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Fred Small

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Biography

The political insight, human compassion, and environmental concern that inspired Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Fred Small — a lawyer and Unitarian Universalist minister — to seek a law degree has been eloquently expressed in his folk-rooted songs. Small has musically addressed everything from homosexuality in the military and the unnecessary difficulties of the disabled to radioactive frogs and a moose's infatuation with a cow. Pete Seeger, Rosalie Sorrels, the Flirtations, Steve Gillette, and Priscilla Herdman are only some of the many musicians who have covered Small's songs. Small's tune "Everything Possible" was used for the finale of the AIDS benefit musical Heart Strings in 1992.

The grandnephew of famed painter Thomas Hart Benton, Small was primed for intellectual pursuits. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Yale University, he went on to study for a law degree and a master's degree in natural resources policy from the University of Michigan. Although he grew up listening to his parents' record collection, which included several Kingston Trio albums, Small didn't become serious about music until his early twenties. He composed his first song a few hours before taking his first law school exam.

After finishing school, Small accepted a staff attorney position for the Conservation Law Foundation in Boston. Although it appeared his future was secure, Small became increasingly absorbed by his songwriting. Appearing in local folk music clubs and coffeehouses, he soon attracted acclaim for his witty, politically tinged tunes. Small's views made him a popular performer at political and antinuclear demonstrations, including a nationally broadcast Musicians United for Safe Energy concert at New York's Battery Park in 1978. The enthusiastic response he received inspired Small to resign from his law position and devote more of his energies toward singing and songwriting.

Small's debut album, Love Will Carry Us, was released in 1981. Although the album centered around his acoustic guitar and vocals, Small's subsequent recordings were increasingly produced with instrumental and vocal support by New England's best folk performers. Accompanied by fiddler Johnny Cunningham, guitar and mandolin player John Curtis (Pousette-Dart Band), and background vocalist Catherine David, Small recorded a live album, Everything Possible: Fred Small in Concert, at the Old Cambridge Baptist Church on March 26, 1993. After the turn of the new millennium, his album Only Love was released by the Aquifer label. Small became a minister in the Unitarian Universalist Church in 1993, and in 2008 became Senior Minister at the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Cambridge. He is also a co-chair of Religious Witness for the Earth, a national interfaith environmental network.

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