Monday, December 21, 2009

by ericbkk

He Shall Overcome: Pete Seeger at 90 (BBC R2)
presented by Billy Bragg

He Shall Overcome: Pete Seeger at 90
BBC Radio 2, 09 Dec 2009

In the year that Pete Seeger celebrates his 90th birthday, Billy Bragg tells the story of a remarkable life in folk music and politics.
Pete Seeger was born during the great depression and, in the 90 years since, he has become an influential and iconic figure. His forthright lyrics about civil rights, unions and ordinary Americans, sung with the aid of a banjo, ensured that he was blacklisted for decades. Never able to play on mainstream TV or radio, he took to the road, bringing his message to the very people he was writing and singing about.
Billy Bragg helps explain the importance of Seeger, and we hear many different versions of his classic songs. We also hear from singers who have joined him on stage, or taken to the stage because of him, as well as those who have sung his songs.
Contributors include the Grammy-Award winning singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith; Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, who remembers how they recorded Turn Turn, Turn and turned it into a worldwide number one; Donavan describes how important Seeger was to him; and Tom Paxton, who was part of the 60s Greenwich Village scene with Pete, explains how important We Shall Overcome was to the whole Civil Rights movement. A song which has become a musical symbol of resistance to oppression.


MP3 @ 128 kbps, 88 min.

Acknowledgements to Cherokee on for the recording.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


22 December, 2009 07:51  
Anonymous Jack Sprat said...

Excellent post! Thank you

22 December, 2009 09:23  
Blogger Private Beach said...

To anonymous: what is your point? Is "communist" meant to be a fact or an insult? Yes, Seeger was a communist party member for many years, but you have to set that against the background of the times - when he was growing up, communism seemed to many idealistic people to offer the best (perhaps the only) alternative to the selfish greed of the 1930s capitalist system that left millions unemployed, and the murderous cruelties of Stalin's regime in Russia were not yet obvious in the west. Seeger has subsequently said that he should have rejected Stalinism earlier, but we all make mistakes.

Communism or socialism may appear moribund at present, but don't rule out new forms of them emerging in future, because "fair shares for all" is too powerful an idea to keep suppressed forever. Anyway, regardless of Seeger's politics, his contribution to American music is incalculable.

22 December, 2009 12:46  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fact, or corrective. PS was not "blacklisted" for supporting civil rights or advocating workers' solidarity--he was a committed communist whose purported humanism went only one way, turning a blind eye to the slaughterhouse in the "worker's paradise." A he reaches the end of his earthly singalong, one hopes he sees a fuller picture: maybe social justice is a global concern after all, not just a hobby where spoiled scions of the privileged throw brickbats at their own country and ignore all others. OK, perhaps that constitutes an insult--but is it true or false?

31 December, 2009 11:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But if he sang well, I would forgive him everything.

31 December, 2009 11:03  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And you're right, Private Beach (sorry this is taking three posts), during the 1930s, the Depression and the antifacist struggle made communism an attractive altenative dyring a confused time. I don't fault Pete his sympathy for (or adherence to) Marxist-Leninist dogma, but I think he had a few decades to reckon with the Stalinist carnage that resulted. A great many western artists and intellectuals did either back away from or denounce communism, but Mr. Seeger never did, although he has made a few very recent comments wondering aloud if Uncle Joe was a bad, bad ma. I give him credit for that.

31 December, 2009 11:24  
Blogger mahir said...

Workers of the world, unite against Stalinism AND McCarthyism. Pete Seeger has indeed never condemned communism, because the way he interprets it, there's little scope for criticism. He has, on the other hand, criticised Stalinism in no uncertain terms - belatedly but, as usual, sincerely.

06 March, 2010 15:09  

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