i'm working on an article about the seeger family -- pete, mike, peggy, their parents and other relatives -- so they're on my mind lately, and i noticed they don't individually or collectively have threads on ilm. so i figured i'd start one because man, what a family. i knew a certain amount about them before starting, but there's so much there. among other things it made me remember that mike seeger was the first live musician i remember seeing -- my dad took me to see him play when i was about 4, because i liked my dad's new lost city ramblers records.
but i mean, from pete's dad basically helping to create the whole field of ethnomusicology through his mom working with the lomaxes to pete being blacklisted and prosecuted, ewan maccoll writing "the first time ever i saw your face" for peggy, mike recording people like elizabeth cotten and dock boggs, "goodnight irene," "if i had a hammer," anthony seeger running the smithsonian folkways division for its first decade or so, right up to pete and his grandson singing at the lincoln memorial in january. their range and scope is all just pretty remarkable.
― would you ask tom petty that? (tipsy mothra), Wednesday, 22 April 2009 18:09 (4 years ago) Permalink
and that instead of taking the 5th at HUAC, pete took the 1st:
"i am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how i voted in any election or any of these private affairs. i think these are very improper questions for any american to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this."
― would you ask tom petty that? (tipsy mothra), Wednesday, 22 April 2009 18:13 (4 years ago) Permalink
Mike is my favorite, for his dilligent documentarianism. He recorded the Nimrod Workman LP released last year, which is absolutely incredible & worthwhile. I wish I had more to say about them as a family, but I don't know much. Pete of course is a very admirable figure if his music doesn't get listened to much around my house. My favorite things sometimes are those How To Play The Five String Banjo type records on Folkways that he put out--just how important it was to Pete (and I guess the whole of the Seeger Clan?) to educate the public & make this stuff available is v admirable.
― ian, Wednesday, 22 April 2009 18:14 (4 years ago) Permalink
yeah in general i'd rather listen to mike's recordings -- both his own (esp. the new lost city ramblers) and the ones he did of other people -- than pete's, which can seem sort of didactic and stentorian. but pete was almost immeasurably important to the whole folk-revival scene. and they definitely as a family (going back to charles and ruth) have this real mission of preservation and keeping all sorts of things alive. i had a good talk with anthony seeger about his work with folkways, he was really crucial to bringing all that into the digital era, and bringing real scholarship to the liner notes of the reissues, etc. and almost every one of them has a story about leadbelly. (anthony says that according to his father, leadbelly sang him "gray goose" when he was 1 1/2 years old.)
― would you ask tom petty that? (tipsy mothra), Wednesday, 22 April 2009 19:35 (4 years ago) Permalink
and reading david dunaway's book about pete, it's really striking what a huge effect the blacklist had on him and the whole family. it dominated his life for years, and cost lots of them their passports, their jobs. and, you know, this was a guy who had had a no. 1 record.
― would you ask tom petty that? (tipsy mothra), Wednesday, 22 April 2009 19:38 (4 years ago) Permalink
anthony seeger is rad, i took one of his classes once, lots of ethnomusicology and archive knowledge. pretty much knows everyone who's everyone in that world and is all-around class. the highlight was hearing him talk about living with / recording some amazonian tribe in brazil twenty-odd years ago in brazil. kind of made me wish i could do field work like that but i bet i'd seriously fuck it up.
― Vaclav Havel mostly. (Matt P), Wednesday, 22 April 2009 19:45 (4 years ago) Permalink
in brazil oops
― Vaclav Havel mostly. (Matt P), Wednesday, 22 April 2009 19:46 (4 years ago) Permalink
yeah he was in brazil for about 10 years. he was fun to talk to, said he ended up a scholar because he wanted to do something with music but there were already enough seegers playing and recording.
