Barry Olivier, 1935-2023

we celebrate the life and spirit of barry olivier, founder and director of the berkeley folk music festival.

Barry Olivier, Berkeley Folk Music Festival, 1964
Barry Olivier addressing the crowd at the 1964 Berkeley Folk Music Festival opening concert in the Faculty Glade. He created and directed the Berkeley Folk Music Festival from 1958 to 1970.

The Berkeley Folk Music Festival Project is sad to report the death of Barry Olivier, 1935-2023. Without Barry, no Berkeley Folk Music Festival. He was the director and guiding spirit from 1958 to 1970, and this was just one part of a life well lived.

Barry had a calm, quietly caring spirit, but could then burst into one of the best, most garrulous laughs on the planet. He was a fine singer and guitar picker, an exquisite organizer (the Berkeley Folk Music Festival Archive bears this out), and someone who just simply made the world a better place.

Barry Olivier, right, with Sam Hinton, the master of ceremonies at all of the Berkeley Folk Music Festivals, in 1964 at the Jackson Hole Folk Festival, another event that Olivier organized and directed.

When I first contacted Barry about digitizing the Berkeley Folk Music Festival Archive, which had sat mostly unused at Northwestern University’s Special Collections Library for decades, he immediately supported the idea. “Oh,” he said, “it can be a continuation of what we were trying to do at the Festival.” We settled on the concept of thinking of the project as a “digital river of song” that could try to carry the best energies of the original Festival into the online world. And just as he did at the original event, Barry was so solid in his support of the effort to push forward the online extension of the Berkeley Folk Music Festival.

What a wonderful guy. Many of us will miss him dearly. We send condolences to the entire Olivier family and to Barry’s wife Alice. More celebrations of Barry’s life and work to come. For more about Barry Olivier’s time as creator and director of the Berkeley Folk Music Festival, visit the digital exhibit, The Berkeley Folk Music Festival & the Folk Revival on the US West Coast—An Introduction.

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