karen brooks

karen brooks


From old blues to Dylan to songs of her own, her sound is consistent: clear and powerful, full and rich. Her songs are poignant, strong, familiar. A veteran guitarist who can keep up with the boys.


I was born in Tokyo, daughter of a blues singer mother and Broadway actor/singer father. Growing up, I remember music parties that kept me awake at night with conga and jazz piano and lots of singing. My grandfather was a great singer, an evangelist who travelled around the south during the Depression pulling together the early African-American church choirs, a sheriff who played the saw and fiddle and called squaredances. He was also a carpenter and inventor. I like to think I'm cut from the same cloth. I'm not the typical girly-girl, never much use for make-up. Hammers are definitely good. Worked a bunch of years with autistic kids and music, then a bunch more teaching little kids music, having a great time getting them all singing and playing, some now jam with me as 20-year-olds. Done a lot of travelling, both this country and Europe, playing music everyhere I go, getting folks going on the train or in the airport. My mentor nowadays is my kids' adopted grandfather, Pete Seeger, friend and fellow-musician and activist. He's still going strong and holds a good-sized group of us in his capable hands, leading us to carry on. It's because of him that I am convinced music is our last hope, and the proof has been in the doing. I make friends everywhere, always have a common bond even when there isn't a common language. That's the belief that comes through, I hope, in my music, and if I'm not drawing in the crowd, then I'm not doing my job. I raised four kids, ran a sheep farm with about 100 ewes (do you know how many lambs are born each year to 100 ewes?) built a few houses and alot more barns (good at hammering) and in the last couple years spent a load of energy re-building after a housefire so I feel like I can pretty much understand my good friends in Nicaragua and now in the South of this poor country. Wherever I go, I talk to people about what they want, what they believe, what they hope for, what songs they sing-- "teach me a lullaby from your country"-- because these are the songs that everybody knows. It's not about getting rich or famous, it's about passing along the music, the hope, the connection we all share. That's why I do it, the singing and the playing, it's what makes me the happiest, makes me feel alive.


Tsunami in Papua

Written By: Karen Brooks

Where are the children
In Papua, New Guinea?

It was a holiday
The children home to play
We had our evening meal
And then it came

We heard the tremble in the jungle
At first it sounded like an airplane
Just like the hum of an airplane
And then it came

A 23-foot wall of water
Washed away my son and daughter
But what about me?
Why not me?

They said be grateful for small mercies
Bur can you tell me where’s the mercy
I lost my father and my mother
Buried my sister and my own brother
And now they’re burning down my village
Cause there’s just too many bodies
And they say the schools won’t open
Cause we lost so many children
Why not me?

Where are the children
Of Papua, New Guinea?

I was a fisherman
I had a simple life
It was a paradise
Until it came
A 23-foot wall of water
Washed away our sons and daughters
What about me, why not me?
where are the children
I can’t live without the children

Maybe they’re swimming in the ocean
Maybe they found another island
Maybe they’re walking on the water
Maybe they’re playing with the dolphins
Why not me?

Where are the children
Of Papua, of Bosnia
Nicaragua, America?
A town’s no good without the children Karen Brooks (c) 1998

Gonna Rise

Written By: Karen Brooks

You're gonna rise, and leave your troubles behind
You're gonna rise, and let that blazing light find you
Gonna walk in the shadows no more
Ain't gonna walk in the shadows no more
You're gonna see, the worlds a beautiful place
You're gonna see, you're part of the whole human race
Gonna walk in the shadows no more
Ain't gonna walk in the shadows no more
If you could open your eyes
You'd see there's laughing on the river
Singing on the river now
And you could see by the faces
In the bright, sunny places
There's a movement to the river now
You're gonna rise, and find a whole world is waiting
You're gonna rise, there'll be no more hesitating
Gonna walk in the shadows no more
Ain't gonna walk in the shadows no more

Motorcycle on the Mesa

Written By: Karen Brooks

Did you ever ride on a motorcycle
Out in the wind with your hair flying loose
Did you ever ride with the sun on your shoulder
Out on the mesa with all your ghosts

I believe I've been raised by the sun
And I believe I've been taught by the wind
They gave me their secrets while my wheels were spinning
I'm gonna ride until they call me in

Sometimes I ride to the top of the mountain
Up where the eagle sits high in her nest
Watch as the sunset explodes like a fountain
Warmed by the rocks as I take my rest

Sometimes at night when the moon is shining
Out on the mesa where the wind is still
Out from the shadows I can see coyote
Sings out a song for the ghosts on the hill


Lost Silence-- Solo LP released in 1972
Follow the Dream-- CD/Cassette released 2000
Believe-- 2004
Under the Covers-- (2005)
Karen Brooks Unreleased (2006)

Set List

I typically do what's needed-- one long set or 2 shorter ones, doesn't really matter. I often have been hired to do "theme" shows, songs from a certain genre or having to do with a particular day like Labor day, etc. I'm always willing to learn new material to illustrate a theme. Just give me a couple days notice! (I have been known to be willing to pick up a new song just before going on stage if someone asks nice!) I'll intersperse covers if the crowd looks like they need 'em, otherwise, I may do mostly originals and maybe some old blues or even some sing-a-longs if they're into it.