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Archive for the ‘Pete Seeger’ Category

I’m trying to find a video of Pete Seeger before the House Un-American Activities Committee in AugustPete Seeger 1955 House Un-American Activities Committee 1955.  I know I’ve watched it, but it’s not to be found.  If you know its whereabouts, let me know.

Pete died today.  Ninety-four years and he never grew old.  One of the last great American heroes, and if you’d like to argue with me on that I shall walk away.  You win.  You know who your heroes are, and God help you.

Excerpts from Pete’s hearing before the Committee follow.  He was sentenced to 10 concurrent one-year prison terms (for contempt of court) but only served a few hours while his lawyer sorted out the bail.  Years later the sentence was overturned.

Pete appealed not to the Fifth Amendment but—as he said in an interview later—to the First:  freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly.  Much of the hearing  can be summed up in this reply:   I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this. I would be very glad to tell you my life if you want to hear of it.”

The hearing begins:

MR. TAVENNER: When and where were you born, Mr. Seeger?

MR. SEEGER: I was born in New York in 1919.

MR. TAVENNER: What is your profession or occupation?

MR. SEEGER: Well, I have worked at many things, and my main profession is a student of American folklore, and I make my living as a banjo picker—sort of damning, in some people’s opinion.

MR. TAVENNER: Has New York been your headquarters for a considerable period of time?

MR. SEEGER: No, I lived here only rarely until I left school, and after a year or two or a few years living here after World War II I got back to the country, where I always felt more at home.

Further on…

MR. TAVENNER: Mr. Seeger, prior to your entry in the service in 1942, were you engaged in the practice of your profession in the area of New York?

MR. SEEGER: It is hard to call it a profession. I kind of drifted into it and I never intended to be a musician, and I am glad I am one now, and it is a very honorable profession, but when I started out actually I wanted to be a newspaperman, and when I left school—

CHAIRMAN WALTER: Will you answer the question, please?

MR. SEEGER: I have to explain that it really wasn’t my profession, I picked up a little change in it.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: Did you practice your profession?

MR. SEEGER: I sang for people, yes, before World War II, and I also did as early as 1925.

MR. TAVENNER: And upon your return from the service in December of 1945, you continued in your profession?

MR. SEEGER: I continued singing, and I expect I always will.

MR. TAVENNER: The Committee has information obtained in part from the Daily Worker indicating that, over a period of time, especially since December of 1945, you took part in numerous entertainment features. I have before me a photostatic copy of the June 20, 1947, issue of the Daily Worker. In a column entitled “What’s On” appears this advertisement: “Tonight-Bronx, hear Peter Seeger and his guitar, at Allerton Section housewarming.” May I ask you whether or not the Allerton Section was a section of the Communist Party?

MR. SEEGER: Sir, I refuse to answer that question whether it was a quote from the New York Times or the Vegetarian Journal.

MR. TAVENNER: I don’t believe there is any more authoritative document in regard to the Communist Party than its official organ, the Daily Worker.

MR. SCHERER: He hasn’t answered the question, and he merely said he wouldn’t answer whether the article appeared in the New York Times or some other magazine. I ask you to direct the witness to answer the question.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: I direct you to answer.

MR. SEEGER: Sir, the whole line of questioning—

CHAIRMAN WALTER: You have only been asked one question, so far.

MR. SEEGER: I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this. I would be very glad to tell you my life if you want to hear of it.

MR. TAVENNER: Has the witness declined to answer this specific question?

CHAIRMAN WALTER: He said that he is not going to answer any questions, any names or things.

MR. SCHERER: He was directed to answer the question.

The Committee got nowhere with him.  They went in circles for a while, Pete saying, “My answer is the same as before, sir.”  This follows:

MR. TAVENNER: I have before me a photostatic copy of the April 30, 1948, issue of the Daily Worker which carries under the same title of “What’s On,” an advertisement of a “May Day Rally: For Peace, Security and Democracy.” The advertisement states: “Are you in a fighting mood? Then attend the May Day rally.” Expert speakers are stated to be slated for the program, and then follows a statement, “Entertainment by Pete Seeger.” At the bottom appears this: “Auspices Essex County Communist Party,” and at the top, “Tonight, Newark, N.J.” Did you lend your talent to the Essex County Communist Party on the occasion indicated by this article from the Daily Worker?

MR. SEEGER: Mr. Walter, I believe I have already answered this question, and the same answer.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: The same answer. In other words, you mean that you decline to answer because of the reasons stated before?

MR. SEEGER: I gave my answer, sir.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: What is your answer?

MR. SEEGER: You see, sir, I feel—

CHAIRMAN WALTER: What is your answer?

MR. SEEGER: I will tell you what my answer is.

(Witness consulted with counsel [Paul L. Ross].)

I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, or yours, Mr. Willis, or yours, Mr. Scherer, that I am any less of an American than anybody else. I love my country very deeply, sir.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: Why don’t you make a little contribution toward preserving its institutions?

MR. SEEGER: I feel that my whole life is a contribution. That is why I would like to tell you about it.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: I don’t want to hear about it.

Pages of transcript later, the Committee tired of him and  ended the hearing:

MR. TAVENNER: Was the booking agent of People’s Songs an organization known as People’s Artists?

MR. SEEGER: My answer is the same.

MR. TAVENNER: Will you tell the Committee, please, whether or not during the weekend of July 4, 1955, you were a member of the Communist Party?

