Joanna Newsom

By: Tucker Cummings
January 18, 2013

There’s a quote that’s often attributed to Igor Stravinksy: “Harpists spend 90 percent of their lives tuning their harps and 10 percent playing out of tune.” Not so with the talented harpist/vocalist JOANNA NEWSOM (born 1982). She once famously explained her love of the harp by saying that “it’s almost part of me, but more to the point, it serves a purpose, and if it wasn’t there I would wonder what was supposed to fit in its place.” Despite her symbiotic relationship with the instrument, Newsom has always been self-aware, not hesitating to move past her personal obsession with recitatives to keep her songs from getting “wanky.” Her first EP was released in 2002, and was originally recorded on a Fisher-Price tape recorder. Just seven years later, she had to stop speaking entirely for two months to combat vocal cord nodules; since then, her signature scratchy, warbly sound has changed a little to accommodate her tender throat. Critics might say that her sound has become too commercial over the years… but it’s pretty hard to call a harp player a sell-out. Her ability to overcome the odds, make it big, and save her voice from ruin make her an inspiration to fellow music school dropouts everywhere.



On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Cary Grant, Danny Kaye, and Gilles Deleuze.

READ MORE about men and women born on the cusp between the Revivalist (1974-82) and Social Darwikian (1983-94) Generations.


Cuspers, HiLo Heroes

What do you think?

  1. To truly perform music is to be an agonist, an unremitting long- distance athlete.

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