Harry Smith issues his famous Anthologyhttp://i.guim.co.uk/static/w-620/h--/q-95/sys-images/Music/Pix/pictures/2011/6/21/1308666406781/Harry-Smith-007.jpg
1952: Number 13 in our series of the 50 key events in the history of world and folk music
There is a famous photograph taken by Allen Ginsberg of "painter, archivist, anthropologist, film-maker and hermetic alchemist" Harry Smith "transforming milk into milk" in a New York hotel room in 1985. The cranky-looking figure with large spectacles and wispy hair and beard was never a household name; nor were the bulk of the figures whose work he rescued from the dusty half-light with his Anthology of American Folk Music in 1952. This compilation featured recordings from a motley assortment of pre-war characters, such as Dock Boggs or Floyd Ming and his Pep-Steppers. The selection seemed to be made on the songs' strangeness – in the later words of the critic Greil Marcus, it revealed "the old, weird America". Smith wrote synopses of the songs and created his own artwork, including an etching of a monochord taken from a mystical treatise by 17th-century English astrologer Robert Fludd. The release became the bible of the Greenwich Village folk revival of the late 1950s and early 60s – feted by the likes of Dave Van Ronk and Dylan.