Press from

New Yorker Magazine

singer-songwriter Kristin Lems, a charmer in the most literal and least artificial sense of the word, livened up the down-homey proceedings by wearing a shiny multicolored gown...delivered some nice feminist lyrics, and did a moving version of "George Jackson."

Morning Edition Saturday - NPR

It's an outstanding singer songwriter from the Midwest, Kristin Lems. She really is a great talent, and her Mammary Glands is always requested by our listeners at this time of year. Scott Simon: Is she serious? JN: No, this is one of her novelty songs, and overall her songs are really tremendous and she’s a great performer....
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5402914

Dr. Demento

Thank God (or whatever her name is) there are people like Kristin to fight humor ("Boobs a Lot") with humor ("Mammary Glands")...imagine a very funny song about the very popular multimillion dollar breast fetish.

concert introduction

a one-woman argument against the notion that the women's movement has no sense of humor

Sun Times

Lems has a beautiful, bell-like voice with an extraordinary range...

Calypso Log

[Cousteau said] "The songwriters today are the bards of our times. We must look to music to instruct and to inspire as we search to improve the quality of life." Country Joe McDonald, Susan and Richard Thomas, and Kristin Lems highlighted the evening program at Involvement Day III, and left the audience humming a tune, snapping their fingers, and thinking about the future of the world around us.

Illinois Entertainer

If you haven't heard of Kristin Lems before, you're probably not a big folk music fan. If you like folk even a bit, it'd be worth checking Ms. Lems out...a lot of the songs remind me of one of my all-time favorite albums from childhood, Free to Be You and Me. Lems makes you aware of bad things in the world (Chernobyl, sexism) and good things in you. The New Yorker called her a "charmer in the most literal and least artificial sense of the word," and I'd say the same.

The Washington Post

Kristin Lems kept true to that spirit in a presentation of songs that poked humor at any number of sacred romantic cows.

Southtown Economist

[about Sharing tape and book] catchy singalong songs, including the funny "Squeaky Sneakers" and two retellings of favorite children's stories, "The Little Engine that Could" and "The Emperor's New Clothes." Lems...has recorded four folk albums that have won her praise and awards. a performance artist, teacher, and mother, she sings in a clear, melodious voice that charms her young listeners.

Buffalo Courier Express

a wide-ranging, imaginative collection...even in her strongest protests, the message does not take precedence over the musicianship; her music is highly listenable.

Evansville Courier

clear tone and untrained honesty...through it all, Kristin Lems was able to shine

News Gazette

[review of original musical revue, Catch it on the Run] wide ranging and very appealing songs....Lems' songs deserve special praise. They are unmistakably original, and as refreshing as spring. They embrace a wealth of subjects. Some sound noteworthy messages and strike serious notes. Others offer pure spoof and unadulterated fun.

Oakton Community College

[feedback on The Once and Future Woman show] ...amazing, getting raves from everyone!

Daily Illini

Kristin Lems opened...with enthusiastic folk singing and witty jesting.

Vital Times

Kristin Lems' musical talent may have been a gift from the gene pool, but her songwriting and singing style is all her own.

Sing Out!

[review of Oh Mama!] Highly musical, humorous in places, thoroughly political throughout...if you enjoy beautifully rendered songs with a strong political overtone, you will certainly enjoy this album.

npr

[review of National Women's Music Festival in Folk Festival USA] One of the things that became obvious shortly after this festival began was the diversity of methods of the performers, exemplified by Kristin Lems, an energetic singer and songwriter who delivered fine topical songs.

Sing Out!

[review of Upbeat!] Lems possesses an extraordinary ability to infuse hope into her songs, all the while describing atrocities existing in the world....a smooth musical bomb that explodes with meaning...determined hope and pragmatic thoughtfulness...like the best folk music.

Green Bay Press Gazette

Songwriting and singing provide Kristin with a versatile career, combining and creative and performing arts.

Louisville Times

Lems brought laughter and cheers from her audience

Lake Shore Unitarian Society

Vibrant, exciting, lovely were just a few of the words to describe this valentine you delivered to the Lake Shore Unitarian Society last Sunday. Your beautiful voice, playing, and the wonderful selection of tunes sent us all home feeling exhilerated.

