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Ron Radosh

On Sunday, Lincoln Center Out of Doors hosted the third of five days of “New York City Honors Pete Seeger,” or Seegerfest, as the events are called. This was the festival’s main event. A concert featured artists singing songs Seeger was associated with, like “The Hammer Song,” “Turn, Turn, Turn,” and, of course, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” The artists included old-time folkies like Judy Collins, who opened the program, Fred Hellerman of The Weavers, the popular children’s singer Dan Zanes, banjo master Tony Trischka, Tom Chapin and the Chapin sisters, and Jay Ungar and Molly Mason. The artists were a who’s-who of the ’60s folk revival and their current descendants.

Pete Seeger certainly deserves to be remembered. He was the father of the folk revival, the man who almost singlehandedly brought the 5-string banjo to popularity, and who furthered the careers of many people, including a young Bob Dylan. He mastered old-time ballads from Appalachia and the Smoky Mountains, African-American songs from the South and from the days of slavery, sea shanties, and just about everything else folk musicians perform.

But Seeger’s blind spots were his persistent Stalinism, his decades-long love affair with the American Communist Party, and his tendency to endorse and support almost every far-left campaign that asked him to sign on.

Significantly, his very last political act was to join those opponents of Israel who created the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, which is dedicated to Israel’s demise and which blames the Jewish state for the entire Mideast’s woes.

The radical far-left politics of the day was symbolized by Seeger’s daughter, Tinya, who gave a pep talk about freeing Leonard Peltier — an American Indian activist found guilty of murdering FBI agents. She noted her father came to Peltier’s defense also. As usual, all the guilty who are politically Left are declared “political prisoners,” a term quickly extended to all American blacks who are serving prison sentences.

In an intermission interview with Lincoln Center’s TV host, singer Tom Chapin was perhaps the only artist who said that he didn’t come for the politics. He urged the TV audience to concentrate on the music. Alas, Seeger’s politics were intrinsic to his music. And more and more, his concerts became rallying grounds for the ultra-sectarian left-wing on campuses and elsewhere, whose main cause these days is hatred of Israel.

There were a few speeches from old timers who were Seeger’s friends over the years. The most prominent was 88-year-old Harry Belafonte, dapper and looking terrific for his age. He long ago lost his voice, but he spoke of how Seeger stood for human rights and peace when everyone else looked away. He praised Seeger’s act of defiance in 1952: Seeger refused to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, invoking the First Amendment and arguing that to ask one’s political affiliations violated his right to free speech that was guaranteed by the Constitution.

One did not need to have Seeger own up to his political beliefs before the HUAC, since everyone who knew where he stood knew he continually followed the Communist Party line, whatever it was at any moment. In an interview, Seeger actually said he had no interest in being any kind of Marxist scholar, but explained: “We trusted the Communists to know generally the right thing that we should be pushing for, whether it was peace or war.” To put it bluntly, he depended on the party’s commissars to do his thinking.

Belafonte compared Seeger to only one other artist who joined with Seeger in the movement, the noted African-American actor, baritone, football player, and lawyer Paul Robeson. Belafonte, who considers Robeson his mentor, was one of the most prominent defenders of Stalin’s reign, and for his efforts defending the Soviet tyrant, he was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize.

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What is called "folk music" in America, as exemplified by Pete Seeger, is not music of the folk. Rather, it is the self-crafted songbook of a highly-educated, ultra-Liberal, academic and professional elite that lives mostly inside a few NYC zip codes. Go anywhere in the world, and more people recognize the riffs to Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" or "Iron Man" than "If I Had a Hammer." As John Lennon said, rock and roll is the real folk music.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
And yet American Jews still embrace the left.

There aren't enough words that could be written or spoken that would make me understand why.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Just wondering how the left can reconcile their minds to the fact that they support a people who would behead, stone, and use other means of killing, because you are gay, not muslim, or a women who dishonored their family by being raped?
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (23)
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Western civilization can spend the next decade ( if we last that long )
Trying to contain and defeat the Jihadist forces of Islam.
We can keep struggling in the quest for the Democratization of Islamic states which we already did and failed at after investing billions in money and blood.
We can try to strengthen the so-called 'moderate branches of Islam, if there is one. They're either being cowed Into silence or winking and nodding to their Islamist brothers.
We can continue to use drones and special forces and police actions but so far That hasn't been effective. The violent Jihadists reproduce faster than we can neutralize them.
We can try making nice with the organizations of 'Soft-Jihadists' who advance Sharia and Jihad through usually peaceful and legal
Means (like the Muslim Brotherhood Obama's been backing for
The last six years) but that backfired.
The problem of violent Islamic Jihad is more widespread and virulent today than it was even at the height of its glory days when Hordes of Jihadists Advanced on Spain and other parts of Europe, something happening again even at this moment. For Over 1400 years of Jihadist violence, of murder and enslavement, forced conversions, and abuse Of women and children ...and yet still In this modern day and age Islam remains more a retro-sixth century ideology of bloody conquest than anything resembling a religion of peace and harmony.
The world can't wait for this backward cult of Muhammad to somehow 'reform' itself.
Not when nuclear and chemical weapons of Jihad very soon will be within the reach Of religious psychopaths and end-of-days fanatics who yearn for martyrdom.
When a beehive is burnt the surviving bees are disoriented
And dispersed. Certainly there are many angry bees initially but then they lose their ability to sting and just Disappear and scatter into the countryside and soon die.
There's a lesson in this. The hive is in Mecca. It's called the
Kaaba. Or we can continue getting stung for the rest of history!


