How Folk Music Changed Pete Seeger and How He Helped Change the World

Categories: R.I.P.

pete-seeger-rip-wikimedia-commons.jpg
James Kavallines via Wikimedia Commons
Pete Seeger in 1967.

Later, that largess would wreck his career -- in the '50s, Seeger was a member of the Weavers, one of the successful combos in show business -- and make him a martyr. Forced to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955, he was one among very few who refused to give names of fellow Communists working in the entertainment industry. Rather than pleading the Fifth Amendment -- another popular ploy chosen by many of his colleagues -- Seeger chose jail.

An appeal eventually kept him from serving time, but the experience changed him. He dumped his upscale showbiz career and returned to his folkie roots, traveling the country, playing small clubs, or, more often, singing around campfires and at public grammar schools.

In the '60s, Seeger stumped for the African-American Civil Rights movement, singing "We Shall Overcome" at rallies across the nation, unwittingly transforming this old spiritual into a protest standard.

Some of us, hearing of his death, probably thought about dusting off an old Pete Seeger record or two and playing them in his honor. It seems likely that Seeger would have preferred that we play someone else's record in his honor instead.

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1 comments
mikefrombisbee
mikefrombisbee

Seeger's music also helped keep hope alive in Spain during the long nightmare of the Franco dictatorship. Music can be a powerful tool for social justice as well as a beautiful art form.

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