― would you ask tom petty that? (tipsy mothra), Wednesday, 22 April 2009 19:47 (4 years ago) Permalink
i'm (hopefully) going to the big pete's-90th-birthday concert at madison square garden in a few weeks. bruce, mellencamp, emmylou, the mcgarrigles, lots of other people. plus i think mike and peggy are going to be there.
― would you ask tom petty that? (tipsy mothra), Wednesday, 22 April 2009 19:51 (4 years ago) Permalink
Pete Seeger's Children's Concert at Town Hall is pretty good, as kids records go.
Charles Seeger gets grief because his second wife and classical composer, Ruth Crawford Seeger, basically quit serious composing after getting married. But I admire them both.
― aworks, Thursday, 23 April 2009 04:23 (4 years ago) Permalink
well ruth diverted onto the folk-music track along with charles. but she did important work there.
― would you ask tom petty that? (tipsy mothra), Thursday, 23 April 2009 05:31 (4 years ago) Permalink
"abiyoyo" is my favorite p. seeger song!
i also really like "somos el barco, somos el mar" i.e. we are the boat, we are the sea
hey tipsy you probably already know this but the jubilee arts center in knoxville has a lot of pete seeger connections. guy and candie carawan know him pretty well, john mccutcheon (who used to live in knoxville), si kahn
pete's voice is just as clear as a bell, it's incredible
― Tracer Hand, Thursday, 23 April 2009 09:05 (4 years ago) Permalink
Peggy was great in the Folk Britannia documentary, nailing that stuff about how just because some 78 year old guy knows a lot of old songs doesn't mean he's actually any good
― Sacco, Vanzetti, Passantino... (Tom D.), Thursday, 23 April 2009 09:12 (4 years ago) Permalink
great clip of Elizabeth Cotten explaining how she met the Seegers
― zappi, Thursday, 23 April 2009 10:52 (4 years ago) Permalink
hey tipsy you probably already know this but the jubilee arts center in knoxville has a lot of pete seeger connections.
yup. i also saw peggy perform at the laurel about 9 or 10 years ago.
― would you ask tom petty that? (tipsy mothra), Thursday, 23 April 2009 13:17 (4 years ago) Permalink
and speaking of peggy, one thing i didn't know about was the radio ballads she and ewan maccoll did for the bbc. i just have one, on the edge, which is a bunch of interviews with u.k. teens circa 1962 talking about their parents, school, sex, etc. pretty cool stuff.
― would you ask tom petty that? (tipsy mothra), Thursday, 23 April 2009 13:27 (4 years ago) Permalink
My son goes to high school with Penny Bossom-Seeger, Pete's granddaughter. She's a good fiddler.Young fiddlers preserve 'old-time' music for another generation
― Jazzbo, Thursday, 23 April 2009 13:57 (4 years ago) Permalink
I asked my brother Peter for his Pete Seeger story from when he was a kid, and he sent me this huge response:---------------OK, here it is: One day I was REALLY mad at mom (I was under ten years old I am fairly certain). Near or at the end of my tantrum I wrote out a note to PS explaining that I was very upset with my mother and hoped to go live with a relative. In the note I referred to mom as a "dumb poop", because my respect/reverence for PS was so high I could not bring myself to write "dumb shit". I just couldn't imagine cursing in a letter to PS! Anyhow, I told him I was getting in touch in case things didn't work out with my relative (aunt or godmother is who I had in mind), because I wanted to know if it might be a possibility to come live / hang out, with him. Finally, somewhat revealing my real intentions, and thinking I knew how this "folk music" thing worked, I just slipped in mention that it would be fine with me if he saw occasion to write a song about my letter/predicament. Now, my penmanship was horrible. Illegible, really. So when I had calmed down I entreated mom to write out a "translation", or transcription of my note right alongside it in her perfect handwriting. She consented and we sent the note off. Several weeks or a few months later a one page reply letter from Pete Seeger, written apparently on a manual typewriter on a sheet of paper maybe 3 inches by 5 inches or so. Amazed, I read with breathless anticipation. He said basically he had received my letter and appreciated it. He was unable, however, to compose a song about it. Not to