12 Things About Pete Seeger


(ref: Pete Seeger Appreciation Page, How can I keep from singing by Sarah Van Gelder in Yes! Magazine, and other various sources)

  1. Seeger went to Harvard but left after two years just before final exams in 1938. He made his way to New York, where he eventually landed a job with the Archives of American Folk Music.
     
  2. On dropping out of the communist movement: “I was never enthusiastic about being somebody who was supposed to be silent about being a member of something.”
     
  3. In 1955 before the House Un-American Activities Committee, Seeger used the First Amendment rather than the Fifth as his reason for refusing to discuss his politics and associations. “Using the Fifth Amendment,” Seeger explained, “is in effect saying, ‘you have no right to ask me this question’; but using the First Amendment means, ‘you have no right to ask any American such questions.’
     
  4. Libby Frank, in 1952 insisted on singing “my brothers and my sisters” instead of “all of my brothers” in the Seeger/Lee song “If I had a hammer”. Lee resisted the change at first. “It doesn’t ripple off the tongue as well. How about ‘all of my siblings’?” Lee later acquiesced. (ref: www.mysongbook.de)
     
  5. Pete’s famous banjo reads: “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.” (ref: Yes! Magazine)
     
  6. Testimony to his strong faith in his country’s ultimate and necessary commitment to freedom of expression, Seeger wrote the words to “Bring them Home” which includes the line “…one of the great things about America is that we can speak our minds…” during a time he was being regularly blacklisted and his words and songs were heavily censored.
     
  7. Seeger popularized “We shall overcome” when he published his version of the gospel song in People’s Songs in 1947. It later became one of the most memorable anthems of the civil rights movement in the 60’s being sung at rallies, vigils, and protests.
     
  8. On traveling with Woodie Guthrie, “He taught me how to hitchhike and how to ride freight trains. You don’t get on a freight when it’s in the station—the railroad bulls will kick you off. You go about 100 yards or maybe 200 yards outside to where the train is just picking up speed and you can trot alongside it. You throw your banjo in an empty car, and then you throw yourself in. And you then might go 200 or 300 miles before you stop.”
     
  9. “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy”, an allegorical anti-war song written in 1967 during the war in Vietnam was published by Columbia records but deemed too controversial and never sent to retail stores. It was The Smothers Brothers that made it possible for the world to know about the song when they invited Pete Seeger to be a guest on their television show. The song was edited out before air time by TV executives but The Smothers Brothers got the last word when they went to the press saying, “CBS censors our best jokes, they censored Seeger’s best song. It ain’t fair.” (ref: www.peteseeger.net)
     
  10. In October, 1994, President Clinton awarded Seeger the National Medal of the Arts praising him as “an inconvenient artist who dared to sing things as he saw them.”
     
  11. A Pete Seeger quote, “Learning how to do something in your hometown is the most important thing. … If there’s a world here in a hundred years, it’s going to be saved by tens of millions of little things.”
     
  12. Pete Seeger’s birthday is May 3rd. He turns 90 in 2009.
     

Read At 89 Pete Seeger’s Still A Rebel! at Reach and Teach.

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One Response

  1. Happy Birthday to Pete Seeger

    One of the people I admire and love most in this world, a man who has planted many seeds of hope and honesty and courage to inspire generations. My hero.

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