Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger died on Monday and I learned something. I knew that he was a progressive and had written many popular songs but I did not know this:

Yet his most enduring contribution to musical and social history may be his adaptation of “We Shall Overcome,’’ a venerable religious hymn taken up by striking tobacco workers in 1946 as their rallying cry.

As reworked by Mr. Seeger, the song became the quasi-official anthem of the 1960s civil rights movement, stirring crowds from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to the streets of Selma, Ala. He first sang his version of the hymn for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1957, a few months after the Montgomery bus boycott. According to Mr. Seeger, King turned to him the next day and said, “That song really sticks with you, doesn’t it?’’

That’s pretty impressive. His testimony in from the House Un-American Activities Committee was also impressive:

MR. TAVENNER: It is a fact that he so testified. I want to know whether or not you were engaged in a similar type of service to the Communist Party in entertaining at these features.

(Witness consulted with counsel.)

MR. SEEGER: I have sung for Americans of every political persuasion, and I am proud that I never refuse to sing to an audience, no matter what religion or color of their skin, or situation in life. I have sung in hobo jungles, and I have sung for the Rockefellers, and I am proud that I have never refused to sing for anybody. That is the only answer I can give along that line.

MR. SCHERER: Did you sing before the groups that Mr. Tavenner asked you about?

(Witness consulted with counsel.)

MR. SEEGER: I decline to discuss, under compulsion, where I have sung, and who has sung my songs, and who else has sung with me, and the people I have known. I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American. I will tell you about my songs, but I am not interested in telling you who wrote them, and I will tell you about my songs, and I am not interested in who listened to them.

Of course, before anything else, he was a singer so here are a couple of his songs:


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. zuludelta45
    Jan 30, 2014 @ 23:53:59

    My own personal Pete Seeger story……


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