In Memory

Bruce Kaplan

Bruce Kaplan

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05/12/12 10:20 AM #1    

Edward Rokos

A genius who touched many lives.

Bruce Kaplan Of Flying Fish Records

December 17, 1992|By Dan Kening.

Bruce Kaplan, president of Flying Fish Records, died Tuesday in Illinois Masonic Hospital of viral meningitis. He was 47.

Mr. Kaplan`s folk-oriented record company, run out of a rambling Chicago two-flat, grew to become one of the largest such labels in the world. label has received 18 Grammy nominations and many other record industry awards. But friends and co-workers recall that commercial viability often had little to do with his decision to release a record.

``He put out records that needed to be put out, not just ones he expected to make money on,`` said Flying Fish spokesman Mike Fleischer. As an example, he cited, ``In Country,`` a recent release of folk songs sung by American servicemen during the Vietnam War.

In the early 1980s, Mr. Kaplan, a resident of Chicago`s North Side, ran unsuccessfully for the Illinois legislature on the Citizens Party ticket.

Longtime friend and former roommate, Stephen Wade, currently appearing in the one-man show ``On the Way Home,`` remembered Mr. Kaplan`s social consciousness.

``Bruce was of the counterculture, and he never stopped believing in `the dream.` So much of the Flying Fish catalog has a deeply humanitarian aspect to it. You will respect his memory by remembering that music with a social and humanitarian conscience was very important to him, and that he believed in trying to make the world a better place.``

Mr. Kaplan grew up in Oak Park, where his father, Samuel, was a former president of Zenith Electronics.

In an essay from a recently-published history of Chicago`s Old Town School of Folk Music, of which he was a board member, Mr. Kaplan recalled taking the North Avenue bus each Saturday from his Oak Park home to classes at the Old Town School.

``I never got very good on the guitar, but those bus rides and those classes and those visits with the wonderful, visionary old men of the proletarian party who would sit on the park benches across the street, living out their last years but still living their dream, dazzled at least one bourgeois teen.``

Mr. Kaplan received his master`s degree in anthropology from the University of Chicago and did graduate work in folklore in India. He was president of the university`s folklore society and chairman in 1965 of its annual folk festival.

After working briefly as an independent record producer, he started Flying Fish Records in 1974 to release music by traditional and contemporary folk artists who might not otherwise be heard. The label`s 520 titles also include blues, bluegrass, jazz, country, African, new age, reggae, rock and ethnic releases.

Among the artists Mr. Kaplan recorded are John Hartford, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Doc Watson, Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton, Bonnie Koloc, Stephane Grappelli and New Grass Revival. Flying Fish also serves as a distributor for a number of smaller record labels.

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