We have lost one of the most important men of the last century.
Indeed, so far as protest songs are concerned. So far as modern folk music is concerned, Pete Seeger, who recently died at 94, was the last century.
A friend called him “the Pied Piper of musical dissent.” Another that he “dared to sing things as he saw them.”
Mr. Seeger would probably have said he was just upholding the rights of all Americans. Or as he told the House UnAmerican Activities committee, when they asked him what his politics were: “these are very improper questions for any American to be asked.” So Congress cited him for contempt, a jury of his peers convicted him, but the courts threw it out, and by that time the “Red Scare” had waned and Congress, wisely, went no further.
He was a leftist all his life, but more than that he was a singer..of his own songs or others he reworked from folk sources.
Consider a partial list: “This Land is Your Land” , “Turn, Turn, Turn,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”, "If I Had a Hammer", "Goodnight Irene", and so many more.
At a Tennessee meeting he introduced his reworked spiritual to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who, intrigued, took it next to a meeting in Kentucky, and launched “We Shall Overcome” on its way to being the anthem of the human rights movement..not just in America, but the world over. They sang it in Tahrir Square, on the barricades in Kiev, in the dusty compounds of Soweto…and as the wall came down in Berlin.
Pete would say it was all “The power of song to nudge history along.”
Beyond writing and playing his songs of freedom he wanted us to sing along. The shakier his sort-of tenor voice got as the years went by, the more he urged us to sing, sing..sing together.
For songs, he taught us, “could be used to build a sense of community to make the world a better place.”
Hail and Farewell Pete Seeger.
You have taught us that as we sing together, “this land is our land”..and “we shall overcome!!!”
I'm just sayin'...