Father Steve Muruga Booker

Father Steve Muruga Booker

Happy birthday
27 December 1943
Muruga jamming on his invention, the Nada drum at Sage St. Studio (2015)

Father Steve Muruga Booker

I suppose every musician has their story of how they came to play.

In an 2000 interview with PT Quinn, Booker [or the original Bookvich] related his unique story: I would have to tell you that when I was a young man, I had a deep recall of being in the womb.  My mother used to go to the Latin Quarter in Detroit and hear Puncito, and I would hear the drums in the womb.  That influenced me somehow, but my Dad introduced me to the accordion at 3. I met one of his teachers… Misha Vishkov from Hamtramick at 6.  As well as accordion, Misha played the drums.  I’m a Serbian son raised with the gypsies. I liked the drum when he played it.  I wanted to play so I started at 14 and had some good teachers in high school.  At the Record Hop I noticed I could move all 4 of my limbs with the beat, and that would be the drums. 

Father Steve Muruga Booker

Woodstock

Steve Booker was the drummer who backed Tim Hardin at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, but at that time he was simply Steve Booker. He  was about to leave the Paul Winter Consort which had also included Woodstock band mates Ralph Towner and Richard Bock.

In any case, the way Steve relates his Woodstock connection, (from a Detroit Metro Times piece). “One day while in New York City, I went to see Jim and Jean. They were going to a jam at the Café au Go Go on Bleecker Street in the Village, which was the happening hippie place at that time. …Tim Hardin was also [there].  …I approached him… while walking down Bleecker Street. He said if I’m ever in need of a gig to call him, and he gave me his Woodstock home phone number.

Booker showed up a week later with friend Richard Bock. Hardin offered them both a spot in his then-organizing band.  They agreed and Hardin left them to practice without him for two days. Luckily, the group was used to improvisation and did well until Hardin returned.

Unfortunately, Hardin’s performance, despite the stellar back up band, was not one to remember. Being intimate on a drizzly evening in front of 400,000 people was not what a Hardin performance was made for.

Father Steve Muruga Booker

Swami Satchidanada

For Booker the event was literally life-changing. He met Swami Satchidananda whose spirituality immediately impressed Booker. Booker studied with the Swami for several years and it was Satchidananda who gave the name “Muruga” to Booker.

Booker continued to be a musician and eventually was ordained an Orthodox priest. Today he operates his own chapel, St. Gregory Palamas, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His spirituality led him to invent the nada drum, a variation on the talking drum.

Father Steve Muruga Booker

Michigan

The list of people Booker has played with is a who’s who of musicians. A very partial list includes: Peter Gabriel, George Clinton, Merle Sanders, Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, John Lee Hooker, Al Kooper, Ted Nugent, and Dave Brubeck. (a more complete list)

Born in Michigan, he returned there to live in 2000.

Not surprisingly, when asked what his greatest success was, Booker’s response was, “My happy family: wife, Patty; son, Aaron; daughter, Rani; and my priesthood.”

Booker’s own words best sum up his life now:  You could say that the spirit of Woodstock continues for many of us through the spirit and heart that’s still in the music we love to play.

Father Steve Muruga Booker
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War Hero Deborah Sampson

War Hero Deborah Sampson

Early life

Deborah Sampson was born on December 17, 1760 in Plympton, Massachusetts. Her father, Johnathan Sampson, Jr. was a direct descendant of the Mayflower pilgrim Miles Standish. Her mother,  Deborah Bradford, was a direct descendant of the Mayflower pilgrim, William Bradford.

Though having historic roots, the Sampson family suffered financially due to bad luck and poor skills on Johnathan Samson’s part. He eventually abandoned his wife and seven children.

War Hero Deborah Sampson

Indentured servant

Because of her difficult situation and in poor health, Mrs Sampson placed her children in the homes of various relatives and friends. Ten-year-old Deborah Sampson became an indentured servant until her release at the age of 18.