Adult Higher Education Alliance

It was obvious to me that the listeners were enjoying you as much as I was! ...I will be singing your praises to others who might be looking for an entertainer.

NOW

In concert and in [her] recordings, Kristin enthusiastically takes on complex social issues and makes them easy to sing about.

letter

Her energy, enthusiasm, and innate optimism about the human race are a legend in Champaign-Urbana...Kristin has several times appeared as a guest on my weekly radio program, and after each broadcast I have received a flood of phone calls and letters from listeners wanting to know more about her.

Illinois Times

During the 1970s when Illinois became a battleground as a pivotal state in the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment, many women and men spent a great deal of time and energy at the Capitol attempting to persuade our lawmakers and sway public opinion on the validity of the ERA. In the end, Illinois failed to ratify the proposed amendment and it never became a part of the US Constitution. Among the demonstrators was a young singer-songwriter named Kristin Lems who drove over from Champaign-Urbana to join fellow advocates in singing and playing original tunes and the songs of the day. This is back when folks actually played music for social change and expected it to do some good.

“I sang inside the rotunda many times with the ERA fasters and blood throwers,” said Lems, “and outside too, on the steps with demonstrators.”

In the middle of all this intense chaos she tells of “an amazing story” that as she relates it some 30 years later, still inspires a sense of awe and wonder in the depth and strength of the human spirit.

“A country-looking security guard approached me and struck up a conversation. He was definitely not liberal leaning, but said he enjoyed my music and wondered if I had any use for drums. His son had recently died in a plane crash and he wanted me to have his conga drums,” she said in a quiet voice filled with amazement. “I was there to protest and he was there to protect, yet he reached out to make this connection. I still have the drums.” She paused and then spoke in more upbeat tones. “Maybe he will read this and come to the show and I can give back his son’s drums.”

This is just one of the many incredible tales from the life of Kristin Lems, singer-songwriter, protester, union-activist, demonstrator, mother, writer, artist and now a back-on-the-scene performer. Through music and work she traveled extensively, received numerous awards and performed with distinctive artists and dignitaries, but several of her favorite stories begin and end here in the capital city.

“I’ve had a long-term relationship with Springfield,” said Lems, who currently resides in Evanston, just north of Chicago. “There is a good sense of place and people and pride — all the things that go along with a vibrant, juicy sense of community are here.”

She tells of playing Crows Mill School on “New Year’s Eve in ’77, ’78, ’79 — one of those years” and seeing the old wooden floor “go up and down” with the dancers while she sang, “Those Were the Days.” Her Springfield connection continued with performances at the Sangamon State University-sponsored Mother Jones banquets “a couple times in the ’90s” and a benefit for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom with Peg Knoepfle and friends in 2008. Throughout her career, along with a sincere devotion to the notion of personal and social empowerment through music, she also stayed committed to a balance of familial obligations.

“The thing about the Women’s Movement of the ’70s and ’80s — it was a totally different place back then. Politics and culture were not so separated,” she said. “But soon I became married with children and reinvented myself in that role.”

She dedicated her life to working, teaching and raising children until recently, when her last child went off to college. Now the urge to play music fits with the time available and Lems is at it again, playing house concerts and coffee shops, union meetings and schools, spreading the gospel of equality, decency and other nice and good stuff through her songs and lifestyle.

“The kids don’t want me to mope around and miss them, so I’m getting back on the road,” she admits. “I hope and believe I made an impact on people’s lives and opinions. And I’m not anywhere done yet.”

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com

 

http://www.illinoistimes.com/Springfield/article-7092-kristin-lems-is-back.html

The Chicago Reader

Kristin Lems wrote her first song, "Hula Hoop With Your Honey," at age 11. She didn't have a honey or know how to hula hoop, but she says the words "had a catching rhythm."

For the past two decades Lems has continued to write songs whose words, rhythms, and tunes are all "catching." And it didn't take her long to find themes more relevant than the hula hoop. In a more recent composition called "Trivial Pursuit" she derides preoccupation with the insignificant: "What's the middle name of Paul Revere? / How many bubbles in a glass of beer? / If you know, it's clear you'll master Trivial Pursuit . . . / But don't ask how much money from our taxes goes to war / The answer isn't funny and it makes the game a bore."

