Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pete Seeger – We Shall Overcome

   Several times in human history, music engaged in the course of history especially in its turning points. Generally, it happened in many cases and different circumstances, but folk was the most engaged genre of all musical culture. Only a part of folk song is deeply engaged in social or political criticism, but in some occasions the protest song looks as the most significant part of whole folk music. One who was always associated with this part of musical culture, the one who was evoking anti establishment rebellion was Pete Seeger – the iconic person for many decades of American culture. Born in 1919 New York City Peter “Pete” Seeger (now he is 93 years old) is one of key figures of independent art movement and folk song. His lyrics and writings have been always strongly involved in politics and social issues.
   He started his musical carrier in 1940’s and shortly became well recognized person as a singer of popular folk tunes and member of The Weavers. He was probably first American folk musician with academic foundations, his father Charles Louis Seeger, Jr. was musicologist and founder of ethnomusicology, so he grew up in an environment that doesn't restrict his intellectual and emotional development with stereotyped approach to cultural and social issues. In 1950’s during McCarthyism he was blacklisted as other members of The Weavers. In early 60’s his version of We Shall Overcome became the anthem of American Civil Rights Movement. In fact, he was the one who changed original spiritual title line “We Will Overcome” to “We Shall Overcome” and popularized it as the anthem of all civil rights protesters. Pete Seeger is a legend of American folk music, connecting old masters Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie with modern folk stars like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and many others.

Pete Seeger – We Shall Overcome (1963) 

   The CBS album shows the atmosphere of cultural and political rebellion in 60’s. Recorded live June 8, 1963 in Carnegie Hall We Shall Overcome is the document of the era and nice example of deep interaction with audience. It provides the substantial characteristics of folk music, the perfect connection between lyrics, melody and performance, merging them into one message and fast and sincere reaction for songs. So Pete Seeger is never alone, he performs as a soloist but with strongly and expressly perceptible presence of the audience. He sings some classical protest songs combined with satire and social criticism. Some of them became famous for decades. Two classical songs by Bob Dylan Who Killed Davey Moore and A Hard Rain’s a-gonna Fall, Woody Guthrie’s Mail Myself to You and Malvina Reynolds’ Little Boxes are only few examples of Seeger’s repertoire. Straight political sense is having Guantanamera forwarded by Pete Seeger with clear message or We Shall Overcome performed at the end of the program with audience choir.

That's What I Learned, Little Boxes, Who Killed Norma Jean... 

   The history of folk music is more social history than the history of the artistic solutions. Technical changes are natural part of this process but never run without social change. Since country musicians wandering from house to house, to bands with electric amplifiers playing for big audiences and later going back to acoustic instruments pretending to be traditional in satellite TV or in internet – every technology changes social behavior. Slow train is coming with all the seats occupied. On the other hand, folk music was always the root for many musical genres and the deepest well for great personalities and intellectual inspirations. And trying to bring together these perspectives, one have to admit every remembered and lost names, works, ideas interweave into whole music past, which should be seen as one of dimensions in all human history.

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