[Schumuel] Sam Freedman

[Schumuel] Sam Freedman, musician, composer, lyricist: Born December 24, 1911; died Levin, June 13, 2008, aged 96.
Sam Freedman made a lasting contribution to the New Zealand popular songbook.

A recluse in recent years, he was a pioneer in a sector of the music industry which brought much popular joy to mainstream New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s.

His death notice (Dominion Post, June 18) made no note of his musical influence.

Freedman is usually credited with more than 300 publishing copyrights, though a definitive song list doesn't seem to exist. But there's no doubt he's a rather lone figure in an often overlooked area in the art form of New Zealand songwriting.

It could be argued that the genre known as "Kiwiana music" survives today because of his 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 for dittying up the landscape and jingling over the cultural divide.

From a musicologist's point of view, Sam Freedman's large body of work is in three areas: the fully original words-and-music compositions, the existing songs for which he wrote the English lyrics, 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 he "collected", adapted and then polished them. In fact, many would be surprised to find that several "Maori songs" are not traditional at all. And written not by a Maori but by the son of Jewish immigrants.

Freedman's entire published output was through Seven Seas Publishing.

His 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 49th State record label. She was usually with Bill Wolfgramm and His Islanders, though Bill Sevesi was also involved.

Others figuring strongly include George Tumahai, Johnny Cooper QSM, Maria Dallas, Tuwhare Quintette, Garth Young, the New Zealand Maori Chorale, Tui Trio, Howard Morrison Quartet, Brian Hands and a number of concert parties.

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; (Aotearoa) Land of the Long White Cloud; Haere Ra. The list is indeed long.

His place in New Zealand's songwriting and cultural histories has never been adequately recognised. A biography and song list are being assembled in recognition of his achievements.

Letters supporting a nomination for a New Zealand royal honour were assembled before his death. Focus will now be on having him admitted to the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame.

Other works on the Freedman songlist include Serenade a Star; What's the Use in Spreading Your Umbrella 'til You Strike a Rainy Day?; Waiting, Hoping and Praying; Okey Dokey Hut 'neath the Co-co-coconut Palms; Hone Heke; My Feet are Killing Me; Hawaiian Hula Eyes; The Magic Caves of Maoriland; My Greenstone Island.

The Dominion Post