For the next three years, she worked part-time as a schoolteacher and worked in homes spinning and weaving. Truning 21, above average in height  strong, and hearing of the Revolutionary War’s heroics, Deborah was looking for adventure. She decided to dress like a man and join the Continental Army.

After her first attempt, she thought others were suspicious and left.

Abner Weston,  a neighbor of Sampson, wrote in his diary about her cross-dressing: “Their hapend a uncommon affair at this time, for Deborah Samson of this town dress her self in men’s cloths and hired her self to Israel Wood to go into the three years Servis. But being found out returnd the hire and paid the Damages.

Sampson tried again, this time successfully joining the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment on  May 20, 1782 under the alias Robert Shurtliff,  Her five feet seven inch height helped fool others.

War Hero Deborah Sampson

Battle of Tarrytown

War Hero Deborah Sampson

Less that two months later, on July 3, 1782 at the Battle of Tarrytown, Sampson was wounded . Two musket balls hit her in the thigh and a sabre cut her forehead.

Fearful that others would discover her true identity, she begged her fellow soldiers to let her die and not take her to the hospital, but they refused to abandon her. Doctors treated her head wound, but she left the hospital before they could attend to the thigh.

She removed one of the balls herself with a penknife and sewing needle, but her leg never fully healed because the other musket ball was too deep for her to reach.

Almost a year later, on April 1, 1783, Sampson was transferred to Philadelphia as a personal orderly to General John Patterson.  This job entitled her to a better quality of life, better food, less danger, and improved shelter, but during that summer, Sampson came down with fever.

War Hero Deborah Sampson

Dr Barnabas Binney

Dr Barnabas Binney cared for her. He saw the cloth she used to bind her breasts and so discovered her secret. He did not betray her; he took her to his house, where his wife and daughters housed and took care of her.

In September, after Sampson had fully recovered, Binney asked her to deliver a personal letter to General Patterson. Upon delivering it, Patterson informed her that the letter said she was a woman in disguise.

War Hero Deborah Sampson

Discharge and marriage

On October 23, 1783 Deborah Sampson was honorably discharged from the Army.

On April 7, 1785 she married Benjamin Gannet from Sharon, Massachusetts. Together they had three children, Earl, Mary, and Patience.

War Hero Deborah Sampson

Request for pay

Revolutionary War Hero Deborah Sampson

In January 1792 Deborah Sampson petitioned the Massachusetts State Legislature for pay which the army had withheld from her because of her sex. Her petition passed through the State Senate, was approved, and signed by Governor John Hancock. The General Court of Massachusetts verified her service and wrote that she “exhibited an extraordinary instance of female heroism by discharging the duties of a faithful gallant soldier, and at the same time preserving the virtue and chastity of her gender, unsuspected and unblemished“. The award was 34 pounds.

War Hero Deborah Sampson

Pension request

Twelve years later, on February 20, 1804 Paul Revere wrote to Massachusetts US Representative William Eustis on behalf of Sampson. Revere requested that the US Congress grant her a military pension. This had never before been requested by or for a woman, but with her health failing and her family destitute, the money was greatly needed. Revere wrote, “I have been induced to enquire her situation, and character, since she quit the male habit, and soldiers uniform; for the more decent apparel of her own gender…humanity and justice obliges me to say, that every person with whom I have conversed about her, and it is not a few, speak of her as a woman with handsome talents, good morals, a dutiful wife, and an affectionate parent.

More than a year later, on March 11, 1805, the US Congress obliged Revere’s letter and placed her on the Massachusetts Invalid Pension Roll. This pension plan paid Deborah Sampson four dollars a month.

Continuing to experience financial difficulty, in 1809, Sampson sent another petition to Congress, asking that her pension as an invalid soldier, given to her in 1804, commence with the time of her 1793 discharge. Had her petition been approved, she would have been awarded $960, to be divided into $48 a year for twenty years. However, Congress denied the request.

Seven years later, Sampson’s petition came before Congress again. This time, they approved it awarding her $76.80 a year. With this amount, she was able to repay all her loans and take better care of the family farm.

