Pete Seeger

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  • Topic: Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater
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  • Published : February 3, 2009
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The Significance of Pete Seeger to American History
Pete Seeger is an extremely talented artist who is very well known for his contributions to folk music. Pete Seeger is an absolute inspiration to many people around the world today. Not only was Pete Seeger just a singer/songwriter, he was also an important political activist, the author of several dozen books, an environmentalist as well as a peace advocator. He plays a very significant role in terms of historical influences. As a man of many identities, Pete Seeger will always remain an influential individual in regards to American History. It is definitely worth discussing the many roles Pete Seeger acquired and how each of these roles assisted in impacting American History.

Pete Seeger was practically pre-determined to love music. His parents taught music at the Julliard School in New York. Although, his parents had an interest mainly in classical music, at the age of sixteen in 1935, Pete managed to discover that his true passion was for folk music or as he described “old fashioned five string banjo, rippling out a rhythm to one fascinating song after another” . He truly believed that this type of music was more powerful and honest in comparison to what was popular at the time.

Music was everything to Pete. He started with playing the Banjo and eventually was given the opportunity to assist field recorder Alan Lomax while touring throughout South America by playing the banjo, guitar and vocals. In 1940, Pete formed a band called the Almanac Singers. This group was very influential during this period of time because they sang songs of inspiration. The songs were mainly union songs and antiwar songs. The songs were on the other hand very controversial because they were so politically involved. The first song they had ever recorded was called “Songs for John Doe” and was released in 1941. The story of this song basically followed the Communist Party line and criticized Roosevelt’s unprecedented peacetime draft (Wikipedia). They recorded a second album as well that was released in 1941. This album was comprised on six more songs that were songs for political action and were full of all sorts of underlying messages. The Almanac singers expressed their political opinions and concerns in the songs in support of what they believed. “Dear Mr. President” was a solo by Pete Seeger that describes his hate towards Hitler and how he thinks it’s time to teach him a lesson. It also expresses how he wants to be a part of the war to protect his country in hopes that things will be better. “So, Mr. President We got this one big job to do, That's lick Mr. Hitler and when we're through. Let no one else ever take his place. To trample down the human race. So what I want is you to give me a gun. So we can hurry up and get the job done!” . Pete has been described as a “walking history book of American music” . He also composed a collection of songs about the Spanish Civil War.

With the success of recording three albums, the Almanac singers broke up due to World War ll. Pete proudly took part in the war as a form of entertainment for the soldiers. Upon his return, Pete formed another group in 1948, called the Weavers. The Weavers became very popular in a short period of time with song hits such as “On Top of Old Smokey” and “Kisses Sweeter than Wine”. The Weavers were blamed to be taking advantage of fame by exchanging their beliefs for success. Although, they did in response refrain from releasing controversial songs that contained political beliefs and protest songs, Pete was eventually blacklisted from television and large concert halls for seventeen years due to his refusal to answer questions from the House Committee in Un-American Activities.

At this point, Pete still did not give up on sharing his passion with the world. He was signed with Columbia Records in 1959 and recorded “We Shall Overcome”. This song has become the anthem for the pursuit of equality worldwide....
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