singer-songwriter/guitarist/activist Sandy Rapp
Interview by Robert Urban for GAY GUITARISTS WORLDWIDE
Sandy Rapp is an author, songwriter and grassroots activist who recounted her battles with the religious right in the book God's Country: A Case Against Theocracy: The Haworth Press; 1991.
Her best known songs are "Remember Rose: A Song For Choice," about the first back-street abortion fatality of the Medicaid-Abortion cutoff in 1977 (all editions of this piece feature a guest vocal by the late Congresswoman Bella Abzug) and "Everyone Was At Stonewall," a gay history originally written for police sensitivity training.
Rapp was instrumental in the passage of a number of gay civil rights laws and policies on Long Island, NY. Her CDs, which sing of these and other issues, include We The People, Flag & The Rainbow, Still Marchin' and Salute to the Veteran Feminists.
Rapp's appearances include the million-plus 2004 March For Women's Lives, the National Women's Music Festival, National NOW Rallies in Seneca Falls, Manhattan, and Washington, DC, the National Women's Political Caucus Conference, the Gulf Coast Womyn's Festival, Chicago's Autumnfest, New York State NOW Conferences, Montana Pride Rally, Palm Springs' Gay Veterans, Manhattan's Peoples Voice Cafe, the 2001 NOW March on DC, the Gay Millennium March, the 2003, 2005, and 2006 National NOW Conferences, the Manhattan LBGT Center, the NOW-NYC Central Park Protest against the 2004 Republican Convention, the 2005 Save The Court Rally in Union Square, and the Molly Yard Memorial in DC's Hart Senate Office Building. She served as a Grand Marshal of the 2006 Long Island Pride Parade, where she has performed a number of times, and she has won the 2006 LIP Award for Music from Lipstick TV.
In 1992 Rapp joined forces with famed gay British actor/raconteur Quinten Crisp for a performance at a Hamptons AIDS benefit.
- What brand/model/year instrument(s) do you record and play out with?
I record and sometimes travel with a Fernandez Nomad solid body. The humbucker makes it very quiet but it's kinda punchy and crisp. It's an old one, with a passive pickup. I usually perform with a green/burst Yamaha APX. I've a trusty JR Baggs pre/amp direct box which I use for performance on both guitars. It'll get you into any system that lives. I dislike the Yamaha's inboard pre-amp and have installed a passive pickup.
Sandy Rapp sings "Everyone Was At Stonewall" with Three Dollar Bill at the 6/10/06 Outmusic Show in Manhattan's Crash Mansion. Photo: JD Doyle
- Who are your main influences as an instrumentalist? Which artists? Which bands? Instrumentalist? Which artists/bands were your favorites in your youth?
Piano was my base instrument and my favorite musician was Nina Simome. My biggest guitar influence was Josh White. Also, both these artists were activists as well as musicians.
Tell fans about your luv for your particular style of music, as opposed to other styles - how it became your favorite style of rock, etc
In spite of the fact that my basic format is folk/rock I incorporate my classical roots in much of my composition. I record only my own stuff, usually issue-oriented and political. But throughout my nearly 45 years in this business, my mainstay has been my jukebox-like cover shtick. I've played a host of bars and clubs in London, New York, and the Hamptons. I had the house band in a Sag Harbor, NY resort for over ten years.
At the 2005 National NOW Conference in Nashville, TN, Rapp played a Rally To Save The US Supreme Court outside US Senate Majority leader Bill First's (R-TN) home state office.
I've always been OUT. I was one of the original Stonewall-Era Manhattan GayBar singers. I worked in the late sixties and early seventies at "Three" and "Chez Pat," both on the Upper Eastside. I always included some edgy originals but basically played jazz standards, singalongs, and pop. I still play a lot of Hamptons pool parties and benefits.
- For a glbt player - how does the overall music scene differ today
from years ago?
I'm sure I'd be richer and better known had I not been OUT when I was younger, because in those days gay was an enormous pariah. But I wouldn't trade the edge. I believe music should do something!
- What are your current and future musical projects?
My favorite is coming up September 16th. It's the Animal Rescue Fund (ARF) reunion day, when adopted pets are brought back to the facility to reconnect with their former keepers. It's actually the only Hamptons event at which I have to worry about the guests urinating on the sound equipment. (I use a little 4-channel Rogue amp for this sort of gig).
On July 22, 2006 the National Organization For Women celebrated its Fortieth Anniversary at a conference in Albany, NY. Above NOW leaders, past and present, sing "Marchin' With Molly Yard." (l to r) Sandy Rapp, Marilyn Fitterman, Patricia Ireland, Marcia Pappas, Ellie Smeal, Olga Vives, Latifa Lyles, Melodie Drench and Kim Gandy. Photo: Janie Harris
SANDY'S UPCOMING AUGUST EVENTS:
On Saturday, August 19, 2006, 5:30 PM, Rapp is receiving a LIP Award from Lipstick TV and New Horizons at the Toast Lounge, Somerville, MA. The category for Rapp's award will be announced at the event and Rapp will be singing a set at the event
And on Saturday August, 26 from 2 to 4 PM, Rapp will perform at NYU Law School Auditorium off Washington Square Park in New York City. There A Women's Equality Day will honors Betty Friedan and the Veteran Feminists of America, particularly those who have died within the past year. Admission is free. In connection with this event, Rapp's new CD, Salute to the Veteran Feminists, will be released featuring Rapp's latest tune "Rise Up Ye Women" and a combination of updates other tribute materrial, new and old.
Also, Rapp's Still Marchin' CD got a couple of nice reviews in The Amplifier - May 2006 and In-Tune June-2006. Between performance events, Rapp will be doing ambiance music for parties in the Hamptons resort area of Long Island, NY.
For information, listening and downloads of Rapp's music, visit SandyRapp.com
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