Feminism, human rights, and the environment have informed the native Evanstonian's four folk albums and one tape of music for children. Her work for the women's movement earned her the president's award at the Illinois conference of the National Organization for Women last weekend.

 Lems's early musical training was supervised by her mother, a concert pianist, but, she says, "when you grow up in a classical-music environment, you don't learn improvisation or self-accompaniment." Improv is an important part of any Lems performance, whether at a local club, a children's birthday party, or a rally for the ERA, the farm workers, or Earth Day.

Lems got her start folksinging as a student at the University of Michigan. But her career took off when she took a job teaching English as a second language in Iran. Three weeks into her first term, some of her students asked her to be the female vocalist in their rock band. The clear-voiced, tall, blond, "all-American" Lems made quite a sensation, especially when she sang in Farsi. At first she memorized the phonetics without knowing the words. She later mastered the language and has since sung in 14 languages on four continents.

 She returned to the United States profoundly affected by her experience in Iran and with a growing awareness of women's issues in both countries. "I was very involved in the folk movement and at the same time getting interested in the women's movement. I scrounged around for songs that expressed my condition and discovered that some of them hadn't been written--songs by women singing honestly about their lives."

Lems plunged into the women's movement in Champaign-Urbana while working on master's degrees in West Asian studies and TESL (teaching English as a second language). Academically, Lems has "dabbled in four areas, none of them music. I think about songwriting the way I do about poetry. If you listen to others too much, it's very tempting to get imitative, but if you don't listen enough, you tend to repeat the same song that's in your head, over and over, just rewriting it.

"I started reflecting on women everywhere. Are there universals in our experiences? In every society women are in the rear, although in different cultural forms." Lems also wondered, "Where are all the women in music? Why is it that the women take all of the music lessons and yet men become the performers?"

The result of her musings was the National Women's Music Festival. With a group of students at U. of I., Lems sent a flier to every address in the New Woman's Survival Manual (a catalog of women-oriented services and products) inviting women musicians from around the country to meet in Champaign-Urbana in the spring of 1974, inviting some to perform and hold workshops. No performers were paid anything except expense money and all were required to give a workshop. The first festival drew 350 women, the third 2,000. Now in its 18th year and operated out of Bloomington, Indiana, it has an annual attendance of around 5,000. "A lot of women discovered that they weren't the only female French horn player or whatever in the country," says Lems.

 For the next five years she continued to organize the music festival while traveling and performing her blend of eco-feminist folk music, singing on college campuses, at conventions, at ERA rallies (including a May 10, 1980, Grant Park performance for a crowd of 90,000), and for women's professional organizations.

When she won a Fulbright lectureship to train English teachers around Algeria, she took her music to North Africa, performing in Algeria and Morocco and adding French and Arabic to her musical-linguistic repertoire and North African women to her political agenda.

Lems returned to Chicago in 1985 and became a mother in 1987, which inspired her to focus her creative energy on children's music. She often pairs with Chicago artist Peggy Lipschutz, who "choreographs her drawings" to the music. Lems jokes that she's gone from "singing mostly for men in the early 70s to singing mostly for women in the 80s and mostly for children in the 90s."

Adult women and men can still hear the messages and music of Kristin Lems at various clubs and rallies throughout the year, including upcoming performances at No Exit, 6970 N. Glenwood, tonight and tomorrow from 9:30 to close ($4 cover plus a two-drink minimum; 743-3355) and at the day of performances marking the Prism Gallery closing, 620 Davis in Evanston, next Saturday, September 28, from 7 to 8 (475-7500). Lems and Lipschutz will perform their children's work at the Children's Peace Fair, Saturday, November 2, at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, 1330 Ridge in Evanston, at 3 (the fair runs all day; 708-864-1330). Lems will release a 30-minute music video in early 1992 and plans to start recording two new albums this fall, one for children and one for adults.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/J. Alexander Newberry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/music-people-our-international-multilingual-eco-feminist-folkie/Content?oid=878272

Illinois Times

The Chicago Reader

Kristin Lems wrote her first song, "Hula Hoop With Your Honey," at age 11. She didn't have a honey or know how to hula hoop, but she says the words "had a catching rhythm."

