My Old Kentucky Home, Ben Sollee

May 6, 2016

Yes, it’s a form of advertisement, for Woodford Reserve. But it’s timely, with the 2016 Kentucky Derby just hours away.

And, it’s beautiful. Ben Sollee’s arrangement of this old chesnut of a tune is wonderful, performed with elan on a cello, which is hardly a folk staple. The video appears to have been shot in ambient light (check the reflections on Ben’s glasses).

Just, wow. Give a listen!

Found it on Twitter.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Joan Combs Durso.

More:

Ben Sollee captured by photographer Kory Johnson in a very special moment at a house concert in 2011.

Ben Sollee captured by photographer Kory Johnson in a very special moment at a house concert in 2011.

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Typewriter of the moment: Pete Seeger

February 15, 2014

Photo found at the blog of the good Robert Messenger at OzTypewriter:

I can find no identifying information on the photo.  It looks, to me, to have been taken in the 1950s, judging by Pete’s hair and no beard.

Pete Seeger at his typewriter, probably in the 1950s.

Pete Seeger at a typewriter, probably in the 1950s.

It’s an electric typewriter, I think, seeing a cord coming out of the back.  Probably a Royal (I’m not great at identifying typewriters, you know).   Was this taken at Pete’s home in Beacon?  Perhaps.

Can you help in identifying the time and place of this photo?

More:


Tribute to Pete Seeger: Tish Hinojosa, “Festival of Flowers”

February 1, 2014

Somebody put a video collage of Pete together with Tish Hinojosa‘s cut off of a 1998 Pete Seeger tribute album, “Festival of Flowers,” just in the last few days.

Details:

From “Where Have All the Flowers Gone : The Songs of Pete Seeger” 1998
Tish Hinojosa – vocals
Marvin Dykhuis – gitarra de golpe (mariachi guitar)
Chip Dolan – accordion
Amy Ferris Tiven – violin
Glenn Kawamoto – bass
Paul Pearcy – drums

Tish Hinojosa’s voice constantly stuns me with its clarity; I think my first Tish album purchase is 20 years old now.

We should hear her more often.

http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20140122-wendy-davis-is-being-swift-boated.ece


Appreciating and remembering Pete Seeger

January 28, 2014

Interesting morning.  Is there anyone who does not have a Pete Seeger memory?

The Pete Seeger Appreciation page was set up many months ago — in fact founder Jim Capaldi died last December, with his family carrying it on.  A good place to start, maybe.

Classic Pete Seeger photo -- from the 1950s?  This and more at the Pete Seeger Appreciation Page, at PeteSeeger.net

Classic Pete Seeger photo — from the 1950s? This and more at the Pete Seeger Appreciation Page, at PeteSeeger.net

Read his biography, perhaps?

Learn to play the banjo:

This is the one that made me shed tears:

What great tributes have you seen to Pete today?  Give us a link in comments, share the good stuff.


Farewell, Pete Seeger

January 28, 2014

Just got the news that Pete Seeger died.  He was 94.

Such a loss for American music, to American music, and to history and art.

New York Times story here.

Pete Seeger at the Beacon Sloop Club in Beacon, N.Y., in 2010. Andrew Sullivan for The New York Times

Pete Seeger at the Beacon Sloop Club in Beacon, N.Y., in 2010. Andrew Sullivan for The New York Times

I love the Andrew Sullivan photo the New York Times used — it reminds me of the best way to hear Pete, in the out-of-doors, near the Hudson, in the summer, with a small audience who could be coerced to sing along.

Pete was an alumnus of Camp Rising Sun (of the L. A. Jonas Foundation) near Rhinebeck, New York, from the very early days.  In 1974, between concerts at large venues with Arlo Guthrie, and on his way back home to Beacon, Pete stopped and spent a day with us at the camp.  He was , as always, wonderfully gracious, other than outward appearances indistinguishable from the 14- and 15-year boys in excitement to be having fun, exploring nature, and then leading us all in songs.

