RIP Sam Freedman: Unsung Songwriter Signs Off
Unsung Songwriter Signs Off
SAM FREEDMAN was, in today's parlance, a major pioneer in the New Zealand music industry. He's usually credited with over 300 publishing copyrights, although a definitive songlist doesn't seem to exist. But there's no doubt he's a rather lone figure in an often overlooked area in the artform of New Zealand songwriting. It could be argued that the genre known as "Kiwiana music" survives today because of Sam's enduring compositions; timeless but clearly of their time.
From his first recorded song in 1949, and right through the 1960s, his songs reflected Pakeha and Maori New Zealanders of those times. In hindsight, it could be said that no-one else came close to Sam for dittying-up the landscape, and jingling over the cultural divide.
Schumuel [Samuel] Freedman [known as Sam]: composer, English language lyricist, and arranger died on the 13th June 2008. He was born December 24th 1911. To those in the music industry, he was a reclusive figure met by very few. But his obituary in the Dominion Post [June 18, 2008] lets a little loving light shine on Sam's private family life.
From a musicologist's point of view, Sam Freedman's large body of work can be divided three ways: the fully original words-and-music compositions, the existing songs he wrote the English lyrics for, and his arrangements of Maori songs.
Freedman's lyrics were translated into te reo by a small number of collaborators including Sam Karetu, Ratu Tibble and Alby Bennett.
Today his arrangements are still the gold standard of much Maori music. So much so, that few Pakeha or Maori realise the way the songs are now performed are probably not in the so-called traditional form, but in the way that Sam "collected", adapted, and then polished them. In fact many would be surprised to find that a number of so-called "Maori songs" are not traditional at all. And written not by a Maori but the son of Jewish immigrants.
Sam Freedman's entire published output was through Seven Seas Publishing. Samuel's business relationship with Murdoch Riley began with his first Tanza recording in 1949 of "Maoriland" by the Alan Shand Band with "Best Wishes" sung by Pixie Williams.
Daphne Walker is the singer most associated with Freedman songs, with many of her recordings released internationally by Hawaii's the "49th State" record label. Daphne was usually with Bill Wolfgramme and His Islanders, although Bill Sevesi was also involved. Others figuring strongly include George Tumahai, Johnny Cooper QSM, Maria Dallas, Tuwhare Quintette, Garth Young, NZ Maori Chorale, Tui Trio, Howard Morrison Quartet, and a number of concert parties.
Sam Freedman's best-known song these days is "Haere Mai", thanks to a recent Air New Zealand advertising campaign. Other remembered songs include Pania Of The Reef, When My Wahine Does The Poi, Waikaremoana, Bon Voyage, Lonely Little Kiwi, Beautiful Waiheke Island, Rustle Your Bustle, The Barman They Couldn't Hang, New Zealand Christmas Tree, Land Of The Long White Cloud, Haere Ra. The list is indeed a long one.
Freedman's place in New Zealand's songwriting and cultural histories has never been adequately recognised. Eddie O'Strange has recently begun working on creating a potted biography and songlist as a starting point to have his achievements celebrated. Letters supporting the consideration of Sam for a New Zealand Royal Honour have been assembled, but that form of respect is now sadly no longer available. Eddie will instead focus on having Samuel admitted to the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame. Hopefully a biographist will be inspired to take this further.
Haere ra Sam Freedman. Shalom.