Salute, Pete Seeger, who died yesterday at the age of 94.
[Photo Via: Camp Woodland]
Arts and Culture
As a reporter in the Hudson Valley 20-odd years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Mt. Seeger on a few occasions. He was a complete gentleman, and the least "famous-acting" of all the "famous" people I've ever encountered.
I feel a strange duality toward him. I grew up on and even in the river, cherish it much as he did, and consider him part of the firmament of my home region. At the same time his politics and mine seldom came close to one another. To the extent that has to matter.
The man lived true. We should all hope for such an epitaph.
So well said, my friend. Thanks for that.
My Old Man had a copy of a Weaver's album in the mid 50's, where I learned about real folk music. The Old Man was to the right of Ghengis Khan politically, so why we had it, I'll never know......
Learned to play guitar out of a Weaver's songbook.....
Pete's politics were consistent: he was a real, true lefty. He was a card carrying communist party member, and proud of it; he didn't quit after Stalin joined with Hitler in early WWII; it was only in the mid- 50's that he said he "drifted away" from the Party, although even late in life he considered himself to be a communist, though not of the Soviet ilk....
He refused to cooperate with HUAC, was convicted of contempt of Congress and sentenced to 10 years, but the trial was reversed on appeal....and yet was awarded a Medal from the National Endowments for the Arts and a Kennedy Center honor.
He introduced America to Jewish folks songs ("Tzena Tzena" was actually a hit), his songs were staples at every Jewish summer camp, but he was silent about the Soviet Union's mistreatment of Jews, even during the mass protests of the 60's, 70's and 80's........
He was perhaps the most vocal supporter of the union movement, which as we know has largely disappeared from the private sector.... but he was also an important voice for the environmental movement which remains alive and kicking.
Great talent, unusual man. I'd add to his epitaph: He made music matter.
I have no reservations. Pete Seeger was a true American hero. He and his wife Toshi were as good as it gets in this life. (not hyperbole)
 His stance on the USSR is, strictly speaking, an example of the consistency you mention -- but it was also a giveaway about his priorities.
When Nazi Germany and USSR signed a non-aggression pact, Seeger was a strong and rare anti-war voice: FDR was going to sell us to slaughter for the sake of big business. When Hitler invaded the USSR (still before the U.S. entered the war), the tune changed: In "Dear Mr. President," he sang
So what I want is you to give me a gun
So we can hurry up and get the job done
I'm worried about sounding too condemnatory there: Seeger was not alone in any of this. And this is more an elaboration on my earlier remarks -- I retain an affectionate feeling for the man. It's easy to judge these circumstances with 70 years of hindsight from the comfort of a history book.
What I admire is that he honestly felt things were wrong, and took no counsel of any fear in calling attention to what he believed. The fact that I consider myself deeply anti-communist has no bearing on that index of character. And later, when questioned about his support of Stalin, he admitted he was fallible.
 Neither was it was not my intent to condemn him; he was one of the rare individuals who could come to the conclusion that he had been mistaken.
His life long struggle to fight the good fight never waivered, and in that sense, he was an exemplar of what this country ought to be about.
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