My unfinished master’s thesis was to explore Pete’s use of different rhetorical devices to get his messages across, and make them popular.   (One of my everlasting regrets.)

But despite his down-home-everybody-welcome demeanor, Seeger drove great movements, and pushed the arcs of history in wonderful directions throughout his life.

  • Pete was an anchor for Woody Guthrie in New York, and sometimes a rival.  As Pete told it, everybody loved Woody and always came to a performance to hear Woody sing.  It was often Pete who pushed Woody out front; no mistake that Woody’s famous New Year’s resolutions from 1942 included “Love Pete” among them.
  • Having learned from the Lomaxes at the Library of Congress, Pete recorded history in songs, preserving old tunes, making foreign tunes popular, and re-arranging verses here and there.  Pete revealed, discovered, or pushed the music of a family domestic (“500 Miles”), Cuban revolutionary poets (“Guantanamera”), his engineer sister (“Going to be an Engineer”), and hymn books.
  • Pete taught a song to seminar attendees at the Highlands School in Kentucky, people who went on to do great things with that song.  The song was “We Shall Overcome,” and photos show that those Pete taught to sing included both Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Blacklisted after refusing to give in to the civil liberties assault by the U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), Pete created a series of records to teach how to play a guitar, a banjo, and a twelve-string.  One of the kids who learned some twelve-string licks included a guy who went on to play strings for the folk group, the Chad Mitchell Trio, and their new tenor, a guy named John Denver.  Roger McGuinn electrified that twelve-string, and leading the Byrds, turned some of Pete’s songs into rock and roll hits — like “Turn, Turn, Turn.”
  • I asked Pete about getting him to Salt Lake City for a concert in the 1970s — he demurred, saying he needed to spend some time locally.  He told a story about showing up at a PTA meeting in Beacon to talk on some issue, and some local guy told Pete that Beacon didn’t need outsiders telling them what to do.  This hurt Pete, since he’d been living in Beacon at that time for more than 30 years, in the house he built by hand.   Pete told me that he realized a world reputation doesn’t count for much if you can’t use it to make things better in your home town.The “local project?” He said he wanted to get an old sloop, and sail the Hudson River signing to get people to clean it up.  At the time, the Hudson was very much a sewer from Albany to New York City.  A short time later the Sloop Clearwater was refitted, and Pete started music festivals up and down the river.  The Hudson, Pete’s local river, runs much cleaner today for his work.
  • I saw Pete and Arlo in concert at Wolf Trap, the performance park near Washington, D.C., a couple of times; and some other venues — but nothing ever beat that open air concert at Rising Sun.
  • Bruce Springsteen did us all a favor with his album of Seeger tunes; I chafed at Ronald Reagan’s choices of performers at his inaugurals, and at many other choices over the years.  I often thought Pete Seeger’s music, and voice, would be a better choice.  Springsteen’s pre-inauguration concert in 2008, from the Lincoln Memorial, had my full attention.  The only thing more perfect, I told Kathryn, would be Pete singing his own tunes from those steps (I heard him tell the stories of King’s and Marian Anderson’s performances there more than once).  Within a few minutes, Springsteen pulled Pete out onstage, and at the age of 90 he led the crowd singing Woody’s “This Land is Your Land.”  A perfect capstone, I thought.

If  you would, pull out your collection of Pete Seeger music today, and give it a spin.  It will raise your spirits, I guarantee.

What wonderful gifts Pete left us!

So long, Pete, one of the best American citizens we’ll ever know.

Maybe we should just say, “So long! It’s Been Good to Know Ya!”

More:


Union Maid: Folk story about a brave American woman

September 2, 2013

Description at the YouTube site:

From Pete Seeger’s 90th Birthday Concert (Clearwater Concert), Madison Square Garden, 5/3/09. Featuring Billy Bragg, Mike & Ruthy Merenda, Dar Williams, New York City Labor Chorus.

 

Tip of the old scrub brush to Pat Carrithers.


