Sunday, May 3, 2009

What would Pete do?

& by Pete I mean the birthday boy himself, Pete Seeger.

It would be impossible to list his accomplishments (if you are a fan) or his misdeeds (if you are not) here. Sure, they are usually the same actions, but they are just too numerous, so let me give you the highlights:

The Weavers were the first (known) American musicians investigated for sedition. Someone in Hoover's FBI leaked this information & they thought their careers were over. Suddenly, despite numerous hit records, radios stopped playing them & they were banned from appearing on national television. On December 24, 1955 they sold out Carnegie Hall.

Pete Seeger served with the USArmy in World War II. While he was enlisted, he met & married his wife, the Japanese-American activist Toshi Ohta. They are still married.

Pete Seeger never denied joining the Communist Party. He was blacklisted during the McCarthy Era & took it pretty well, by all accounts. I have heard him speak about people he thought were friends who abandoned him. & he has been generous & sympathetic.

Pete Seeger was sentenced to prison for contempt, first 12 months for refusing to appear before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee & then for 10 years for refusing to cooperate with the committee. Among his crimes: he refused to name any other names to the committee. The sentence 12 months was reversed, largely due to international pressure. Seeger began serving the second sentence in 1961. He was released in 1962 when his case was dismissed on a technicality.

Upon his release, however Pete Seeger was still blacklisted & still needed to make a living. He took every job he could get. He was a pioneer on the college circuit, which become an integral part of how information specifically banned from newspaper, radio & television is disseminated in this country.

Today is Pete Seeger's 90th birthday. He is (as of this typing) still alive & performing. He lends his name to countless social service organizations. Joseph McCarthy is not alive & doing much less well; he & the rest of the committee have become associated with one of the most embarrassing periods in our political history. Embarrassing from a distance, immeasurably destructive to those that fell victim.

& the answer to what would Pete do is the right thing: “I say I’m more conservative than Goldwater. He just wanted to turn the clock back to when there was no income tax. I want to turn the clock back to when people lived in small villages and took care of each other.”

1 comment:

  1. Nice tribute. It's been too long since I have played one of his albums. Live on, Pete.