MR. SEEGER: My answer is the same as before, sir.

MR. TAVENNER: Were you a member of the Communist Party at any time during the various entertainment features in which you were alleged to have engaged?

MR. SEEGER: My answer is the same.

MR. TAVENNER: Are you a member of the Communist Party now?

MR. SEEGER: My answer is the same.

MR. SCHERER: I ask for a direction on that question.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: I direct you to answer.

MR. SEEGER: My answer is the same as before.

MR. TAVENNER: I have no further questions, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: The witness is excused.

____________________

[Source of text]:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/01/28/pete_seeger_huac_transcript_full_text_of_anti_communist_hearing_courtesy.html?wpisrc=burger_bar

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[CBC interview in 1965 about the trial]:

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And, in one of the most  patriotic songs (or least—you choose), written by Woody Guthrie:

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Pete Seeger banjo.1Pete Seeger turned 94 yesterday and he probably sang at his own party.

In this video he is a mere 45, singing a medley of war songs that were popular throughout American history.

There is a little humor in this, as Pete normally sings anti-war songs, but he hopes you’ll not be too literal and appreciate the irony.

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After scouring YouTube for a version of O Come, O Come Emmanuel that I haven’t already posted (English or  Latin) I settled on J. S. Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring played on an unlikely instrument.  Not only do I think Bach would approve I think Jesus would too.

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I keep saying that Peter Seeger should win the Nobel Peace Prize.  Is anybody out there listening?   

At 93 years old he’s still going, and his music will keep on after he’s gone to graveyards and become a verse in one of his own songs.

Here’s a video of Pete in his natural habitat, before a crowd singing “Bring ’em Home”, a song still good today.  For a brief bio, and my last year’s commentary, click here. 

Happy birthday, Pete.  You’re one of the last of the American patriots.   

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This song was recorded by The Weavers for their album Goodnight Irene 1949-1953.  Les Rice wrote it.  Pete Seeger, one of The Weavers, recorded it later and performs it to this day.  At 92 he shows no sign of giving up.

In the video below the lyrics you can hear Pete and watch a slide show.  Pure propaganda, but it’s of the peaceful sort and may do us some good. 

Banks of Marble (Les Rice)This is a featured page

 

D ………………. A7………… D
I’ve traveled ’round this country
………… G ………………… D
From shore to shining shore
…. A7 ………………… D
It really makes me wonder
……… A7…………………. D
The things I heard and sawI saw the weary farmer
Ploughing sod and loam
I heard the auction hammer
Just a-knocking down his home………….. D ……………………… G
But the banks are made of marble
…………. A7……………… D
With a guard at every door
…………… D ………………………… G
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
………….. A7………………… D
That the farmer sweated for.

I saw the seamen standing
Idly by the shore
I heard those bosses saying
“Got no work for you no more”

But the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the seamen sweated for.

I’ve seen the weary miner
Scrubbing coal dust from his back
I heard his children crying
“Got no coal to heat the shack”

But the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the miners sweated for.

I’ve seen my brothers working
Throughout this mighty land
I pray we’ll get together
And together make a stand

Then we’ll own those banks of marble
With no guard at any door
And we’ll share those vaults of silver
That the workers sweated for.

 
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Pete Seeger turns 92 today.  A lot of people wanted him dead half a century ago but he kept on strumming his banjo. 

Besides the banjo, Pete is known as a champion for migrant workers, the labor movement in general (our governor is not likely a Pete Seeger fan), civil rights, the anti-war movement, the environment (remember the Clearwater sailing on the Hudson?) and, well, music

Pete always said that he believed music could help change the world.  “How can I keep from singing?”  he keeps asking.  And he won’t quit strumming his banjo.

He distanced himself from the Communist affiliation of his younger years but never quite renounced it, apparently believing it to be nobody’s business.  In 1955, when the House Committee on Un-American Activities (under the influence of Senator Joseph McCarthy) investigated him and many others Pete refused to invoke the Fifth Amendment or to respond in any manner other than to frustrate his interrogators, insisting on his First Amendment rights:  “I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this.”  For that he was found in contempt of Congress, in contempt of court, and eventually was sentenced to prison, which an appeals court overturned.

And he kept on singing—through the Korean War, the Viet Nam War, the Gulf War(s) and today.  One of the first anti-war songs I ever learned was “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and at age 12 I wasn’t really aware what it was about, even though Viet Nam was in the news increasingly .  I simply knew that it had a great melody and that the lyrics came full circle. 

Pete has never sounded angry or beligerent with his music, no matter how angry he may feel.  And his concerts become sing-alongs, getting audiences of all ages involved with the music on whatever level they can understand.  Downright subversive. 

From the political low of his blacklisting by the McCarthyites (our government’s low, not Pete’s) he has risen to being recognized as the national resource and the patriot that he is, with his performance at the inauguration of President Obama.  The honor was more the president’s, and I think Obama would agree with that. 

Next?  How about the Nobel Peace Prize?  Come on, guys.

Here are a couple of tunes typical of Pete:  The first, “The Banks Are Made of Marble” is a workers’ rights song (again: Governor LePage not likely a fan) and it gained a lot more attention after the Bank Crash of 2008.  Simple tune, repetitive theme, easy lyrics.  Anybody can do this music, and that’s part of what Pete’s all about. 

The second is his well-known “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”  Sing along with it and then look for this on YouTube by other artists as well.  It won’t go away so you may as well join in.

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