Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger

My hero when I was 13-30.  Sang out about opposing dictators, but couldn't denounce Stalin until he was dead almost 50 years - and even that was tepid.
"Should I apologize for all this? I think so." He went on to put his thinking in context: How could Hitler have been stopped? Litvinov, the Soviet delegate to the League of Nations in '36, proposed a worldwide quarantine but got no takers. For more on those times check out pacifist Dave Dellinger's book, From Yale to Jail  At any rate, today I'll apologize for a number of things, such as thinking that Stalin was merely a "hard driver" and not a "supremely cruel misleader." I guess anyone who calls himself a Christian should be prepared to apologize for the Inquisition, the burning of heretics by Protestants, the slaughter of Jews and Muslims by Crusaders. White people in the U.S.A. ought to apologize for stealing land from Native Americans and enslaving blacks. Europeans could apologize for worldwide conquests, Mongolians for Genghis Khan. And supporters of Roosevelt could apologize for his support of Somoza, of Southern White Democrats, of Franco Spain, for putting Japanese Americans in concentration camps. Who should my granddaughter Moraya apologize to? She's part African, part European, part Chinese, part Japanese, part Native American. Let's look ahead.
We've all seen such apologies before.  "Yes headmaster, I was stealing from Johnson, and bullying the younger boys, but you'll remember that Edwards cheated on examinations last year, and Cartwright set the accidental fire at the boathouse. So let's just move on, shall we?"

I listed him as one of my 10 Worst Americans ever. I've written a fair bit over the years about him. Perhaps the best example (though Baez might be better) of an A&H Tribe urban sophisticate masquerading as a voice of the downtrodden. An evil hypocrite.


gcochran said...

There's always room for a bit of good news.

james said...

At First Things

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Thank you.

Dubbahdee said...

Well, yes.

But the man could play a banjo. And sing. And get people to sing.

Not a hero, but I loved and love his music.

Texan99 said...

My sister and I attended a Pete Seeger concert back in, oh, it must have been about 1972. He got the audience singing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" by dividing us up into 6-8 sections and assigning each a part. Peak experience. He was a showman.

Of course lots of those guys were more or less Communists. It was the fashionable thing to be, and the only approach that made sense to many people who were convinced it was unfair that "society" didn't "value" their "contribution" adequately, and that their paychecks would be much fairer if an enlightened bureaucracy could be counted on to set wages.

I have piles and piles of "folk music" recordings. The good stuff is un-self-conscious. Sometime around the 60s, anything accoustic and vaguely counter-cultural started being called folk, but the term really shouldn't be applied to anything with an identifiable author or composer. Although lot of folk music naturally concerns the complaints of the common man, it's best when it doesn't have a conscious agenda applicable to any passing political era. If the tune is catchy, the rhyme scheme easy to remember, the chords not too challenging, and the tune easy to handle for an average singer, a folk song will be absorbed into public consciousness and preserved for many years, like a proverb or a good joke.

Micha Elyi said...

Joan Baez was the first of her tribe to denounce the Cambodian Khmer Rouge slaughter.

Anonymous said...

I love his logic: I'm guilty but so is your grandfather so we're all guilty and should just move on.

I wonder if he could shake off that bad karma now that he has moved on.