Dan Zanes

Photo by Anna Zanes

Grammy Award-winner Dan Zanes occupies a unique place in American music – where sea shanties, English Music hall, play party songs, the spirit of early rock-n-roll, soul, North American and West Indian folk music collide. For the past 20 years, he has toured the world with his band, Dan Zanes and Friends, sharing handmade 21st century social music with enthusiastic crowds of kids and kid sympathizers.

From thrift shop basements to Carnegie hall, from Brooklyn to Bahrain, Zanes has been introducing new songs and reconnecting people to the forgotten music of the past. Referred to as “the family-music genre’s most outspoken and eloquent advocate” by Time Magazine, his critically-acclaimed music has been featured on Sesame Street, Playhouse Disney, Nickelodeon, HBO Family and Sprout. Over the course of 14 albums, 2 DVDs, 2 picture books, and dozens of videos, he has collaborated with Philip Glass, Lou Reed, Angelique Kidjo, Natalie Merchant, Carol Channing, Sharon Jones, Bob Weir, Debbie Harry, Rosanne Cash, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and many more.

In the 1980’s Zanes was a member of The Del Fuegos, a roots rock band who released several albums and toured heavily before spontaneously combusting in 1989. In 1994 he became a father and began trying to create music that he and his daughter could enjoy together as a shared experience, an updated version of the Folkways records he grew up on. In 2000, Zanes moved to Brooklyn and released Rocket Ship Beach, which became an immediate hit with families in America. NPR called him “The Gold Standard in kid’s music.”

In the fall of 2017, Dan and his wife, Haitian-American jazz vocalist / Music Therapist Claudia Zanes, premiered Night Train 57: A Sensory Friendly Folk Opera at The Kennedy Center. They occasionally tour this show with Mexican percussion player-turned-comic actor Yuriana Sobrino. Night Train 57 is the first piece commissioned by The Kennedy Center to be created, from the beginning, as a Sensory Friendly experience. Dan and Claudia believe that Sensory Friendly is the future of family entertainment and have committed to presenting all of their various performances in this inclusive manner. The soundtrack to the show is now available digitally and on CD.

Recently, Dan and Claudia collaborated with illustrator Donald Saaf to make a songbook called Dan Zanes House Party: A Family Roots Music Treasury which was published by The Quarto Group in late 2018 to widespread acclaim from families, educators, and folk enthusiasts. Dan and Claudia tour constantly bringing their soulful folk music to people of all ages throughout the U.S. and Canada.

In addition, Dan is a co-founder of Constructive White Conversation an ongoing white anti-racist affinity group based in New York. He and his childhood best friend, Mike Feldstein, are completing an audio book of personal essays about their experiences as white men called Tales of White Racism for Stoners, Upholsterers, Financiers, Cowgirls, and Others. It was released in the spring of 2019.