Folk musician Pete Seeger was under investigation by the FBI for decades from his time as a soldier during World War II until the 1970s. David Corn of Mother Jones magazine got over 1700 pages of surveillance reports, which have been released online. Seeger first came to the attention of the FBI because he wrote a letter protesting calls to strip all Japanese-Americans of citizenship and deport them. [via RÚV]
Pete Seeger - Concert in Sweden 1968. Seeger sings a mix of folk songs, protest songs, and songs from around the world. And as usual, he gets the audience to sing along with him sometimes.
This solo performance of "New Moon" on a Spacedrum by Yuki Koshimoto is mesmerizing, but without much context. Who is she, and what is her instrument? This blog post has a bit more on Yuki, and here is some information on Metalsounds' Spacedrum and other similar metal instruments. If you want more background on the instrument, here's a documentary on the PANArt Hang, something of the predecessor to the Spacedrum, both of which have evolved from the steelpan or steel drum. Going back further, here's Toshi and Pete Seeger, documenting the making of a steel drum, in 1956.
In 1942, the US and Mexican governments created the Bracero Agreement, allowing Mexican agricultural workers to come into the United States for a limited time, to provide farm workers while the US was involved in World War II. The program was extended as a series of a series of laws and diplomatic agreements that finally ended in 1964. Probably the most famous popular memorial to the broad program was a poem by Woodie Guthrie, "the last great song he would write," after hearing about a plane crash in Los Gatos, which was reported as a flight full of nameless "deportees." A decade later, a young school teacher/folk singer named Martin (or Marty) Hoffman put the words to music, and Pete Seeger made the song popular, with numerous covers performed and recorded since. 65 years after the crash, those "deportees" were finally named, and that tombstone for "28 Mexican citizens" replaced with the names of those who died. [more inside]
“The Fox” tells the simple story of a fox who attacks a farmer’s birds. In most versions, he is spotted by the farmer’s wife and chased away by the farmer himself, but gets away with a duck or a goose. Although it often sounds thoroughly modern, it is in fact one of the oldest folksongs we have in English. The earliest texts are in Middle English and come from the 15th century.Folklife Today, a blog from the Library of Congress, provides a short history of this well-loved song. [more inside]
The Music Scene is a television series aired by ABC as part of its Fall 1969 lineup. The show featured performances from the top musicians of the week as compiled by “Billboard Magazine” and had a number of hosts, including David Steinberg and Lily Tomlin. Many huge names of the era, including The Beatles, James Brown, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Three Dog Night, Tom Jones on the initial program and Janis Joplin, Bobby Sherman, The Miracles, Sly & the Family Stone, Isaac Hayes, Stevie Wonder, Bo Diddley and Mama Cass Elliot, (who co-hosted as well as performed) among many others, appearing on subsequent shows. [more inside]
"Mbube", a song that morphed into "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", illustrates the convoluted legalities surrounding music publishing rights and payments.
Pete Seeger made a rare and surprise appearance at Farm Aid 2013, and brought a sharp new verse for an old classic. (SLYT)
WMFU DJ Irwin Chusid has put together a tribute website to music producer Tom Wilson. Wilson was born in 1931 and died young at 47 in 1978. Among the musicians he worked with: Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Pete Seeger, The Mothers of Invention, The Velvet Underground, Nico, Gil-Scott Heron, and Professor Longhair. Some of his notable and more far-out productions, include the Bob Dylan "Like a Rolling Stone" session which was the subject of the much repeated Al Kooper organ riff anecdote. He had been president of Harvard's Young Republican club, graduated Harvard cum laude, and was African-American. He was also friends with Wally "Famous" Amos, and it was through Wilson, that Amos, at the time an agent at William Morris, came to represent Simon & Garfunkel.
Toshi Seeger has passed. In the fullest sense of the word, the partner of Pete Seeger, and of some seventy years, has passed away. Pete once said that without Toshi, "the world would not turn nor the sun shine.” She was 91.
"The People's Song Book," published in 1948, was intended to be "a folio of freedom folklore, a weapon against war and reaction, and a singing testament to the future," according to its foreword, which was written by Alan Lomax. "[T]hese songs have been tested in the fire of the people's struggle all around the world. They emerged quietly and anonymously in the vanguard of apparently lost causes, where men of good will have fought to keep this a decent world to live in. ... These folk, heritors of the democratic tradition of folklore, were creating for themselves a folk-culture of high moral and political content." [more inside]
In 1941, Pete Seeger, Lee Hayes, Josh White and Millard Lampell [otherwise known as the Almanac Singers] recorded an album of union songs. (Pete Seeger discusses The Almanac Singers with Tim Robbins.[13m45s]) The six songs they chose were a mix of original compositions and legacy songs, all aimed at helping bolster organized labor. The album, Talking Union and Other Union Songs, would be re-released 14 years later in an expanded version on Smithsonian Folkways. [more inside]
Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest on Youtube. Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest had a short run (38 episodes) in the mid '60s, but it included many great folk artists. If you love folk, just click here and start sampling. Where else will you find Kim Loy Wong & the Hi-Landers Steel Band performing "When the Saints Go Marching In", or the Mamou Cajun Band, or Paul Draper's surreal dance improvisation to "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around", or Theodore Bikel and Rashid Hussain singing "Peace"?
Billy Faier got tired of burning copies of his long-out-of-print albums, and is giving them away: The Art of the Five String Banjo (1957), Travelin' Man (1958), The Beast of Billy Faier (1964), Banjo (1973) and Banjoes, Birdsong and Mother Earth (1987). [more inside]
To Hear Your Banjo Play is a documentary by Alan Lomax from 1947. It is narrated by Pete Seeger and features Woody Guthrie, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGhee among others.
June Carter and Johnny Cash appear on Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest. June reminisces about the Carter family and A.P. Carter. They all sing It Takes a Worried Man. Johnny sings As Long as the Grass Shall Grow. Finally, June sings I Am Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes.
Pete Seeger and Majora Carter sit down together and bridge the generational gap with a discussion on environmentalism, activism, history, and music. [more inside]
Elizabeth Cotten [previously] sits down and talks with Pete Seeger. She plays the "Wilson Rag," "Mama, Your Papa Loves You," and Pete joins her for "Freight Train." (Lyrics are provided for "Freight Train," so you can all sing along, too.) [more inside]
The pleasant but hagiographical Pete Seeger: The Power of Song (production company website w/ trailer) is playing in New York and Los Angeles. The movie is entirely uncritical... prompting this response by Ron Radosh who is interviewed in the film, but whose critical comments were left out. But most interesting is this followup article by Radosh describing Seeger's response and a new song against Stalin. The filmmaker comes out worst in Radosh's account... [more inside]