Sunday, May 3, 2009

Actually, that's a song he didn't write

We are, by evolution and whatever touch of the Divine you are comfortable with, the product of everyone we've ever known. So if you feel in a banjo playin', advocating, let's clean up the Hudson River today kind of mood, I may know why.

Today is the 90th birthday of Pete Seeger, more than a musical icon and more like a force of nature. I'm not sure how much he has impacted what, ignorant clown that I am, I'll call 'American music' (and leave musicologists to argue about genres and epochs). When you've been at the game as long as he has, you have people from many places claim you as their own.

There are those older than I (note to my siblings: yes, there are people older than I am. I don't know any of them, but like gravity, because I can't see them doesn't mean they don't exist) who consider him the, not a, leading figure in the revival of folk music in the Twentieth Century. In the early 1950's, he was top of the pops with The Weavers and was a celebrated songwriter to include "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" and an adaptation of the Book of Ecclesiastes, "Turn, Turn, Turn", which Jim McGuinn (as Roger was then called) and The Byrds took into the stratosphere of the Top 40 back in the days of The British Invasion.

In between the decades and continuing to this very day, he managed a level of political engagement that didn't endear him to those in powerful positions in government and industry, not that he lost a lot of sleep over that, I imagine. He was active in civil, though I suspect he prefers to call it human, rights, as well as being an environmental advocate and a tireless supporter of peaceful solutions as only a veteran of the Pacific Theatre of World War II could be.

Many music fans who would enjoy his annual Great Hudson River Revival know him through Bruce Spingsteen's The Seeger Sessions stretching the continuity beyond Dad and Lad to grand-dad and great grandfather. Not sure if all lifted their voices in attempted harmony what that might sound like, but if it were to sing Happy Birthday, it would sound just fine.
-bill kenny

1 comment:

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