Playing For Change

In my last post I alluded to street performance/street music/busking, and the difficulties street performers have in some places. I don’t know that I mentioned how much I enjoy these open-air entertainments, and that’s what this post is about.

A fair number of well-known musicians/performers got their start playing on the street, or “busking.” Here’s a partial list I cribbed from Wikipedia:

Joan BaezBeckRoni BeniseThe Blue Man GroupPierce BrosnanJimmy BuffettGeorge BurnsTracy ChapmanCirque du SoleilJudy CollinsBob DylanStephane GrappelliWoody Guthrie,Bob HopeJewelSteve MartinJoni MitchellJimmy PagePenn & TellerGerry RaffertyEdith PiafSimon and GarfunkelPete Seeger,Rod StewartJoe StrummerStomp, and Robin Williams.

I have fond memories of delightful street performances in Boston, and Charleston, and New Orleans, and other places.

The title of this post obviously refers to the idea of playing for tips, but also, as probably most anyone who reads this will know, to the movement/foundation called “Playing For Change.” I hope they don’t mind me using the title, I am an admirer of what they do. I got the following from their website:

“Several years ago, a small group of filmmakers set out with a dream to make a documentary film about street musicians from around the world.  That dream has grown not only into a reality, but into a global sensation called Playing For Change, and has touched the lives of millions of people.”

The music video they produced of “Stand By Me” has pretty much gone viral, but if you go to their other website, you’ll find several others. Here’s “One Love”:

One instrument used in busking that I never heard of before writing this post is called the “hang drum.” Here’s a performance from Israel:

I hope that the tradition of busking continues to be respected, loved, and permitted. I think if communities demand that buskers be licensed, that the licenses should be free, or issued at nominal cost. Our world is just a little less wonderful when street performance is not permitted.

P.S. In recognition that not all street performers are musicians, here’s a picture of a “living statue” I took in at Waterfire in Providence, Rhode Island:


One response to “Playing For Change

  • mark

    You delivered, Yeah I like it. So its not just music in them there streets. When I was living in Boulder Co. I had played on Perl street, kind of a open air mall. There were so many of us we could have formed a union. At times a bit of compitition over a location came up. Yes dare I say it, Politics on the streets. Most of us were cool about it some wanted to go to blows. One non-musician a magician/ sword swallower name John Fox, his stage name was Johny Fox. Sorry John had to take your line LOL, we became friends and he wanted me to learn to impale myself. I said no, I’ll leave that to you pro’s, thank you. He made it to the Tonite Show, I was proud of him. So many tallented people out there who just get passed by, in so many different ways.

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