For the past two decades Lems has continued to write songs whose words, rhythms, and tunes are all "catching." And it didn't take her long to find themes more relevant than the hula hoop. In a more recent composition called "Trivial Pursuit" she derides preoccupation with the insignificant: "What's the middle name of Paul Revere? / How many bubbles in a glass of beer? / If you know, it's clear you'll master Trivial Pursuit . . . / But don't ask how much money from our taxes goes to war / The answer isn't funny and it makes the game a bore."

Feminism, human rights, and the environment have informed the native Evanstonian's four folk albums and one tape of music for children. Her work for the women's movement earned her the president's award at the Illinois conference of the National Organization for Women last weekend.

Lems's early musical training was supervised by her mother, a concert pianist, but, she says, "when you grow up in a classical-music environment, you don't learn improvisation or self-accompaniment." Improv is an important part of any Lems performance, whether at a local club, a children's birthday party, or a rally for the ERA, the farm workers, or Earth Day.

Lems got her start folksinging as a student at the University of Michigan. But her career took off when she took a job teaching English as a second language in Iran. Three weeks into her first term, some of her students asked her to be the female vocalist in their rock band. The clear-voiced, tall, blond, "all-American" Lems made quite a sensation, especially when she sang in Farsi. At first she memorized the phonetics without knowing the words. She later mastered the language and has since sung in 14 languages on four continents.

She returned to the United States profoundly affected by her experience in Iran and with a growing awareness of women's issues in both countries. "I was very involved in the folk movement and at the same time getting interested in the women's movement. I scrounged around for songs that expressed my condition and discovered that some of them hadn't been written--songs by women singing honestly about their lives."

Lems plunged into the women's movement in Champaign-Urbana while working on master's degrees in West Asian studies and TESL (teaching English as a second language). Academically, Lems has "dabbled in four areas, none of them music. I think about songwriting the way I do about poetry. If you listen to others too much, it's very tempting to get imitative, but if you don't listen enough, you tend to repeat the same song that's in your head, over and over, just rewriting it.

"I started reflecting on women everywhere. Are there universals in our experiences? In every society women are in the rear, although in different cultural forms." Lems also wondered, "Where are all the women in music? Why is it that the women take all of the music lessons and yet men become the performers?"

The result of her musings was the National Women's Music Festival. With a group of students at U. of I., Lems sent a flier to every address in the New Woman's Survival Manual (a catalog of women-oriented services and products) inviting women musicians from around the country to meet in Champaign-Urbana in the spring of 1974, inviting some to perform and hold workshops. No performers were paid anything except expense money and all were required to give a workshop. The first festival drew 350 women, the third 2,000. Now in its 18th year and operated out of Bloomington, Indiana, it has an annual attendance of around 5,000. "A lot of women discovered that they weren't the only female French horn player or whatever in the country," says Lems.

For the next five years she continued to organize the music festival while traveling and performing her blend of eco-feminist folk music, singing on college campuses, at conventions, at ERA rallies (including a May 10, 1980, Grant Park performance for a crowd of 90,000), and for women's professional organizations.

When she won a Fulbright lectureship to train English teachers around Algeria, she took her music to North Africa, performing in Algeria and Morocco and adding French and Arabic to her musical-linguistic repertoire and North African women to her political agenda.

Lems returned to Chicago in 1985 and became a mother in 1987, which inspired her to focus her creative energy on children's music. She often pairs with Chicago artist Peggy Lipschutz, who "choreographs her drawings" to the music. Lems jokes that she's gone from "singing mostly for men in the early 70s to singing mostly for women in the 80s and mostly for children in the 90s."

Adult women and men can still hear the messages and music of Kristin Lems at various clubs and rallies throughout the year, including upcoming performances at No Exit, 6970 N. Glenwood, tonight and tomorrow from 9:30 to close ($4 cover plus a two-drink minimum; 743-3355) and at the day of performances marking the Prism Gallery closing, 620 Davis in Evanston, next Saturday, September 28, from 7 to 8 (475-7500). Lems and Lipschutz will perform their children's work at the Children's Peace Fair, Saturday, November 2, at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, 1330 Ridge in Evanston, at 3 (the fair runs all day; 708-864-1330). Lems will release a 30-minute music video in early 1992 and plans to start recording two new albums this fall, one for children and one for adults.

 

 

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/J. Alexander Newberry.

https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/music-people-our-international-multilingual-eco-feminist-folkie/Content?oid=878272
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