This is a little dated, but it's good and Technorati says hardly anyone blogged it. For all my fellow red diaper babies:
Pete Seeger Is 86
by STUDS TERKEL
It is hard to think of Pete Seeger as an elderly gaffer, because the boy in him, the light, remains undimmed. It was sixty-five years ago I first ran into him. He and three of his colleagues, calling themselves the Almanac Singers, were on a cross-country jalopy tour singing and creating songs for the industrial unions aborning. The CIO had begun, and how could there be labor rallies without songs? It was in the true American tradition, like the Hutchinsons, a family of singing abolitionists during the Civil War. Some of the most heartbreaking music of that fratricidal conflict was theirs.
That night when I first encountered the four wandering minstrels was a cold Chicago beauty. At 2 in the morning, my wife heard the doorbell ring. I was away rehearsing the first play in which I had ever appeared. It was Waiting for Lefty, of course. There, at the door, were the four of them. The first was a bantam--freckled, red-haired and elfin. He handed my wife a note saying: "These are good fellas. Put them up for the night." Putting them up was a rough assignment, even for a Depression-era social worker, what with the only spare bunk being a Murphy bed that sprang from the wall. Freckles announced himself as Woody Guthrie. The second was an Ozark mountain man named Lee Hayes. The third was a writer, Millard Lampell. The fourth, somewhat diffident, more in the background, was a slim-jim of 20 or so, fretting around with his banjo. He was Pete Seeger.
Since then, Woody has died. So has Lee Hayes. So has Millard Lampell. Only Pete breathes and sings, mesmerizing audiences, whether they be Democrats, lefties, vegans or even a sprinkling of Republicans. For sixty-five years, he has held forth continuously through periods known more for their bleakness than for their hope: the cold war, the witchhunt, the civil rights and civil liberties battles. Pete has been in all of them. Wherever he was asked, when the need was the greatest, he, like Kilroy, was there. And still is. Though his voice is somewhat shot, he holds forth on that stage. Whether it be a concert hall, a gathering in the park, a street demonstration, any area is a battleground for human rights. That is why describing him as an 86-year-old gaffer is not quite true. The calendar often deceives. This is a sparkling case in point.
Of course, he's been blacklisted so many times he probably holds the dubious record, with the possible exception of Paul Robeson, who was often his partner in crime.
Before we hoist one for Pete, let's also remember that he's one of the best choirmasters in the country. He may not have the technique of Robert Shaw, but the result is just as explosive. Imagine an audience of thousands as Pete sings, say, "Wimoweh." As Pete waves his arms gently, the audience reacts as a professional choir might. I've seen a wizened little man, who obviously is somebody's bookkeeper, at the command of Pete become a basso profundo, reaching two octaves lower than Chaliapin. This is the nature of Pete Seeger, who reaches out toward the further shores more effectively and more exhilaratedly than anyone I've ever run into.
Hail Pete, at 86, still the boy with that touch of hope in the midst of bleakness. There ain't no one like him.
(The rest is over at The Nation)
Might as well mention, in case you missed it the first time around, that I did a little bit about Pete Seeger a just over a year ago. I was actually writing about Louis Armstrong, but Pete figured into it, too.
In that post from last summer, I mention getting Pete Seeger's Children's Concert at Town Hall on cd after having listened to the lp endlessly as a child. The cd has been getting a lot of play around here lately because at almost 2 1/2 my son is now old enough to have his own enjoyment of Pete Seeger.
Even if you don't have kids, the Children's Concert is really worth getting. My wife gets choked up almost every time she hears all the children in the audience singing along—which only makes Pete's "touch of hope in the midst of bleakness" that much more poignant, especially these days . . .
The concert was recorded in 1962, so all those kids are grown up and older than I am. I sometimes wonder who they are in the world today.