Folk singer provides women’s history in song

Marlene Brueggemann

Some of the sounds coming from the auditorium at the Carroll Knicely Institute for Economic Development sounded like a fire alarm on Thursday night.

But it was only folk singer Gerri Gribi trying to teach the 50 people in the audience how to yodel.

The yodeling lesson was one part of “A Musical Romp through Women’s History.”

Gribi performed several songs that provided an informative and humorous tour through American women’s history.

Molly Kerby, an enrollment management instructor, introduced Gribi. Kerby told the audience that she met Gribi in 1998 at her first performance at Western. She said she didn’t listen to folk music, but got hooked after attending Gribi’s performance.

She said she was impressed by the way Gribi put a positive face on the women’s movement .

“Many people have negative ideas about feminism,” she said.

Gribi’s two-hour performance included songs about frontier life, the suffrage movement and African American folk songs.

Gribi also sang two of her own songs. She performed “The Hills of Kentucky,” with Molly Kerby and “Share Your Gift,” with Glasgow sophomore Amanda Biggs and Bowling Green sophomore Kelly Pearl.

During her performance, Gribi provided the historical background behind her songs.

“Folk songs are the living, breathing documents of people who very often didn’t have the time, or the leisure to write down their life story,” Gribi said. “This is where we find the history of everyday kinds of people.”

Bowling Green senior Eugene Helton said he enjoyed the relaxed and humorous atmosphere at the performance. Helton added he liked Gribi’s personality as much as her music.

“Spending time with her is like spending time with your favorite relative,” Helton said.

History professor Charles Bussey said he loved how well Gribi worked with the audience and that Gribi had Western students perform with her. Also, Bussey said he liked the messages in Gribi’s songs.

“She shows in her songs, that through experience, you can teach men that there is a whole different side that they never see,” he said.

During the concert Gribi said that after taking a women’s history class in college, she realized that most folk songs portray women as victims.

Gribi set out to find songs that portrayed women in a more positive light, but was discouraged by other folk singers.

“I went from that point of being told I would never find any (songs) to a point to where it’s basically all I have been doing for the last 20 something years,” Gribi said. “Because after I found one song, I wanted to find more.”

But after 20 years, Gribi said traveling around the country is getting to her. She is thinking about touring only two to three months out of the year.

“I am working very hard on imagining doing something else, ’cause I am getting to old to be doing this,” Gribi said.

She recently finished her masters degree in African American Studies at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. and is thinking about going into teaching.

“The only thing I can never imagine me doing is retiring,” Gribi said. ” To me that is a totally foreign concept.”

Reach Marlene Brueggemann at [email protected].