War Hero Deborah Sampson

Death

War Hero Deborah Sampson

On April 29, 1827 Deborah Sampson died at the age of 66. She is buried in Rock Ridge Cemetery in the town of Sharon, Massachusetts.

In 1831,  Sampson’s husband petitioned Congress for pay as the spouse of a deceased soldier. Although the couple was not married at the time of her service, in 1837 the committee concluded that the history of the Revolution “furnished no other similar example of female heroism, fidelity and courage.” He was awarded the money, though he died before receiving it.

War Hero Deborah Sampson

Proclamation

Revolutionary War Hero Deborah Sampson

May 23, 1983: Governor Michael J. Dukakis signed a proclamation which declared that Deborah Sampson was the Official Heroine of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Two news services stated this was the first time in US history that any state had proclaimed anyone as the official hero or heroine.

Using her unselfish example today, it was reported on March 21, 2017 in the Military Times that “advocates are lobbying for sweeping reforms in women veterans services in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandals that have raised questions about misogyny and morale in the military.

“When people think of veterans, when they close their eyes, they don’t think about someone who looks like me,” said Allison Jaslow, chief of staff for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “Until we get over that hurdle, we’re not going to be able to get everything else that we need.”

The measure — dubbed the Deborah Sampson Act, after the woman who disguised herself as a man to serve in the Continental Army — mandates more peer-to-peer counseling for women veterans, expanded newborn care services at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities, better tracking of women’s health issues by the department and $20 million to retrofit VA medical centers with more privacy features.

War Hero Deborah Sampson
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Woodstock Hero Max Yasgur

Woodstock Hero Max Yasgur

December 15, 1919 – February 9, 1973

Born in Brooklyn, Max Yasgur eventually found his way to Sullivan County, NY where he became the most successful dairy farmer in that county.

 1969 was another turbulent year of that turbulent decade and Woodstock Ventures hoped that their festival would provide a place in the country where young people could peacefully enjoy their music and sleep under the stars.

Woodstock Hero Max Yasgur
Happy Birthday Max Yasgur

We know the story. After the town of Wallkill realized what Woodstock Ventures was doing and “who” was going to attend, it put one legal roadblock after another in the concert’s way. Wallkill finally succeeded and Max was the man who came to the rescue.

Woodstock Hero Max Yasgur
Woodstock Ventures announces that they will have the Festival in White Lake. Advert was done by Arnold Skolnick, the artist who did the famous poster.

He showed Michael Lang a big grassy bowl at the intersection of Hurd and West Shore Roads.

Perfect.

Woodstock Hero Max Yasgur

Bethel hurdles

Like Wallkill, many Bethel locals were against the idea and threatened Yasgur telling others to boycott his milk. Max Yasgur stood his ground and basically told locals where they could put their protest.

At a Bethel Town Board meeting before the festival he reportedly said: “I hear you are considering changing the zoning law to prevent the festival. I hear you don’t like the look of the kids who are working at the site. I hear you don’t like their lifestyle. I hear you don’t like they are against the war and that they say so very loudly. . . I don’t particularly like the looks of some of those kids either. I don’t particularly like their lifestyle, especially the drugs and free love. And I don’t like what some of them are saying about our government. However, if I know my American history, tens of thousands of Americans in uniform gave their lives in war after war just so those kids would have the freedom to do exactly what they are doing. That’s what this country is all about and I am not going to let you throw them out of our town just because you don’t like their dress or their hair or the way they live or what they believe. This is America and they are going to have their festival.”

Woodstock Hero Max Yasgur
local paper article
Woodstock Hero Max Yasgur

On the last day of the concert, the New York Times published an article about Max: Until a few days ago Max Yasgur was just another dairy farmer in Sullivan County. Now he gets phone calls threatening to burn him out. And even more calls praising him and asking how the callers can help.

On the same day, he spoke to those young people whom he had defended:

Woodstock Hero Max Yasgur

Max Yasgur


He died less than three years later on February 9, 1973. (NYT article)

Woodstock Hero Max Yasgur

Woodstock Hero Max Yasgur
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