Friday, March 14, 2008

Old Mr. Pete Seeger

"Technology will save us if it doesn't wipe us out first." - Pete Seeger
Over at YouTube and here on squeezemylemon I read comments about Pete Seeger and I wonder if people really know who he is. And if they know about his contributions to blues music and folk music in particular.

On some of the Elizabeth Cotten videos and some other Rainbow Quest videos people comment that they think that Pete Seeger is racist, that he is patronizing and there are even worst things said about him.

In most of the videos, he is just trying to keep the show moving along. He and his guest are under time constraints, those videos were filmed for television. People who do not understand how a television show is put together think that he is being rude or disrespectful when he is just trying to keep the show on track.

And as for Pete Seeger and Elizabeth Cotten, she knew Pete Seeger when he was a boy. She worked in his families household. Imagine the fun she was having being on Pete's show.

This kind of stuff makes me mad when I read it. Because this guy is really an American hero, in my mind anyway.

It is as if we forget that when these videos were made, many of the guest on his show could not get on television any other way. And we forget that if Pete Seeger had not made many of those tapes, we would not be able to enjoy them now. Please give the man some credit.

As for Seeger being "racist" please consider this quote from wikipedia;
Seeger is also widely credited with popularizing the traditional song "We Shall Overcome", which was recorded by Joan Baez and many other singer-activists, and became the publicly perceived anthem of the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement soon after musicologist Guy Carawan introduced it at the founding meeting of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960.
The man popularized, meaning he sang it all the time, "We Shall Overcome." And he was a known civil rights activist. See his book Where have all the Flowers gone to read the sheet music for "Take It from Dr. King" Pete's tribute to the late, great civil rights leader.

And while I encourage everyone to leave comments, please take time to think about what you are saying, do some research and don't judge people from the past by the standards of today. Make an informed comment.

When I read the comments I feel that I have failed in my responsibility to educate people about this great art form and the people that helped make it. And Pete Seeger was truly one of them.

He worked for Alan Lomax, as an assistant. He faced the congress during the Red Scare and went twenty years without work, because of what he believed. He made many great tapes, videos, and records that allow us to enjoy some of the better known musicians of today.

For nearly 20 years Pete couldn’t get work because he had refused to cooperate with a Congressional witch-hunting committee. In addition to insulting them by refusing to play their game he’d confused them by using as his justification the First rather than the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. His idea was that the First Amendment protected speech in two directions: the bad guys couldn’t keep you from speaking and neither could they force you to speak if you didn’t want to. It was a brilliant idea and it drove them quite crazy. Along with playwright Arthur Miller and seven other people, Pete was cited for contempt by a House vote of 373 to 9. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to a year in prison in 1961. The case was later thrown out by US Court of Appeals.
From Bruce Jackson's web article "I didn't know you knew Pete Seeger." The great conspirator turns 85.

So if you really want to get to know Pete Seeger check out these links;

Pete Seeger @Wikipedia

The Pete and Toshi Seeger Film Collection

Pete Seeger @YouTube

Pete Seeger @PBS.org American Masters

Pete Seeger @The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Pete Seeger Interview @The Down Home Radio Show

And if you like to read, check out these books on Mr. Seeger;

How Can I Keep from Singing: Pete Seeger
David Dunaway. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 1990.

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?: A Musical Autobiography
Pete Seeger. New York: Sing Out! Books 1995.

The Incompleat Folksinger
Pete Seeger with Jo M. Schwartz (ed.). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1992.

“Pete Seeger: American Dreamer – The Life of a Modern-Day Johnny Appleseed.”
Bruce Sylvester. Goldmine (April 11, 1997): 16-19+.

Stumble Upon Toolbar
Post a Comment