Pete Seeger (1919 – 2014)
Pete Seeger died last night in New York City at the age of 94. I’ll post more over the weekend when I get a chance to research some videos and background info on the man who was the “Father of American Folk Music”.
Seeger’s songs have given inspiration to protest, with Woody Guthrie in a union hall ringed by company thugs, from a flatbed truck made into a stage at Peekskill, on a civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, and before 750,000 peace marchers packed into Central Park.
In 1951 he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee. From Seeger’s bio…
The Committee asked me, “Did you ever sing a song called ‘Wasn’t That a Time’ at such and such a place? I sang that song from time to time, and I still do. It was written by Lee Hays and Walter Lowenfels in 1948. It had a verse for Valley Forge, a verse for Gettysburg, a verse for World War II, and it had a verse for the McCarthy days, the Cold War. But it ended on an optimistic note. Lee Hays said, “…our faith cries out. Isn’t this a time, a time to free the soul of man.” When the Committee asked me about that song, I said, “Well, that’s a good song, and I know it. I’ll sing it for you”. No. We don’t want to hear it. We want to know did you sing it on such and such a place and date?” I said, “I would be glad to sing any song I ever sang. But as to where I’ve sung them, I think that’s no business of this Committee. I’ve got a right to sing these songs. I’ve got a right to sing them anywhere.” A year later I was cited for contempt of Congress because I had refused to answer the Committee’s questions. I’m only sorry I hadn’t done what Robeson did. He stood up and shouted at them: “This whole hearing is a disgrace. You are the un-Americans.”
Seeger’s famed banjo head….