Mike Meeropol

  • Mike Meeropol
  • Between Lunch and the Library (Swarthmore) 1964 

A decade after he was orphaned by the US government in 1953, Mike Meeropol — the elder of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg’s two sons — was an undergraduate at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, a school which happened to be extremely active in the burgeoning folk music scene. Taught to play guitar by his adoptive mother (whose husband, Abel Meeropol, was the songwriter responsible for “Strange Fruit”), the student folksinger recorded an album pressed and released by the school. A highly skilled acoustic 6- and 12-string guitarist with a serviceably earnest voice, Meeropol mixes tradition (“Stackalee”) with topicality (“Pastures of Plenty”) on the dozen songs that make up Between Lunch and the Library. He adopts a jaunty troubadour tone for “Nine Pound Hammer,” tones it down for “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” but goes flat out on “San Francisco Bay” [Blues]. He follows the changing fortunes of “Frenario” with grace and substance and invests “The Lag Song” (which is a prisoner’s lament) with hard-won personal power. At the album’s most extreme, he unleashes dramatic fury on “Samson” and a colorful Irish brogue for “Finnegan’s Wake.” Meeropol’s playing is masterful and confident throughout. “John Henry” is a showcase for his finest 12-string fingerpicking; he adds a compelling guitar digression to “The Bells” (aka “Bells of Rhymney”) and includes a restrained, handsome instrumental, “Lonliness” [sic]. Gauging by the evidence here, Meeropol — who was never recognized nationally as a musician — certainly had the talent to make a name for himself in a very different field than the one history chose for him.

[Ira Robbins]