Two portraits of Pete Seeger (with Judy Collins)

July 2, 2013

A couple of photos I stumbled on recently.

The Seeger family in 1921; the youngest one is Pete, in his father’s lap:

Seeger family, 1921

The Seeger Family, 1921 Pete Seeger, the now-93 year-old folk singer, is sitting on his father’s lap.  Pete’s father was musicologist Charles Louis Seeger, Jr.; his mother was the violinist Constance de Clyver Edson.  The other two children are probably Pete’s older brothers Charles, III, and John.  This photo probably was taken while Charles and Constance toured the American south to teach music, after his having to leave UCLA because of his pacifist stance during World War I.

And 92 years later, with Judy Collins:

Judy Collins and Pete Seeger, photo by David Rocco, at the Clearwater Festival in Hudson, New York, June 15, 2013.

Judy Collins and Pete Seeger, photo by the preservationist David Rocco, at the Clearwater Festival in Hudson, New York, June 15, 2013. (We think that’s Pete’s wife, Toshi, on the far right edge of the photo.)

More:

 


Where have all the flowers gone? A bunch to Pete Seeger on his 94th birthday today

May 3, 2013

Pete Seeger was born on May 3, 1919.  He turns 94 today.

Pete is an alumnus of the Louis August Jonas Foundation‘s Camp Rising Sun, a little nugget that appealed to me when I signed up as a counselor at the Rhinebeck campus in 19#&.  Pete and Arlo Guthrie teamed up for a series of concerts at East Coast venues that summer, including Wolftrap, Saratoga, Tanglewood and others.  Pete lives just down the river from Rhinebeck, near Beacon — but driving home from one of those venues was just a bit too far.  Pete stopped off at his childhood haunts and spent a day with us.

I hoped to invite him to Salt Lake City.  Pete said he might make such a trip, but it was unlikely — and impressed me with his reasoning and dedication to principle.  He explained that he was sticking closer to home as he approached 65, because there was work to do there.  He said he’d attended a local school board or PTA meeting to voice an opinion on some issue in Beacon.  One of the local newspapers complained he was “an outside agitator.”  That stung, he said — he’d been a resident in the town for more than 30 years.

Instead of complaining, though, he started thinking.  He said he’s traveled the world and worked for causes for other people in other towns; and he said he realized that one’s life’s work might be dedicated to making life better where one lives.  So he’d decided to campaign to clean up his local river, the Hudson . . . you’ve heard of the Sloop Clearwater?

Pete’s dedication to making things better, with local action where one may make a huge difference, stuck with me, and it should stick with all of us.

Last month I was doodling around Twitter, and discovered Pete had signed up for a Twitter account — years ago.  He tweets regularly.

He’s an encouragement to all of us.  He boasts that there is no group he has ever refused to sing for, and in his typical humility, he claims that he can get any group to join, so they do all the heavy lifting.  During the pre-inaugural festivities for President Obama’s first inauguration I was happy to see Bruce Springsteen singing some of Pete’s work — highly appropriate for any president’s inauguration — and I thought it would be more fitting only if Pete was singing himself.  Then Springsteen brought Pete out on stage to close out.

Pete keeps up a schedule of concerts, most for causes.  He sails with the Clearwater, campaigning for clean water on the Hudson River (much accomplished) and community efforts to change things for the better.  As you will see below, he pulls his own when raising the sails.    He cuts his own wood to heat the house he built.

Considering his age, 94, we might wonder why he keeps going, doing so much all the time.

Why does he keep on going?  He might be telling us, from this 2012 recording.

More:  

English: This graphic was used for the cover o...

Cover of Pete Seeger’s single release (same photo on an album). The banjo features Pete’s traditional “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender,” a twist on a sticker famously seen on his old friend Woody Guthrie’s guitar. Wikipedia image

Some material in this post is recycled from an earlier post.

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Over 65? Why go on? Pete Seeger shows us

April 2, 2013

Intrigued to learn our old friend Pete Seeger signed up for a Twitter account — years ago.  Pete tweets regularly.