worry, however. Woody Guthrie had already done so. And he proceeded to type out ALL the words to "Be Kind to Your Parents" "Be kind to your parents/though they don't deserve it/remember that grown-up/is a difficult stage of life/so treat them with patience /and kind understanding .... ... one day you may wake upand find you're a parent, too .." Well, I was just tickled. And while I am not sure I have the original any longer, at one point mom was smart enough to copy the note and the reply and laminate them together, so I do have that. So then a few months later, we all went to see a concert by HARP (Holly Near, Arlo Guthrie, Ronnie Gilbert and Pete Seeger) at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. I think actually this was just after Grandpa died because mom went down in front and put a note on the stage (or maybe she had called ahead and talked to someone), and asked for Ronnie to sing a song for Grandpa, and dedicate it also to Victoria [our sister] (maybe it was near Vic's birthday, I don't know). Anyhow, she did it. She didn't do the song mom requested, I don't think, but she sang "Two Good Arms" (which always reminds me of Grandpa, now). So after the show we went to where the gate was for the backstage area because I wanted to get to see Pete. You and Victoria were impatient, reasonably. But finally we got let in. I guess you guys just waited around outside. I don't know how it happened. Mom must have worked her magic talking to folks at the gate. Anyhow, we wandered around the backstage area looking for Pete. We just so happened to meet Arlo and Ronnie, I believe, on our way. So we finally found him. He was in Holly's dressing room with some folks, watching a video, I think of Holly, somewhere in Central America. So he comes out and I am standing there in the hallway. Someone must have told him I was coming ... I really don't know what info got conveyed. So I introduce myself, (overwhelmed), and say "Hi, I'm Peter" ... and without missing a beat, he replies, "Isbister?" OMG!!!!! As you know, having our last name, I was shocked on so many levels. So mom, w/o missing a beat, chimes in: "And I'm the dumb poop." So he invited us in to the dressing room, we watched a little video, and we left. It was amazing. I have met him a time or two since, after concerts of his I have seen. But only on occasions when he was really making himself available. I can think of one specifically in San Jose, when he just stayed on stage after the show. That might have been it.
― schwantz, Saturday, 16 May 2009 05:04 (4 years ago) Permalink
that's a good story. totally sounds like pete. he still goes and does some regular music thing with the elementary school kids in the town near his house.
that big 90th birthday concert was pretty cool, btw. a certain amount of lefty-folksy hokiness (billy bragg singing the internationale, e.g.), but a lot of great moments. ended with all the seegers in attendance (pete, peggy, tao, pete's (older!) brother john, assorted others) leading the whole crowd in "goodnight irene." it was sweet.
― would you ask tom petty that? (tipsy mothra), Saturday, 16 May 2009 05:25 (4 years ago) Permalink
I was pretty much crying during the inauguration version of This Land Is Your Land. Is there footage of his 90th birthday concert online?
― schwantz, Saturday, 16 May 2009 14:41 (4 years ago) Permalink
there's a bunch of audience clips up on youtube. there was also a big crew filming it, i assume for eventual broadcast.
― would you ask tom petty that? (tipsy mothra), Saturday, 16 May 2009 15:13 (4 years ago) Permalink
why is Pete so unloved around here (per the folk artists you don't fuck with thread? it seems like he represents everything certain people hate about folk music, and I'm curious why.
― 50 miles of lmao room (unregistered), Friday, 28 September 2012 16:11 (7 months ago) Permalink
I don't hate him. His animal songs disc has been a big favorite with lil K, actually.
This is a great book that I think might provide some insight into people's beef with Seeger, although the book has no particular beef with him:http://www.amazon.com/Romancing-Folk-American-Cultural-Studies/dp/080784862X
― has important things to say about gangnam style (Hurting 2), Friday, 28 September 2012 16:17 (7 months ago) Permalink