Yoelarry
15 weeks ago
15 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's interesting to contrast this with Spengler's January column: http://pjmedia.com/spengler/2014/01/29/pete-seeger/?singlepage=true

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I can’t forgive him his musical fraud: the mind-deadening, saccharine, sentimental appeal to the lowest common denominator of taste in his signature songs — “I Had a Hammer,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,” and so forth. Bob Dylan (of whom I’m not much of a fan) rescued himself from the bathos by poisoning the well of sentimentality with irony. His inheritance is less Dylan than the odious Peter, Paul and Mary.

One of Seeger’s great selling points is that during the great leveling of the 1960s, any idiot who could play three chords on a guitar could plunk and howl through most of his repertoire. Try to play like Robert Johnson. There’s a great gulf fixed. Johnson may have been self-taught, but his music sought to rise above adversity and sorrow with craft and invention. The folkies aimed lower.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
One has to fully understand this drumbeat from America's entertainment industry: total destruction of America's and world Judeo-Christian Heritage.
All Progressive New Left Activists in every nook and cranny of America's far left shadow radical sanctuary's have as their singular goal, destruction of: Judeo-Christian religiosity be it in USA, Israel, Western Europe, Continent of Africa or any Middle Eastern nation. Stop and fully let this TRUTH sink in. Once Americans fully understand what is on World Far Left's table, then pay attention to their next item of decimation...education. It has now become a form, font and process of indoctrination. Small at first, but really full blown when completely disseminated and implemented. Wake-up America. ACLU is this Progressive New Left Activist's handmaiden...it is the last organization any American should place their trust in. Progressive New Left Activists in America, see their new found gains are slipping away with their "Icon and Holy of Holies" Leader of the Free World bumble along, unable to implement his "domestic" agenda for "collectivizing" all of America and American's. These PNLAs are frantic. When frantic, they do what Bill Ayers did in the 60's and 70's, start blowing things up. Pay attention to those illegal alien terrorists already in 1000's of USA's cities. God Bless America. Wake-up America. Pray. Amen.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
We don't know what it will take for the lefty media to end its love affair with Hamas. But, politics aside, Barbra Streisand's "Enough is Enough" seems to speak for all of Israel:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsY066wa08E [Skip ad, start 1:56]
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ah, yes. Harry Belafonte, the one hit wonder who's one hit was 60 years ago. Can't say he didn't get enough mileage out of the banana boat song.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Harry Bellafonte speaks, reads and writes perfect English. Why then, did he decide to sing a song in broken English parodying a segment of society known to speak in broken English (called Pidgin English) in a Song saying: "Day le lite an' me wanna go home???" HUH??? His refrain "Day-oh, DAyeioo, Day le lite an' me wanna go home!!! Isn't Mr. Bellafonte's "take-down" of a segment of Americans who have speech deficiencies? Why then, make fun of their short comings? HUH??? Yes, Listen to the song, it's rife with innuendos and poking fun at this segment of American society. Mr. Bellafonte is a self proclaimed, insensitive, discriminating bigot. And he profited immensely from his bigotry. Pray. Amen. God Bless America.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
In listening to "Belafonte at Carnegie Hall", you'd think his entire audience was Jewish -- especially when he plays to them during Matilda, asking "members of Hadassah" and "the whole mishpucha" to join in. Also, he does a nice cover of Hava Nagila. However, you don't have to listen to this entire album in all its earnestness to appreciate how Allan Sherman's My Zelda destroys him for good. Belafonte sued big time, but Sherman (and satire) prevailed.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfDfuamtjJ8
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sorry, 'Hadassah' and 'mishpucha' were Sherman's laugh lines. 'Women over 40' was Belafonte's. And, yes, Sherman's audience was all Jewish. Harmless error. Sherman is still brilliant.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
There was also "Yellowbird".
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
All this reverence for Pete Seeger is hogwash. The man became famous from amateurish versions of songs that he appropriated from other cultures. Like others on the Left, he supported Israel until Israel started winning. If he had had any integrity at all, he would have continued to support Israel, for giving him the song that helped him make his career.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
If occupied Japan and Germany had decided not to surrender and kept up terrorist attacks against the occupying Americans, would that have been fighting for their freedom? For 67 years?

The war was lost long ago in a time frame that can now be measured in generations. Surrender already, because I doubt Israel will.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
“We trusted the Communists to know generally the right thing that we should be pushing for, whether it was peace or war.”

So Pete tried to show how smart he was by declaring how stupid he was to go along with whatever the commissars wanted at a time. And then hides the sentiment in catchy, innocent-sounding songs. So evil picks a banjo.

Makes me want to listen to Black Sabbath.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
What is called "folk music" in America, as exemplified by Pete Seeger, is not music of the folk. Rather, it is the self-crafted songbook of a highly-educated, ultra-Liberal, academic and professional elite that lives mostly inside a few NYC zip codes. Go anywhere in the world, and more people recognize the riffs to Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" or "Iron Man" than "If I Had a Hammer." As John Lennon said, rock and roll is the real folk music.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
So Pete stood behind the First Amendment for a philosophy that decries the First Amendment.
18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment
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