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What Pete and Woody represent

Stringsinger 19 Feb 14 - 07:49 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 19 Feb 14 - 08:11 PM
frogprince 19 Feb 14 - 08:41 PM
Mark Ross 19 Feb 14 - 09:21 PM
Bert 19 Feb 14 - 10:06 PM
Will Fly 20 Feb 14 - 05:17 AM
Will Fly 20 Feb 14 - 05:18 AM
Steve Shaw 20 Feb 14 - 07:57 AM
Stringsinger 20 Feb 14 - 07:49 PM
Steve Shaw 20 Feb 14 - 08:34 PM
Elmore 20 Feb 14 - 08:45 PM
Elmore 20 Feb 14 - 09:03 PM
Bert 20 Feb 14 - 09:34 PM
Mark Clark 20 Feb 14 - 11:26 PM
Mark Ross 21 Feb 14 - 12:41 AM
Newport Boy 21 Feb 14 - 06:05 AM
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Subject: What Pete and Woody represent
From: Stringsinger
Date: 19 Feb 14 - 07:49 PM

The motivation for the musical careers of both Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and the development of the singing group, The Weavers was born out of an intense interest in how music reflects social, topical and political views, causing much difficulty for these artists by reactionaries on the right. In fact, it's a badge of honor to be included in the expose by the John Birch Society, once headed by the father of the Koch Brothers, titled "Rhythm, Riots and Revolution" in an implication that folk music is somehow unAmerican and unpatriotic.

As we lionize Pete, Woody and others, it's good to remember that they were socially conscious in their musical and performing content and not given to selling jingoistic car commercials at the Super Bowl such as another notable folk performer who ostensibly sported a social conscience at the beginning of his career.

In fact, the "Great Folk Scare" was a result of the melding of the study of folk music, folklore and the Left wing views of Alan Lomax, Bess Lomax Hawes, Kenneth Goldstein, Archie Green,
and many other scholars and folk performers who blazed the trail for the co-opted commercialization of folk as pop. Every folkie I know of owes a debt of gratitude to Pete Seeger whose interest would not have been possible had Pete not taken a heroic humanitarian and political stand at the root of his career.

When contemplating Pete's role as a "communist with a small c", his love of community and social action melds beautifully with the humanism implied by the study of folk song. His father, Charlie, and mother, Constance made sure Pete was aware of the combination of social conscience with the interest in folk music. This was at the root of the "Folk Scare" leading to the success of the Kingston Trio and Peter Paul and Mary. Without these social, political and humanitarian values, we don't have a Pete Seeger or a folk song revival.


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Subject: RE: What Pete and Woody represent
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 19 Feb 14 - 08:11 PM

Attribute your sources.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

Heads of state have toppled for less.


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Subject: RE: What Pete and Woody represent
From: frogprince
Date: 19 Feb 14 - 08:41 PM

I would be a little surprised if the "source" for this isn't an individual who knew these people quite well, and was who has himself had a significant musical career based on the same values of which he speaks.   Anyone care to guess who I'm thinking of? : )


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Subject: RE: What Pete and Woody represent
From: Mark Ross
Date: 19 Feb 14 - 09:21 PM

I'm pretty sure that Utah Phillips was the first one to use the phrase "THE GREAT FOLK MUSIC SCARE OF THE '60'S". At least he's the one I first heard it from.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: What Pete and Woody represent
From: Bert
Date: 19 Feb 14 - 10:06 PM

I really don't think that Pete and Woody represent the same thing.

Woody was an individualist, a singer and a patriot.

Pete was a courageous defender of freedom, a musician, and was just a little bit pompous.

Despite their differences we loved them both.


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Subject: RE: What Pete and Woody represent
From: Will Fly
Date: 20 Feb 14 - 05:17 AM

Frank, do you think there was any correlation between the lives of these two people and the lives of the great mainstream of people who just naturally made music for the sake of it?

As I've mentioned in another thread, I recently watched a 1984 documentary about the Everly Brothers. It was clear that, in their family and community background, making music together was something that happened naturally in church, at dances, in the family, in the community - old-time stuff, traditional songs, modern (at the time) compositions. The environment shown in the documentary was that of mining communities in Kentucky. Some of them became famous, some didn't, and this picture can also be seen by looking at the life of, say Doc Watson - music as a fact of life.

In that sense, Woody Guthrie was different, in that he played in a personal and idiosyncratic way to spread a social and political creed he believed in. Pete Seeger came from a very different background to all of that - and had a large element of conscious political motivation.

But how far is that motivation connected to the folks at home who just made music for its own sake, for dun and comfort? In short, how is the Revival connected to, or disconnected from, its roots? As an amateur observer from a different culture and country, it seems to me to be a quite separate branch of the music. Showbiz with politics.


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Subject: RE: What Pete and Woody represent
From: Will Fly
Date: 20 Feb 14 - 05:18 AM

"Dun"? - read "fun"!


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Subject: RE: What Pete and Woody represent
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 20 Feb 14 - 07:57 AM

I tend to agree with Bert. Woody to me is unique in the way he told the story of ordinary people in hard times without any bitterness and preachifying in any way. Very political but without a shred of politics or moralising shoved down throats, a trait that a lot of otherwise fantastic "protest" singers find hard to resist. Pete Seeger's approach was quite different to Woody's. In my mind they complement each other well.


