The Ben Sidran Collection is Home to Stay in Madison

May 8, 2018
All images: Archives of Ben Sidran, UW-Madison Libraries, and Locus Solus Rare Books

Talk about a sweet sound. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries are excited to announce the recent acquisition of Ben Sidran’s extensive personal archives. The nearly 100 boxes of materials include everything from personal and professional correspondence, music manuscripts and drafts of song lyrics, master tapes, unedited radio interviews, and photographs and posters.

“We are delighted to welcome Ben Sidran’s collection into the UW-Madison Libraries,” said Jeanette Casey, Director of Mills Music Library. “This a fabulous addition to the Wisconsin Music Archive. Ben’s materials also open an amazing door of potential when it comes to research and performance studies. His success and dedication to music bring entertainment and educational power.”

The collection documents the extraordinary career of Sidran as performer, composer, producer, lyricist, author, and radio broadcaster, highlighting his varied and award-winning contributions to the music world, including:

  • Performing, composing and/or producing dozens of recordings, including with artists such as Steve Miller, Mose Allison, Diana Ross, Boz Scaggs, Phil Upchurch, Tony Williams, Jon Hendricks, Lee Konitz, Richie Cole and Van Morrison.
  • Film composing for critically acclaimed documentaries such as “Hoop Dreams” and “Vietnam: Long Time Coming.”
  • Hosting the Peabody-Award-winning “Jazz Alive” series on National Public Radio
  • Authoring, “There Was a Fire: Jews, Music and the American Dream,” which was shortlisted for the National Jewish Book Award.
Archives of Ben Sidran, UW-Madison Libraries, and Locus Solus Rare Books

As a long-time Madisonian and UW Distinguished alumnus, it’s quite fitting that Ben Sidran’s archives remain in Madison. Sidran’s expansive career has taken him from Racine, WI, where he enjoyed playing boogie woogie piano as a little boy, to sharing his talents with the world, and gaining widespread acclaim in Europe and Japan, in particular. He also recorded his first solo album with Blue Mitchell.

When it came time to find a more permanent home to share materials that document his career, the Badger state only made sense.

“All my memories—of discovering jazz, studying history, raising a family, writing books—everything of importance to me, really, happened in Wisconsin. I am happy and proud to have my work live on at the University of Wisconsin,” noted Sidran.

Sidran is also the driving force behind this summer’s Madison Reunion: Bringing the ‘60s Back Home. The event, which runs June 14-16, will highlight the transformative role Madison played nearly 50 years ago in not only theater, film, and general creativity, but more notably, the impact the culture of the city had on social justice causes. Sidran plans to perform during the festival with Boz Scaggs and Tracy Nelson, two old friends from the sixties, and also to participate on some of the panels that address the subject of social justice.

Archives of Ben Sidran, UW-Madison Libraries, and Locus Solus Rare Books

“It’s a cliché to say if you don’t know your history you’re doomed to repeat it,” said Sidran, “but in these times, when so many people are traumatized by the news and polarized by social media, coming together and talking about important issues may be old fashioned, but it’s a good way to go forward with a new sense of purpose and a continued sense of humor.”

Following processing and preservation work, the collection will be available to the public.