LocalObituaries

Susan Reed dies at 84; singer and harpist-zitherist

ObituariesObituary Database

Susan Reed, a singer and harpist-zitherist who was a star of the post- World War II folk music scene, died Sunday. She was 84.

Reed died of natural causes at a nursing home in Greenport, N.Y., said publicist Dale Olson.

By age 19, Reed was such a regular on New York's small stages that Life magazine called her "the pet of Manhattan nightclubbers" in 1945.

Part of a new wave of folk-based performers, she often sang such traditional fare as "Danny Boy" and "He Moved Through the Fair."

Her favorite instrument in the mid-1940s was a green and gold Irish harp, she told Life. Reed became known for her work on it and a battered zither she often favored.

With a repertoire that embraced Irish ballads, she appeared on radio and television and toured the country. One stop was the Wilshire Ebell Theatre, where her balladry "captivated," The Times reported in 1952.

One collaborator was poet-singer Carl Sandburg, a family friend who helped introduce Reed to folk music.

She released several albums, recording such folk classics as "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair" and "Greensleeves."

Along with a number of other folk music performers, Reed was blacklisted in the late 1950s for having "the temerity ... to actually stand for something," according to the All Music online database, and she largely faded from the limelight.

Born Jan. 11, 1926, in Columbia, S.C., she was the daughter of Daniel Reed, an actor and playwright, and Isadora Bennett, a press representative for dance pioneer Martha Graham.

Growing up, Reed was introduced to Irish folk music by members of Dublin's Abbey Theatre Company, who stayed with her family when they came to the United States.

When she was 22, she appeared in her only feature film, 1948's "Glamour Girl," as a backwoods folk singer who comes to the big city to perform.

Reed was divorced from actor James Karen.

She is survived by a son, Reed Karen; and two grandchildren.

valerie.nelson@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Comments
Loading