The Mid-Week Beat: RIP Pete Seeger

APphoto_Obit SeegerMusic fans got some sad news yesterday, legendary folk singer and rabble rouser Pete Seeger passed away at the age of 94.

Over the last 24 hours, it’s been interesting watching the variety of musicians come out with memories and tributes to Seeger on Facebook:

“Peter Seeger towered over the folk scene like a mighty redwood for 75 years. He travelled with Woody Guthrie in the 1940s, stood up to Joe McCarthy in the 50s and marched with Dr Martin Luther King in the 60s. His songs will be sung wherever people struggle for their rights. We shall overcome.”Billy Bragg (UK-based singer/songwriter)

“To everything there is a season and a purpose under heaven. Turn, Turn, Turn Pete Seeger 1919-2014 Pete Seeger, America’s tuning fork”, believed in “the power of song” to help bring social change.”Willie Nelson (legendary country music singer/songwriter)

“RIP, Pete 1919 – 2014 – “You want to know why Pete Seeger is beaming (see photo)? He was watching a rocking set from Wanda Jackson. So much for the old folk music versus rock and roll conflict.”Elvis Costello (UK-based singer/songwriter)

“Pete Seeger was not satisfied just having spectators. He believed that getting people to sing with him would bring them together, bringing more awareness to social injustice. RIP Pete Seeger” – Mike Ness (founder of Social Distortion, legendary Orange County punk band)

“Yes, he really was a swell guy wasn’t he? And by “swell guy,” I mean an absolute bad-ass pioneer of punk, free will, free expression (save for his distaste of the electric guitar) freedom for all humanity, equal rights…you name it, he tried to save it! R.I.P. Pete!”Mark Pickerel (Seattle-based drummer for Screaming Trees, Neko Case and others)

“R.I.P. Pete Seeger. The Pope of capitalism-hating banjo nerds passed away today. You will be missed Petie!”Blackbird Raum (Santa Cruz-based folk-punk band)

“Pete Seeger is the reason I’m a banjo player. He invented the job I have. His example has been illuminating and inspiring, and his voice will be missed. If you’ve ever seen Pete perform, you’ve lifted your voice in song with him. He showed us that our voices were just as important as his. In honor of Pete, we should all sing out today, but don’t sing alone! If enough people join in, It might feel like he’s still here. We do have a hammer!”Curtis Eller (North Carolina-based acrobatic, yodelling banjo player)


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The Mid-Week Beat: Paying Tribute This Weekend

elvis-impersonators-590x310As many musicians out there know, a large portion of learning to be a instrumentalist or songwriter is learning to properly steal from your influences. Many musicians struggle to be original but chances are, someone has played the combination of chords and notes that you “wrote” before. That said, if you really get down to it, the actual notes and chords don’t really matter. It’s what you bring to those chords that matters; your unique perspective and individual playing style. No matter what you do to differentiate your sound from sounds of the past, there’s bound to be a little of your influences in there somewhere. That’s okay, as long as you also bring a little of yourself into the mix as well.

With that said, there are two very different ways to approach a tribute show. Some artists attempt to re-create the exact sound of the artist they’re paying tribute to, others choose to re-interpret an artists songs in their own unique way. I find the latter to be more enjoyable because it really distills music down to its pure form and pays homage to the folk tradition, where songs were passed down over the years; constantly changing and being re-interpreted. By interpreting a song in their own voice, a musician ensures that those songs will continue to grow and change for years to come. Songs by revered songwriters like Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen are constantly being changed and re-interpreted by musicians, while artists like Elvis or Neil Diamond often get impersonated, with musicians donning their cadence, look and stage presence.

Today on the Mid-Week Beat, we feature both kinds of tributes: impersonations and interpretations. If you’re a fan of the original artists, chances are you’re going to enjoy hearing the songs you love regardless of whether they’re done straight or in an entirely different style. What matters are the songs.
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Atlanta! Hear Harry Belafonte Speak This Wednesday.

You’re in luck Atlanta! This Wednesday, American icon Harry Belafonte will be appearing at the Carter Center to discuss his incredible life. Want a little preview? Here you go.

Harry was born in Harlem in 1927 and from the ages of 5 until 13 he lived in Jamaica with his grandmother. He attended high school in New York City and then served in the Navy during World War II. After the war, while working as a janitor’s assistant, a tenant gave him two tickets to the theater as a tip. He not only fell in love with the theater because of this fateful encounter, he also met Sidney Poitier. The two became fast friends and due to their financial hardships, would often purchase single seats to local plays, trading places in between acts and filling each other in on the progression of the story line.

At the tail end of the 40s he studied under famed German director Erwin Piscator alongside the likes of Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis and his old buddy Sidney Poitier. During this time, he performed with the American Negro Theatre and received a Tony award for his role in “John Murray Anderson’s Almanac.”
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Ramblin’ Jack Elliott at Caffe Lena’s 51st Anniversary

On Sunday, May 22nd folk legend Ramblin’ Jack Elliott will perform at America’s longest continuously running folk club Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, New York to celebrate their 51st anniversary.

Ramblin’ Jack, best known for his association with Woody Guthrie met the folk legend in 1950. The two became close friends and Jack would eventually move in with Guthrie’s family and travel with him, singing songs at hootenannies and in bars and workers camps from New York to California. He so styled himself after Guthrie that Woody once said, “Jack sounds more like me than I do.”


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