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: The Music of the Civil Rights Movement

Dr.-Martin-Luther-King-Jr-005With Martin Luther King Jr. Day coming up this Monday, this week is a chance for us to remember this great man and the incredible struggle that he helped spearhead: the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s.

And, since this is the Mid-Week Beat, it’s also important to remember what a key role music played for those involved in the struggle. When one thinks of the music of the civil rights era, we largely think of so-called “freedom songs”: African-American gospel hymns like “Go Down Moses” or “We Shall Not Be Moved,” that had deep roots in the African-American churches and socially concious folk songs sung by artists like Julius Lester, Odetta and Pete Seeger. The freedom songs were collaborative in nature and they served as a tool to bring people together in the struggle and to gain strength from one another.

Many younger African Americans involved in the movement, however, sought to separate themselves from the old church tradition and wanted music that was more revolutionary in spirit. Music that could be cranked at parties and was more receptive than participatory. Therefore, it was the soul and r&b that was being produced in Detroit by Motown or in Memphis by Stax, that spoke to this, more militant, generation.
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