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Subject: RE: What Pete and Woody represent
From: Stringsinger
Date: 20 Feb 14 - 07:49 PM

Woody and Pete both came out of a different era, one that embraced the Popular Front.
"
"Frank, do you think there was any correlation between the lives of these two people and the lives of the great mainstream of people who just naturally made music for the sake of it?"

Both Pete and Woody were motivated by messages associated with socialism. They wanted their music to count for a better world, with justice and a reasonable peace. They were both politically defiant. They were both highly individualistic but at the same time concerned for the poor and community.

Preaching is often in the eye of the beholder. "Talking Union", "The Plane Wreck at Los Gatos" and the ending of "1913 Massacre" and the song "Jesus Christ" could have been interpreted by some as preaching.

Believe me when I tell you that they both had a lot of conscious political motivation. Woody was quite intelligent and read a great deal. Both were highly pro-union and anti-fascist.
\
Woody was often anti-social in that if you took him home with you, you might find burnt cigarette holes in your couch or mud, there, from his shoes. He also has been known in the past to steal silverware. He might have made a pass at your wife or sister, too.

Still, he was always very honest in his speech and relationships and he lived in the moment because he knew he had Huntington's and would die soon from it. He wrote a song every day of his life and filled account books with them which he piled in the corner of the seed shack where he stayed in Topanga Canyon in 1950's. That's when I knew him.

Steve, Woody had more than a shred of conscious politics in his motives. Any denial of this are by those who didn't know him and romanticize him the way they want to see him. I don't think you would have wanted to live Woody's life, it was too damn hard.

Pete used to say, "Woody was a real pain in the ass but when he wasn't around, you missed him."

Famous people are often a Rorschach test for those that admire him as they tend to want to see what they want rather than what is.

Pete was never pompous. That's just not true of him. He was intelligent and he was a kind of orator. He never thought he was better than others. That's what's called being pompous.

Mark, the one to first use the term "Great Folk Scare" was Dave Van Ronk.

What Woody and Pete represent is a highly evolved sense of humanity, each in their own way that was politically motivated. Woody had a regular column in the West Coat Communist magazine, "The People's World" called "Woody sez" He quit the Party as did Pete when it became too inhibiting and doctrinaire. Pete has apologized for his early support of Stalin, a mysterious figure who no one really knew, accommodated by FDR as "Uncle Joe" during the war.


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Subject: RE: What Pete and Woody represent
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 20 Feb 14 - 08:34 PM

Steve, Woody had more than a shred of conscious politics in his motives.

I think I was saying that, but was also saying that he put his politics across via the voices and stories of ordinary people going through hard times. I can't think of a single Woody song, in spite of your examples, in which he was browbeating us with his politics or his morals or with polemic, and his message was all the more powerful for that. There was a very clear-headed simplicity about his songs too. I've read all the books there are to read about him and realise he was a social pain in the arse, etc. So was Beethoven, my numero uno all-time hero! Do you think they'd have got on? :-)


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Subject: RE: What Pete and Woody represent
From: Elmore
Date: 20 Feb 14 - 08:45 PM

It would take more balls than I have to disagree with someone who knew and worked with Woody and Pete, and was a member of the Weavers.


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Subject: RE: What Pete and Woody represent
From: Elmore
Date: 20 Feb 14 - 09:03 PM

Attn: Steve Shaw. During WW 2 Woody wrote hundreds of anti-hitler, pro-war and historical ballads to rally the troops. These songs were not all that subtle.


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Subject: RE: What Pete and Woody represent
From: Bert
Date: 20 Feb 14 - 09:34 PM

Pete was never pompous. That is good to know, he certainly looked it when he sang with his nose in the air.


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Subject: RE: What Pete and Woody represent
From: Mark Clark
Date: 20 Feb 14 - 11:26 PM

I too was attracted to the music in the late 1950s and early 1960s by the political content as much as the songs. I very much admired Pete for many things, his music, his politics, his social activism, his undying optimism. I never got to meet Woody so I only know what's in books but the man (Dwight Saunders) who first introduced me to the idea of making your own music knew Woody and his accounts track those of Pete and Frank.

I've always understood the great debt I (we) owe to Pete, Alan, The Weavers (all of them), and the community in which these people operated. I still marvel at it.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: What Pete and Woody represent
From: Mark Ross
Date: 21 Feb 14 - 12:41 AM

Frank, I am pretty sure that DVR got the phrase from Utah. But it's not worth arguing about. Anyway, I think it describes the times perfectly.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: What Pete and Woody represent
From: Newport Boy
Date: 21 Feb 14 - 06:05 AM

Today's Guardian includes this letter from Garth Prince adding to Pete's obituary. Headed "When Pete Seeger reduced a conservative audience to silence", it's worth quoting here.

In 1972 I attended a performance by Pete Seeger at a packed high school in upstate New York not far from where he lived. This performance included the most effective political and social statement I have ever witnessed.

His final song in the show was Woody Guthrie's This Land Is Your Land, and the audience enthusiastically joined in with the well-known chorus. After three verses Seeger stopped and announced: "I'm now going to sing the verses that Woody wrote that don't get into the school songbooks."

These verses deal with, among other things, poverty, property ownership and the dust bowl, each followed by the chorus:

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

The audience, in what was a very conservative rightwing area, gradually stopped joining in between the verses. At the end of the song and the final chorus, which Seeger now sang alone, he put down his instrument, said "Thank you" and left the stage to a stunned silence. The audience of thousands had got the message.


Phil


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