Seeger “brought politics to music”

Written By: - Date published: 9:15 am, January 29th, 2014 - 23 comments
Categories: music, Unions, us politics - Tags:

It was a life long and well lived, and he had to go sometime.  However, he will be remembered, and revisited whenever politics of the people is revitalised in culture and music.

Seeger 1919 2014

I came of age at a time when folk music, especially political folk music was considered pretty cool.  It was a time when popular music drew directly on its folk music roots as people’s music.  And it was a time when those of the left of politics knew exactly who Pete Seeger was.

Doran Lynskey of The Guardian: ‘Pete Seeger: the man who brought politics to music

But Seeger carved out his place in history with a quieter, rarer set of qualities: nobility, generosity, humility and, when things got rough, breathtaking courage. Perhaps uniquely, he became one of the most important singers in America without ever being a star, because he believed in the song rather than the singer.

Like most, I think of him and Woody Guthrie as being significantly connected.

Guthrie the charismatic Dust Bowl poet, and Seeger the man who got America singing. He didn’t have a remarkable voice but it was clear and strong and it never got in the way of the material, which was the point. A great believer in the power of communal singing, he saw himself as just a catalyst: a means to an end.

He served in WWII, but for Seeger, political battles followed the end of the war.

He was hounded, sometimes violently, by the right. His new band, the Weavers, briefly became sensations, but the Red Scare ripped them apart in 1952. And there was worse to come.

Summoned to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955, Seeger refused to wriggle out of trouble by taking the Fifth and made himself an “unfriendly” witness. While awaiting trial for contempt of Congress, and likely imprisonment, he threw himself into the civil rights movement. It was Seeger who introduced Martin Luther King to We Shall Overcome and advised civil rights activist to form their own group, the Freedom Singers. “Songs have accompanied every liberation movement in history,” he wrote. “These songs will reaffirm your faith in the future of mankind.”

Seeger was also the forefather of the folk revival. In 1962, the same week his legal troubles were finally over, Peter, Paul and Mary took Where Have All the Flowers Gone? into the Top 40. But the revival ran away from him, thanks to Bob Dylan.

[..]

Even in old age, he kept singing, notably at President Obama’s inauguration and Occupy Wall Street. His voice may have grown shaky but it carried with it the history of the American left since the New Deal. He would have considered it neglectfully selfish to retire.

The songs remain:

Talking Union

Which side are you on?

If I had a Hammer

23 comments on “Seeger “brought politics to music””

  1. philj 1

    A beacon of hope for all mankind. Bigger than music, he epitomised decency and justice in the world.

  2. Steve Wrathall 2

    Congratulations on the crooner in making it to 94, which is a lot longer than many dissenting artists lived in regimes that he idolized.

  3. Ad 3

    Just loved him.
    Went through many of the utube links last night.
    A grand life.

  4. fender 4

    A truly great man with 100% integrity like a real life saint, very rare indeed.

  5. Ron 5

    “Kisses Sweeter than Wine”
    Still a great favourite though I preferred Jimme Rodgers version over the Weavers original

  6. captain hook 6

    I have two Pete Seegar CD’s and they will get a fair airing tonight.
    I have an e-mail address with a news service attached and they never mentioned his passing and I heard it here first. I love his music and I learned to play the banjo out of his book. Well I frailed and frailed to no avail for quite some time before I got it. And Last week I just happened to obtain A Greatest Hits of The Weavers CD plus two Vanguard Vinyl Albums. I was putting the cd onto my computer at the Library and the music came out quite loud and before you know it nearly everyone was singing along to when the saints go marching in. Serendipity!

  7. greywarbler 7

    Peter Seeger a great musician and a nice man, on stage and every place I think.
    I think the first one is This land is your land. It could be changed a little to make if apply to
    NZ.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HE4H0k8TDgw
    and
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5s_yumYPFm4
    and
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHbTWJ9tjnw
    and
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgzl1Sai4Y0

    The last one is Peggy, his sister’s song, I want to be an engineer.

