Pete Seeger, who has died aged 94, was the protest singer and political activist variously described as “the Godfather of Folk” and “America’s tuning fork”.
Seeger was the first to concede that he was not the finest of singers, or even a great banjo player. Neither did he consider himself a particularly gifted songwriter; rather, he thought of himself as a facilitator of the tradition of radical songmaking. His great gift was as a communicator, and it was one that he used to maximum effect.
A major influence on Bob Dylan, Seeger was ubiquitous at folk festivals and political gatherings. Playing the five-string banjo, and singing from a vast repertoire of songs, he expounded ideas of justice and freedom in a strong, clear voice. Eventually Seeger’s appearances amounted to a roll-call of the human rights conflicts of the 20th century.But eventually we get to the ritual;
His political activism did not go unnoticed. In 1955 he was required, alongside Arthur Miller, to appear before the House Committee on un-American Activities to explain his “communist sympathies”. When he dramatically cited the First Amendment, he was jailed for contempt of Congress.His 'sympathies' extending to joining the Communist Party USA, swallowing the Hitler-Stalin Pact and writing songs protesting FDR's attempts to assist Great Britain in its fight against Nazism.
Until Hitler turned on his erstwhile partner in June 1941. That's when he became an anti-fascist patriot. Just ask him. About those tens of millions of people massacred by the likes of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot....Nada.
By their works ye shall know them.