Monday, January 26, 2009

Nobel Prize for Pete Seeger?

One of the more touching scenes from recent Inaugural events was the concert at the Lincoln Memorial. For members of the Mighty Toy Cannon household, the highlight was the appearance of a hale and hearty Pete Seeger, singing "This Land is Your Land," including Woody Guthrie's more leftist verses.

The man deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. In fact, there is a movement and a website dedicated to getting Mr. Seeger that nomination. You can read more about that and about Seeger in this Huffington Post article. I also recommend the 2007 documentary, "Pete Seeger: The Power of Song" if you get a chance.

My father-in-law is a delightfully warm, gregarious and caring man of whom I am quite fond--even though he is a dyed-in-the-wool Republican. The irony is that he's also a huge Pete Seeger fan from way back. His love of belting out folk tunes with family and friends must overshadow all dissonance with Seeger's politics. His children and grandchildren have turned out to be liberals--some flaming more than others--perhaps due to having listened to "Union Maid" too many times.

YouTube has a treasure trove of videos from Pete Seeger's public TV show "Rainbow Quest," which was aired regionally (I'm presuming upstate New York) in the mid-60s. You can find at least a dozen videos from the show including guests such as Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee; Richard and Mimi Farina; Jean Ritchie; Elizabeth Cotton; Mississippi John Hurt ... oh man, I'm going to have to get busy posting some of these!

This is one of my favorite videos. It starts with Pete introducing his guests, Johnny Cash and June Carter. Johnny then sings the "I am a Pilgrim" by the great Merle Travis. (Which reminds me to dig up some Merle clips for a later post). Johnny seems remarkably twitchy throughout this episode of "Rainbow Quest." I assume he's either high or itching to get so--keep an eye on his Beatle-boot clad feet.


Bob said...

A great clip; great example of Pete's warm unhurried storytelling style.

Don't miss some of the other ones here, too: Mississippi John Hurt telling how he learned the guitar and then singing "Goodnight, Irene"; and a couple of good Sonny Terry/Brownie McGhee clips, which remind me of one of the highlights of my drinking career, back in my ramshackle college days.

Sonny and Brownie were doing a concert on my campus, and for some odd reason I can't remember I was given the backstage task of attending to them. I didn't know what to do; they seemed pretty capable of taking care of themselves. There they sat before the show, on a couple of straightback wooden chairs, serenely nursing something in a bottle in a brown paper bag.

"Is there anything I can do for you?" I asked one of them (it was Brownie, if I recall right).

He raised the bottle and held it out toward me.

"You can take a sip of this and pass it along," he said.

So I did, and I did.

MightyToyCannon said...

Love that story -- you've inspired me to post some Sonny and Brownie.