  8. joe90 8

    Pete Seeger’s Rainbow Quest with June Carter and a pissed/stoned Johnny Cash.

    edit: a search shows how diverse/inclusive Seeger and his music was.

  9. greywarbler 9

    I thought this was lovely with the honey voice of Peggy his sister playing her song to him on his 94th birthday.

    It’s Pete by Peggy
    and a touching one if you want to see a great old man gathering himself to broadcast his words and love of life, hopeful songs and love of people on his 94th birthday.

  10. AmaKiwi 11

    The way Pete lived life was his message.

    By most definitions I am not a Christian. But maybe I am because I believe the idealized concept we have of a man named “Jesus” is the model we have of how to live the ideal life.

    If Jesus appeared anywhere during the 20th century and walked amongst us, who was she or he?

    Martin Luther King, Jr.? Nelson Mandela? My list of nominees includes Pete Seeger.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Labour to work with Queenstown to build more houses
    Labour will work with Queenstown-Lakes District Council, iwi, and the Community Housing Trust to build the modern, affordable housing Queenstown desperately needs, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. ...
    13 hours ago
  • Nats blow the Budget on motels after bowling state houses
    National is spending $140,000 a day putting homeless families in motels, the legacy of nine years of selling off and knocking down state houses, says Labour Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. ...
    13 hours ago
  • New revelations in Joanne Harrison report
    The State Services Commission’s report into the treatment of whistle-blowers by Joanne Harrison has revealed new accusations against the convicted fraudster, says Labour MP Sue Moroney.  “The report found that four staff inside the Ministry of Transport who had raised ...
    13 hours ago
  • Snafu at Princess Margaret
    Jonathan Coleman has to stop the stalling over a new building for mental health services in Christchurch to replace the quake damaged Princess Margaret Hospital, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark. “The Government must accept that Christchurch is still recovering ...
    20 hours ago
  • Labour’s fiscal plan to build a fairer New Zealand
    Labour will re-build our housing, health and education while responsibly managing New Zealand’s finances, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little.  “Under Labour’s Fiscal Plan we will deliver big investments in the services we all need and care about, invest ...
    1 day ago
  • Nats show they’re the tax dodgers’ best friends
    The government is taking the knife to IRD at a time when we need a highly skilled department to ensure that multinationals and speculators don’t get away with dodging tax, says Labour’s Revenue spokesperson Michael Wood. ...
    2 days ago
  • Labour secures the future for NZ Super
    A Labour Government will secure the future for New Zealand Superannuation so we can continue to provide superannuation to those retiring at age 65, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. “One of the first things a Labour-led Government will ...
    2 days ago
  • Multinationals must pay fair share of tax
    A Labour Government will crack down on multinational companies that are dodging paying their fair share of tax, says Labour Leader Andrew Little. “New Zealanders are missing out by hundreds of millions according to the IRD because multinational companies can ...
    3 days ago
  • ACT’s approach to children backward and ill informed
    Act’s new deputy leader’s claim that Labour’s support for families could “extend the misery of child poverty and even child abuse” is ill informed and offensive, says Labour’s Deputy Leader Jacinda Ardern. ...
    7 days ago
  • Canterbury hatchet job a disgrace
    The Government’s glib acceptance of advice that the Canterbury District Health Board doesn’t need more money is a hatchet job and a disgrace, says Labour’s Health Spokesperson David Clark. “To claim that the DHB was using tactics to leverage more ...
    7 days ago
  • Quality for Kiwi kids at ECE
    After more than a decade of rapid growth in the number of children participating in Early Childhood Education (ECE), it’s time to take stock and map out a clear plan for the future, says Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins. ...
    7 days ago
  • Labour to boost ECE quality
    Labour will ensure kids get the best start in life by boosting funding for Early Childhood Centres to employ 100 per cent qualified and registered teachers, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. ...
    7 days ago
  • Labour will stump up a million dollars for Maniototo Hospital
    A Labour led Government will make a million dollars available to rebuild the Maniototo Base hospital in Ranfurly, says the Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little.  “This will be a much needed boost for a long overdue rebuild that has ...
    7 days ago
  • No vision for the West Coast
    The West Coast welcomes any Government investment in our region but the lack of any real alternative vision for the West Coast’s economy is disappointing, says Damien O’Connor Labour’s West Coast-Tasman MP.  “The establishment of a Mining Research Unit will ...