He’s an encouragement to all of us.  He boasts that there is no group he has ever refused to sing for, and in his typical humility, he claims that he can get any group to join, so they do all the heavy lifting.

Pete keeps up a schedule of concerts, most for causes.  He sails with the sloop Clearwater, campaigning for clean water on the Hudson River (much accomplished) and community efforts to change things for the better.  As you will see below, he pulls his own when raising the sails.    He cuts his own wood to heat the house he built.

Pete will be 94 on May 3, 2013.

Why does he keep on going?  He might be telling us, from this 2012 recording.

More:  

English: This graphic was used for the cover o...

Cover of Pete Seeger’s single release (same photo on an album). The banjo features Pete’s traditional “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender,” a twist on a sticker famously seen on his old friend Woody Guthrie’s guitar. Wikipedia image


“If a tree falls” — Bruce Cockburn

January 20, 2013

Bruce Cockburn (pronounced “coe-burn”), “If a Tree Falls.”  From his 1989 album, “Big Circumstance.”

Canada’s music copyright group SOCAN honored Cockburn in a program last month (all links added here):

The star-studded evening at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall is a chance for the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada to celebrate the best the Canadian music scene has to offer.

Bruce Cockburn performing at the City Stages f...

Bruce Cockburn performing at the City Stages festival in Birmingham, Alabama, United States. Photo: Wikipedia. Some guitar afficianadoes consider Cockburn in the top ranks of guitar wizards. A story we’re working to verify holds a reporter asking Eddie van Halen how it feels to be the world’s best guitarist, to which van Halen is said to have responded: “I don’t know. Ask Bruce Cockburn.”

Cockburn, who has had a 35-year career that produced hits such as Wonderin’ Where the Lions Are and If I Had a Rocket Launcher, will be presented with the SOCAN Lifetime Achievement Award.

Musician Bruce Cockburn gets the lifetime achievement award after 35 years as a singer-songwriter. (Canadian Press)  A Canadian Music Hall of Fame member and 12-time Juno award-winner, Cockburn will be serenaded by Serena Ryder as part of the ceremony.

He’s been around for 35 years, and I don’t have any of his stuff in my library?  How did that happen?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Jim Stanley.

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Gilbert and Near, Woody’s “Pastures of Plenty”

October 20, 2012

Woody Guthrie wrote of freedom . . . when was this written? 1930-something?  [1941, it turns out.]

Ronnie Gilbert and Holly Near combine on one of my favorite arrangements of the song.

[That one disappeared? Try this one; click through if you have to:]

[Maybe this one will work:]

This film must be at least ten years old, maybe more.  The song is more than 60 years old [71 years — from 1941].

It’s still a powerful indictment of corporate greed, heartless and oppressive immigration policies, and it’s a case for a strong labor movement.

Be sure you vote in the November 6 elections.  Sing this song on the way to the polls.

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Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday

July 14, 2012

Woody Guthrie singing, Smithsonian Folkways image

Woody Guthrie singing, Smithsonian Folkways image – The sticker on Woody’s guitar reads, “This Machine Kills Fascists.”  Woody regarded music as a great tool of democracy and freedom.

July 14, 2012, marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Woody Guthrie, folksinger, union organizer, chronicler of American values, troubles and change.

We’re already more than halfway through Woody’s centennial year — and what celebration took place at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub?  History slips by so fast.

Much celebration remains.  Get out your calendar and figure out which events you can join in.

Poster for the 2012 Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah, Oklahoma

Poster for the 2012 Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah, Oklahoma

Wonderfully, a website celebrates Woody’s 100th:

Perhaps fittingly, Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub hits the road again, today — off through Oklahoma.

In the interim, get out there, get the history, and join in the chorus!

More, Other Sources:

Page from booklet of Woody Guthrie sheet music...

Page from booklet of Woody Guthrie sheet music and lyrics (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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