Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pete Seeger

Today we feature a picture of Folk Singer Pete Seger. Pete is pictured on his way into Federal Court. 

As someone mentioned in the comments yesterday, it turns out that many of these early Folk Singers were communist, or at least communist leaning in their politics. But despite the politics, these guys came out with some great music. For your enjoyment we present some classic Pete Seeger below.


  1. PJM, that was me connecting these folk singers to communism. This week's topic is relevant to the OWS movement we see today since they both embrace the same politics. Music-wise the original Delta Blues musicians had a more legitimate gripe and expressed it with (to my ears) more advanced musical abilities and in a complex style.
    Any kid sitting around a campfire can sing folk songs. Any beginner guitar player can play folk songs.
    The Blues is a whole different story.


  2. I'm not much of a Blues fan.

  3. Seeger is featured in a PBS special about banjos hosted by Steve Martin.

  4. When I was about 16, I heard Woodie Guthrie for the first time and immediately decided folk music was my kind of music. Then Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton, Serendipity Singers, Rooftop Singers, Limelighters, and most importantly Kingston Trio. Some of their politics were way left, but I forgive them for being politically stupid.

  5. Times are tough when DADD only cranks out one line.

  6. Back in the '30s, after the Great Depression, it was totally understandable that folks were searching for an economic system that would serve the working people and not just the rich. Many joined the Communist Party, which then was totally legal and respectable. It wasn't until after WWII that Communism was stigmatized and criminalized by the ruling class. Since folk songs register the experience (and the suffering) of the common working folk, it should be of no surprise to anyone that many folksingers embraced the egalitarian ideals of communism. And many of their folk songs were deliberately simple so folks could learn them quickly and join in the singing. They were meant to be inclusive, NOT musically so sophisticated that it was hard for folks to sing along.

  7. It is interesting that Communism or Near Communism was fairly well represented in folk musicians of this period. It was not, however, as John notes influential in the Blues, which had a longer modern history. Folks is sort of odd in that the Folk music of this period was basically being reborn, rather than extending a long tradition like the Blues. It's also interesting in that Bluesmen reflected a group of people who had long suffered repression and pretty legitimate grievances.

    How Communism ended up fairly well represented in Folk music I don't know, but it was at its high water mark in the 1930s. I wouldn't agree that it was fully "respectable" in that era, and there had been serious concerns about it prior to World War One, and efforts to legislate against it immediately after World War One. But the conditions of the Depression brought it the one and only period in US history where it was somewhat of a serious party, although it was always a very tiny one. For whatever reason, however, it attracted some in the entertainment industry, particularly in Folk music and film.


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