    1 week ago
  • National’s youth work scheme too little too late
    After nine years, National’s belated attempt to provide work opportunities for unemployed youth should be seen for what it is, a half-hearted, election gimmick from a party that’s ignored the problem till now, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. ...
    1 week ago
  • Kiwis won’t fall for Joyce’s spin
    Steven Joyce’s embarrassingly obvious spin on Labour’s Families Package won’t fool anyone, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. ...
    1 week ago
  • Labour prioritises families and public services
    Labour’s Families Package delivers a bigger income boost to more than 70 per cent of families with children than Budget 2017. By not spending $1.5 billion a year on tax cuts, Labour is able to do more for lower and ...
    1 week ago
  • Kiwis can’t sleep in your ghost houses, Nick
    The Government’s housing infrastructure announcement is another Nick Smith special – over-promising with no detail on delivery, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. ...
    1 week ago
  • Labour helps older New Zealanders and low income families with winter heating bills
    Labour will further boost its commitment to warm, healthy housing with a Winter Energy Payment for superannuitants and people receiving main benefits, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. “Everyone deserves a warm, healthy home to live in. But that’s ...
    1 week ago
  • National must rule out retrospective override for Ruataniwha
    National must categorically rule out using retrospective legislation to override the Supreme Court’s decision that the land swap of conservation land flooded by the proposed Ruataniwha Dam was illegal, says Labour’s Shadow Attorney General David Parker. “Having not got their ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Flavell’s failure a win for Māori landowners
    The Māori Development Minister’s admission that his unpopular Ture Whenua Māori Bill won’t pass into law prior to the election is a victory for Māori landowners, but only a change of government will keep the Bill gone for good, says ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Stats confirm growing housing shortfall
    National’s failure to fix the housing shortage has been starkly illustrated by new statistics, says Labour Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Systemic abuse of kids in state care
    After admitting there was systemic abuse of children in State care the Government must do the right thing and launch an independent inquiry, says Labour’s Deputy Leader Jacinda Ardern. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Migrant worker exploitation needs sharper focus
    The astonishing number of employers found guilty of exploiting migrants shows that migrant exploitation is a serious problem in New Zealand, says Labour Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway. “A total of 53 companies have been banned from recruiting ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Minister faces questions over dam debacle
    Today’s Supreme Court ruling dismissing an appeal to allow a land swap for the controversial Ruataniwha Dam is a victory for our conservation estate and Hawke’s Bay ratepayers, but leaves the Conservation Minister with serious questions to answer, says Ikaroa-Rāwhiti ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Too little too late on Wellington housing
    The announcement today on social housing in Wellington by the National Government is a pitiful and cynical election ploy, says Labour’s Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson. “In 2012 Housing New Zealand emptied out the Gordon Wilson Flats, taking 130 places ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Foreign trusts wilt in the sunlight, but more transparency needed
    The fact that the numbers of foreign trusts registered in New Zealand has plummeted after the Government’s belated and reluctant imposition of a new reporting regime, in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal, shows the need for a transparent, ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Speech by Grant Robertson: The Future of Work and Labour’s Economic Vision
    At the election in September voters will face a choice between a government led by Andrew Little with a fresh approach to give every New Zealander a fair share in prosperity or the continuation of a tired government, out of ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Swimmable Rivers Tour: Waikato
    Last week, we rolled up to the mighty Waikato on the final day of our swimmable rivers tour. Co-Leader James Shaw, Denise Roche MP and I started our day in Horotiu where the primary school has been focussing on the ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty
    3 weeks ago
  • Nats’ failure to train young people contributes to housing stall
    Budget documents forecast that housing construction will stall in the coming year, despite the massive housing shortage, and National’s failure to train young people in building trades is partly to blame, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. ...
    3 weeks ago