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03 May 2009 @ 11:54 am
Happy 90th Birthday, Pete Seeger!  
Thanks for fighting the good fight, Pete.

I keep trying to watch this without crying ... but I can't. Aside from the power of the song itself, there's something about seeing a man once reviled now redeemed that gets to me.

rab62rab62 on May 3rd, 2009 06:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this -- I had meant to post a video on my own blog and this reminded me today was the day.

My youth and my lefty upbringing were such that I always thought of him as "greatest living American folksinger" and didn't grasp until much later that he'd ever been thought of as reviled...so this doesn't have the same emotional context that it does for you. But it still means something. And as a Greenwich Villager, I tend to think of him as "local boy made good"...
scottedelman: Staten Islandscottedelman on May 3rd, 2009 06:13 pm (UTC)
I am too well-versed in the McCarthy period not to be extremely aware of what this country did to Seeger. I'm very happy that he lived long enough to have come out the other side. But whenever I see him celebrated, I'm always also aware that he was once blacklisted. A reminder of the importance of outliving one's enemies.
rtbinc on May 3rd, 2009 11:19 pm (UTC)
I don't remember Seeger being reviled. I just remember singing his songs. We sang his songs in the Roman Catholic Church I attended, and no one would've called Father Kreeg a liberal. I don't cry. Seeger's real victory is all I see is this old guy still singing. "My Land" was always a little kitschy for my taste. "Turn Turn Turn" is much better.

I find so many people trapped in the McCarthy era. That is the power of Terrorism and Fear. Like the Nazgul his lasting power was fear. The defense is to not be afraid. Seeger isn't afraid. You have to know about History to avoid repeating it. But you have to let it go too.

In the end the movie "Them" has had as much impact as he did. Forbidden Plant may have had more. Joe McCarthy is fading, but Robbie the Robot lives on.
scottedelman: Staten Islandscottedelman on May 3rd, 2009 11:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Reviled?
You might not remember it, but it happened. And I only learned about it later, since I was also too young to have experienced it as it happened. But Seeger was blacklisted, and the Weavers had their gigs and their recording contract canceled. He was convicted of contempt of Congress, and jailed.

I'm not sure you mean about people being trapped in the McCarthy era. Viewing Seeger's triumphant performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial through the lens of the low periods he survived isn't being trapped anywhere, as far as I'm concerned. It only makes his performance even more poignant.
rtbinc on May 4th, 2009 05:33 pm (UTC)
Re: Reviled?
It was about you striking a chord. The tone of your post about the McCarthy era reminded me of some folks I knew while working at The Stand, a couple of Pinko Jew Lefties (their term, not mine). Their world seemed to end in the McCarthy era. They never moved on, still living in the fears of the past. It was still either they or bad ol' Joe who were right. I don't think it was possible for them to consider that they both may have been wrong.

I liked them a lot. I was 19 at the time. (Damm, that was a quarter century ago.) I went over the idea that McCarthy was like the Nazgul with them, his power was fear. They patted me on the sholder and told me I was too young to get it. I realize now I was wrong about a lot of things then, but that wasn't one of them. I remember them fondly, I would like to emulate a lot about them, being stuck in the past isn't one of them.
scottedelman: Staten Islandscottedelman on May 4th, 2009 06:05 pm (UTC)
Re: Reviled?
I can't think of anything to say to that, other than that I disagree, so I'll let good old William Faulkner speak for me.

He wrote, "The past isn't dead. It isn't even past."

It is impossible to view the present except through the lens of the past. You keep trying to make that about fear, but it isn't. Sometimes, but not always.
rtbinc on May 4th, 2009 10:14 pm (UTC)
Re: Reviled?
We've gotten way off topic. I don't know what makes you all teary eyed. For me the video and song make me think of that really really hot 5th grade substitute teacher we had. She had strawberry hair and blue eyes. She wore a sheer peasant blouse in the fashion of the mid 70's that left a 11 year old boy dry mouthed and no need of an imagination. A gypsy skirt, sneakers and an anklet that chimed and rang as she walked. It was the end of the year so it was warm and there wasn't much work to do. She would sit by the window with the breeze playing with her hair and clothes, play a guitar and sing Pete Seeger (at least I know they are his songs now) and other folk songs. Her freckles spread across her nose and cheeks and continued down her shoulders and down her arms and chest, across her ........

So no, Pete Seeger and folk music doesn't make me think of politics or fear. I don't think they ever will.

As for agreeing with me I'm relating a series memories I have. Besides saying that I remember wrong I don't see what there is to disagree with. I liked them. I'm a better person for having meet them. I'm grateful for what they gave me. I don't know if they knew Pete Seeger, but I'd bet good money they did. I mean like, you know D.C. Fontana. That still blows my mind.

I've trained as an archaeologist. I can dig Faulkner up myself if I want his opinion. Which makes me think of Scooby Doo on Zombie Island.

scottedelman: Staten Islandscottedelman on May 5th, 2009 02:20 am (UTC)
Re: Reviled?
It's not what makes you or me weep, it's the facts of what actually happened. It's as if you were trying to judge the life of Nelson Mandela without taking into account his history before he became President of South Africa.

As Springsteen said the day of the inauguration performance, "Pete, you've outlived the bastards, man!" The poignancy of that fact cannot be ignored. Context matters.
rtbinc on May 5th, 2009 05:53 am (UTC)
Thank You
Thank you for giving me something to think about today that wasn't my Mother-in-law having some rather simple but still nerve racking medical procedures. Having the Dr I saw today just comment, Oh that's the Raynaud's syndrome, like it's nothing. Maybe it is, maybe it ain't. (Lots of fun.) Having one of my chickens, that I just bought, be bad and throw off my cooking for the week. Dealing with the kids medical insurance, the termite inspection and getting dinner done something like on time. I have Drs appointments coming up to sweat. I really am grateful.

I really like Pete Seeger, but let's stop now.