, many of them related to the histories of women, slaves and free blacks, new immigrants, and others whose stories aren't always given as much attention as military and political matters. Here's a link to the Kindle version: You can also find this online for free -- or read the paper version like I will be.

The Old Testament - In 2011, I'm reading the entire Old Testament. There are many reasons why I've decided to include the OT in our Civil War study. Here are a few:

- As much of our study will center around the songs that were popular during the Civil War era, I want to better understand the sources of these tunes, many of which are religious. The most obvious examples of this are probably the many spirituals that refer directly to the Exodus story and other Biblical narratives.

-The Civil War generation knew the Bible. People of all ages, classes, and races were familiar with the stories in the Bible -- even people who didn't know how to read. I think understanding the Bible is important for understanding how these people thought.

- The Bible and the various systems of belief connected to it formed the basis of how people viewed death -- a constant, daily reality for the people who lived through the Civil War.

- I've been wanting to read the OT in its entirety for a while. The Civil War's anniversary is a good excuse to do so.

I'm going to be alternating between this edition and the King James. The former has great annotations. The King James is what Lincoln read.

I'm going to use this plan to discipline my reading so that I can finish in a year It looks as good as any other, but if there's another you've used that you'd recommend, let me know.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon - The first of our monthly New York-related books, this is a great antidote to the January / winter / back-to-school-and-work blues. It's about fighting the Nazis, dealing with the Holocaust, creating comic books, living in NYC, surviving as a gay man in far less tolerant time, performing Houdini-esque escapes, and much more.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Download free sing-a-long album now!

I just posted Sing-a-long with Lloyd of the Deedle Deedle Dees Vol. 1!

Go to this link:

Enter your e-mail address and you can download the entire album for free right now.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Track listing for sing-a-long album (coming Friday, Dec. 17)

By the end of the day this Friday, December 17th, I'll put a link here where you can download all these tracks for free. All these tunes were recorded live at my weekly sing-a-longs in Brooklyn over the past month or so.

1. You Are My Sunshine
2. Play Your Hand
3. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star / Baa Baa Black Sheep
4. If You're Happy and You Know It
5. Nellie Bly
6. Wheels on the Bus
7. Big Trip
8. Skip to my Lou
9. I'm a Duck!
10. improvised tiger song
11. Acka Acka Lacka Lacka
12. Row Row Row Your Boat / She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain

Singing and reading the Civil War's 150th

The Deedle Deedle Dees are, as you might guess, pretty excited about all the stuff being planned to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. We don't want to be left out of all this fun so we're kicking a massive project on January 1, 2011: a singing and reading club that will last for the next five years. We hope to create an amazing online resource for kids, teachers, history buffs, and anyone who's interested to learn about the Civil War in a new way. Here are some of the things we have planned:

Collecting and singing songs of the Civil War
This has long been an obsession of mine and now I want you all to join me. Send me sheet music, mp3s, videos, etc. I'm going to be putting videos of Civil War tunes on our YouTube channel for you to sing along with, use in your classrooms, etc. Spirituals, soldier songs, parlor ballads...

Reading the lesser-known histories of the war
I want to give special attention to the stories of women, the stories of slaves and free blacks, the stories of new immigrants, and other lesser-told tales. Right now, I'm collecting recommendations and gathering books for grown-up and kid reading lists. Tell me your favorites.

Reading Shelby Foote's Civil War trilogy
I've never read the three-volume The Civil War: A Narrative and I think this is the right time. I'm going to start this April and try to sync up my readings to the anniversaries of the events. Do it with me! I'll be tweeting reading assignments (

Reading the entire Bible
An understatement: the Bible was very important to the Civil War generation.

I haven't read the Bible seriously since I was a high school kid in a religious high school. I want to use the occasion of the Civil War's 150th to read it again -- but I need some companionship to help me get through it. Join me. My project for 2011 is the Old Testament. I'll mostly be reading this translation Occasionally I'll switch to the King James with Apocrypha (Lincoln's Bible). I'll probably start a new Twitter feed devoted solely to this project that offers daily reading assignments, links to songs related to the stories, links you send me, and more.

Special Civil War-themed shows. Of course! We'll let you know when they happen? Anybody work at Gettysburg? I'm trying to get a gig there on the big 150th.

We encourage all of you to join us in these projects. Yes, if you participate in all these, you'll often be reading three or more books at a time (Shelby Foote, the Old Testament, another adult history book or novel + whatever Civil War book your kid is reading). But what's wrong with that?

i'd like to know

so here I go...



Saturday, December 11, 2010

Set list for today's Holiday Variety Show

Here's what we played at the Knitting Factory today along with links to sing-a-long versions on YouTube and/or links to album versions. Thanks to Isabel for hosting; Sam and Manu for doing the "Sam & Manu Show;" and Atticus for your mandolin playing!

The Deedle Deedle Dees Variety Show Theme Song

Skating in Old Bryant Park

Henry Box Brown (from Freedom in a Box)

Oh, Hanukkah!

Jingle Bells

Dark Eyes (traditional tune) Great work on this, Atticus!
There are lots of great versions of this. To start, here's Django's:

Tub-Tub-Ma-Ma-Ga-Ga (from American History + Rock-n-Roll = The Deedle Deedle Dees)

Little Red Airplane (from AH + DD = DDD)

Abbie, Abbie, Abbie (brand-new song about Abigail Adams -- video coming soon)

The Brooklyn Bridge Song (from AH + DD = DDD)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

We want you to hear American History + Rock-n-Roll = The Deedle Deedle Dees

We feel like a lot of folks still haven't heard our album, American History + Rock-n-Roll = The Deedle Deedle Dees (released 2009). That makes me sad -- we worked so hard on this record and would love to put a free copy in the hands of every kid, parent, and teacher in the country.
Lacking the funds to do this, though, we're instead going to offer a couple of incentives this month to make sure a few more people hear this record:

1. It's only $10 on CDBaby til December 31st.

2. If you bring your family to our show at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn this Saturday, December 11th, we'll give you a copy for FREE.

An admission: I did nothing to promote this record. I feel guilty about this because I think the record deserved to be promoted. But after years of taking our other two records to kid stores, mailing copies to the media (I sent our first album, Let It Dee, to Hillary Clinton, MTV, Willie Nelson, as well as every traditional press outlet I could find), creating events to sell the CDs, I was exhausted.

I decided instead to focus on my school programs, my songwriting, and all my Deedle Deedle Dees-related creative projects rather than spending all my time on the computer, the phone, and going door to door. I know these things are necessary in this business but I'm just so sick of it. I want to make great music and let someone else worry about getting it out to the public. I realize that I'm terrible at the commercial end of things and that I'm not going to get any better at it.

So, I'll keep writing songs about things I want to write songs about. And maybe you guys can help me get these tunes out to more people.

Look for my sing-a-long album within the next couple of weeks. It's the first of many free downloads I'm going to be putting up. In 2011 the Dees are going to be throwing tracks online like crazy.

I remain,
your obt svt,
Ulysses S. Dee (Lloyd)