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Obituary: Pete Seeger´s Magnificent,
But Messy, Legacy

New Republic, by Paul Berman

Original Article

Posted By:Judy W., 1/28/2014 1:24:45 PM

Have you ever heard a recording of Pete Seeger singing one of his anti-war hymns from the period, 1939 to 1941, when the Soviet Union was allied with Nazi Germany? Pete Seeger in those performances sings in a lovely naïve tone, as always. His charming banter is childlike in its simplicity—his denunciations of the capitalist imperialists who might like to see America go to war foolishly against the Nazis. (Snip) Pete Seeger´s anti-war performances from those years are revolting. He and his musical colleagues sang anti-war songs in 1939-41 because, in the Soviet Union, Stalin had decided that an alliance

Comments:
I was a big Pete Seeger fan in my misbegotten youth. But although I had come to my political senses, I remained enough of a fan to buy my little daughter a tape of his children´s songs in the 1980s, and it was a great tape. This waffling, confused article probably reflects the feelings of a lot of ex-leftists.

      


Post Reply  

Reply 1 - Posted by: jond, 1/28/2014 1:41:11 PM     (No. 9709225)

Did Seeger ever seriously reflect and repent. I doubt it.

His opposition to the Viet Nam war was of a piece with his Stalinist misadventures.

To describe him as a "folk" musician is deceptive. He, as much as anyone, steered popular music into the left-wing swamp where it wallows today. His brother Mike was more of a "folk" musician and, IMHO, a better one.

Seeger was a Communist activist in the best tradition of the artists who created the monumental Soviet art which, to our misfortune, still breathes.



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Reply 2 - Posted by: reilly, 1/28/2014 1:42:03 PM     (No. 9709226)


"He´s serenading Stalin in heaven now."
From Iowahawk, natch.


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Reply 3 - Posted by: earlybird, 1/28/2014 1:42:55 PM     (No. 9709229)

Magnificent is not a word that comes to mind when I think of Pete Seeger, which is almost never.

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Reply 4 - Posted by: BigGeorgeTX, 1/28/2014 1:47:36 PM     (No. 9709234)

Pete Seeger is now a good commie.

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Reply 5 - Posted by: flatwater, 1/28/2014 1:52:14 PM     (No. 9709238)

So very, very glad to hear he´s dead!

Burn in Hell, Pete!

May all of your admirers soon join you!


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Reply 6 - Posted by: RayLRiv, 1/28/2014 1:55:57 PM     (No. 9709241)

Sorry - I don´t mourn Commies...

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Reply 7 - Posted by: Newtsche, 1/28/2014 1:58:23 PM     (No. 9709244)

Seeger had a gift for catchy tunes wrapped in simplistic polemics.

One particular song I associate with him, he didn´t write -- "Little Boxes". A bouncy nursery rhyme that was an indictment of suburbia at its onset. The little boxes delivered the American Dream to post-war Americans who chose to leave the brutal cities.

I don´t remember Seeger singing of the cinder block residential tombs that were the Iron Curtain real little boxes.

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Reply 8 - Posted by: Hazymac, 1/28/2014 2:31:44 PM     (No. 9709291)

Pete Seeger was born in 1919. He had a good run, as the expression goes. He was a good songwriter who had a long career. As a folkie he was a purist who at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival went frantically searching for a hatchet to chop through the electric cords and wires attached to Bob Dylan´s electric band (which featured the incendiary guitar of Michael Bloomfield of the Butterfield Blues Band). Although Seeger´s politics were fashionably--even blatantly unfashionably--far left, I liked some of his stuff.

Bill Ayers may have been able to write prose, but since he couldn´t sing and write poetry, I always hated him. (If you can´t sing to me, well, just shut up if you´re a Stalinist.) A communist blunderbuss he is. Or was.

There´s a softer spot in my heart for Seeger. Listen to Eva Cassidy´s rendition of Seeger´s "Oh, Had I a Golden Thread," which gets the gospel treatment. You´ll be impressed, I promise. Do my compatriot female LDotters wish they could sing like this? Of course you do! (The video link is, perhaps, deliberately, jerky. If you don´t have Eva´s CD entitled Songbird and love great singing, buy it!) nevertheless, here´s the link.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQb1Xt8-Npk

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Reply 9 - Posted by: roadrunner, 1/28/2014 2:38:04 PM     (No. 9709301)

So I´m the the first here to suggest that he burn in hell. His "music" was meant to impress generations with his communist beliefs. Good riddance!

