Tom Goodkind, of Washington Squares Folk Group, Dies

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The Washington Squares (Tom Goodkind, seated)

Tom Goodkind, a longtime fixture on the New York City music scene, best known as the co-founder of The Washington Squares folk revival group, died Thursday (Feb. 28) in the city after a long battle with a chronic degenerative illness. He was 65.

In recent years, Goodkind served as the conductor of the Lower Manhattan-based all-volunteer group TriBattery Pops, described as something of a contemporary spin on the traditional marching band. Earlier in his career Goodkind was instrumental in creating and/or managing such popular New York music venues as Irving Plaza, the Peppermint Lounge and Roseland.

In addition, Goodkind was involved in local community issues in downtown Manhattan.

Tom Goodkind (r.) with Pete Seeger

The Washington Squares formed in 1983 as a trio featuring former NYU students Goodkind and Bruce Jay Paskow (who died in 1994), plus Lauren Agnelli. All three had been members of punk groups: Goodkind with U.S. Ape, Agnelli with Nervus Rex and Paskow with the Invaders. The trio, all of whom sang, were modeled after the classic 1960s folk groups such as the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary, taking their name from Washington Square Park in the heart of Greenwich Village.

Watch the Washington Squares perform “Greenback Dollar”

The trio, which dressed in an exaggerated version of the beatnik-style clothing favored by the groups that inspired them (Goodkind and Paskow also wore goatees), became popular at acoustic music venues such as Folk City but also performed at rock music clubs in the early ’80s. Their repertoire consisted of covers of songs from the so-called folk era and also original music.

Related: Greenwich Village in the ’60s concert review

For some time, the trio added drummer Billy Ficca, formerly with the New York CBGB-era favorites Television, giving them more of a full-band, electric sound. The Washington Squares’ self-titled debut album was produced by Mitch Easter (R.E.M.) at Electric Lady Studios in 1987 and received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Recording. The followup, Fair and Square, was produced by Steve Soles (who’d worked with Bob Dylan) in 1989. Other material has been released since the band’s demise, which came after Paskow’s death.

The Washington Squares staged a reunion concert last year at New York’s City Winery, which featured Goodkind, Agnelli, Ficca and Mike Fornatale on bass. They were joined there by guest Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary.

Watch the video for the Washington Squares’ “Everybody Knows”

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Jeff Tamarkin
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  1. Michael
    #1 Michael 9 August, 2020, 23:19

    Real sad, & just finding out now ! I did some photography/recording for the Squares in early days, I knew them through Jill. Alot of fond memories of seeing some fantastic local NY shows. Great voice,great guy.

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