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Reply 10 - Posted by: rubberneck, 1/28/2014 2:40:00 PM     (No. 9709309)

Does this mean Springsteen ascends to the throne? He better get to writin´ some songs about Income Inequality!

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Reply 11 - Posted by: jond, 1/28/2014 2:51:50 PM     (No. 9709331)

Seeger could hardly have been called a folk purist, since what he did was graft leftist politics onto folk roots. Note that folk, later country and western, still distinctly reflect traditional American values.

Seeger´s objection to electric music, apart from his simple inflexibility in confronting something new, also reflected his belief that music should present the image of the oppressed minorities. Thus, "Ledbelly good, Howlin´ Wolf bad."

This conflict was larger than Seeger. Ewan MacColl took the traditional class struggle view, John Hammond the updated version with fins and lots of chrome.

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Reply 12 - Posted by: PoliticalJunky, 1/28/2014 3:17:17 PM     (No. 9709378)

Before it was called "The Lion Sleeps Tonight. the Weavers sang it under a different name (I forget what. I still have it but don´t want to go looking.) Pete Seeger sang it with them and did the high part (which later performers brought in a soprano for). It was a spectacular performance. The Weavers were also lefties as were Peter, Paul and Mary. If it does not interfere with the music too much I can put that aside. .



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Reply 13 - Posted by: wetenschapper, 1/28/2014 3:17:18 PM     (No. 9709379)

I confess that I can´t completely dislike Seeger, despite his infantile poltics. He always radiated a cheerful, if naive earnestness that was sort of cute in its way, while being simultaneously slightly embarrassing, the way one might smile at a mildly-retarded 14-year-old who still professes belief in Santa Clause, and say "isn´t that precious?"

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Reply 14 - Posted by: PoliticalJunky, 1/28/2014 3:21:18 PM     (No. 9709388)

Just remembered: A weem away, A weem away. ". Don´t ask. I have no idea.

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Reply 15 - Posted by: No Representation in CA, 1/28/2014 4:12:49 PM     (No. 9709456)

Heaven ain´t where Pete and Stalin are. AMF!

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Reply 16 - Posted by: ida Lou Pino, 1/28/2014 4:14:44 PM     (No. 9709459)

Yeah, what a guy!

A smiling, poetic troubadour - - who also was a willing apologist the mass murderer of 40 million innocent human beings.

Yup - - quite the guy.

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Reply 17 - Posted by: ida Lou Pino, 1/28/2014 4:17:02 PM     (No. 9709461)

The song in question is "Wimoweh" - - which was also recorded in the mid-fifties by the Five Keys - - the version which inspired the Tokens´ later rewrite as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."

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Reply 18 - Posted by: mamafrog, 1/28/2014 4:21:48 PM     (No. 9709463)

Rest In Peace Pete Seeger. You wrote good music and brought back many songs that we had forgotten.

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Reply 19 - Posted by: Hazymac, 1/28/2014 4:28:39 PM     (No. 9709472)

Re #15: I almost never disagree with one time LDotter colleague Iowahawk, but if Seeger is serenading Joe the Georgian, it ain´t anywhere near heaven. Listen to Al Stewart´s historically themed song, first person singular, in hell´s anteroom. "When Joe the Georgian gets here, we will dance...."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqOmQZ63oCw

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Reply 20 - Posted by: JoElla Bee, 1/28/2014 5:02:34 PM     (No. 9709504)

FTA: "Seeger was a genius at conjuring an atmosphere of the childlike and the simple; and he was a genius at joining together the childlike atmosphere with a left-wing call for democratic equality."

Because I knew Seeger´s background, his "childlike and simple" shtick came across as a creepy and evil tactic to me - something similar to how a pedophile might entice the naive and innocent.

Seeger serenading Stalin in heaven? I guess one man´s heaven is another man´s hell. God judges who enters where. But, the thought occurs that it might be a bit difficult to sing with a parched throat and none to dip a finger in water to provide a drop to cool the tongue.



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Reply 21 - Posted by: rosefenn, 1/28/2014 6:04:09 PM     (No. 9709558)

Dang it you guys! Now that dang "weemaway" is stuck in my head! Curse you!

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Reply 22 - Posted by: L1A1SLR, 1/28/2014 7:20:21 PM     (No. 9709611)

#19, thank you! I´d heard of that song but never actually heard it before!

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