Monday, March 03, 2008
pete seeger

Quite a long time ago, I wrote a post about "Where Have All The Flowers Gone" talking about Marlene Dietrich's version of this Pete Seeger song, which I was lucky enough to see her perform, many years ago....I didn't know how to post things from YouTube back then, but since I do now....Here is Marlene Dietrich singing this magnificent song, by the fantastically talented Pete Seeger, in concert, back in 1963..Last Wednesday night, American Masters on PBS, devoted 90 minutes to the magnificent 'artist' and 'person' that Pete Seeger is, and I was kind of swept away with what an important man he has been in my life, in so very many ways. There are so very many connections to Pete Seeger, though I have never met him personally.....Most all of these connections are through his music, with one or two through some people who were and are close to him....!
Back in 1963 when I was looking for some traditional music for "Spoon River Anthology", I spent a lot of time at the Music Library of UCLA where they had an incredible collection of recordings made by the actual people who the great musicologist and historian Alan Lomax interviewed and recorded.....I used Lomax' fantastic reference book, too...."The Folk Songs Of North America". Of course Lomax was connected to Pete Seeger; the were friends and colleagues and sang together, too, in the early days.....But even before that time of "Spoon River", as early as 1947 I was aware of Seeger because he appeared with Henry Wallace when Wallace ran for President of The Unties States. Seeger sang at many rally's for Henry Wallace, one of which was held in Los Angeles that summer---the summer my family and I spent in Los Angeles. And, as a family, we were lucky enough to be at that rally and be stirred in every way by Wallace's true love if America....It was a Very Very Exciting night.....Pete Seeger had a true love of America too, and still does have this true love of his country. It runs through all his songs and it has run through his whole life.
During the-pre Broadway run of "Spoon River" at UCLA, Pete Seeger played a concert at Royce Hall. As I recall, the whole cast went to this concert.
It was more than inspiring! He sang, among many other things, "We Shall Overcome". As a 'company', this became our 'good luck' song which we sang before every performance of "Spoon River"...at UCLA, on tour, and on Broadway, too....In New York, the six of us in the cast, would gather in Betty's Dressing Room, just before the Stage Manager called 'Places'. We would all hold hands and we would sing "We Shall Overcome". It somehow bonded us in a very wonderful way---It enabled us to drop the cares of the day, and start our "ensemble show" before we ever hit the stage. There isn't one of us who would not say that this holding of hands and singing of this song, made a true difference in our performances, each and every night. Then, i
n late August of that summer of 1963, before we left for New York to open "Spoon River" on Broadway, there was the important, amazing and unforgettable landmark March On Washington, where Martin Luther King gave his "I Have A Dream" speech.....Moving, inspirational, and memorable in every way...."We Shall Overcome" was the Mantra for this March On Washington, and in fact, became the song that was sung all through all the Marches that followed in this Historic Civil Rights movement. Pete Seeger was one of the writer/contributors to this song.

A few years later, I became involved with a group of young musicians who needed some financial backing in order to stay together and rehearse every day, eight hours a day for six months. They needed good instruments, too....Now, the "investment" seems like a very small amount by today's standards, but at the time, back in 1964, $5,000. was a fair amount of money. This group made their first two records and both were phenomenal hits, one right after the other....I mean, truly phenomenal! The first song was Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man", and the second was the Pete Seeger song, "Turn, Turn, Turn" and the group called themselves "THE BYRDS".....Once again, Pete Seeger's life crossed mine....
Fade out....five years later, I meet a woman in Primal Therapy who was part of a very famous group called "The Weavers"....She was a patient at The Primal Institute at the same time that I was.....Her name is Ronnie Gilbert, and she was the only woman who was part of 'The Weavers'...The other members being, Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, and Fred Hellerman.....As I watched this Documentary on PBS on Wednesday night...There was Ronnie...It was so great to see her in this film talking about those early days of The Weavers and all the triumphs and tribulations....and there were many of both---And then later, the reunion concerts at Carnegie Hall, etc., etc., etc. They had all come full circle.And then, later in the PBS documentary Roger McQuinn, one of the Original 'Byrds', appeared on stage at the Kennedy Center Honors, singing "Turn, Turn, Turn" to Pete Seeger when he, Seeger, was given the highest honor this country gives it's "artists".
This gentle musical genius who was haunted and hunted by the FBI!....Blacklisted during the terrifying HUAC period, (As was Ronnie Gilbert, among others.....) this amazing man, who did not appear on television for seventeen years....was finally exonerated and honored as the great great patriotic American he truly is.....There is so much more about Pete Seeger....So many great people appeared in this film, talking about his influence on them and on Folk Music.....Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen, Arlo Guthrie, Bob Dylan, etc., etc......and if you didn't see this Documentary I hope you will look for it on your PBS Station....It may even be rent able. This is a not-to-be-missed Documentary....It is inspiring in every way, not the least of which is Pete Seeger's body of work and his longevity as an 'artist'.Once again, I was struck by the many experiences that often connect those of us in Show Business to one another.....It is one of the lovely things about being an 'artist' in the theatre or films, or TV, or the music business, etc. And I guess, if you stick around long enough and you are lucky enough, then there are these lovely and very meaningful connections. And the real trick is, of course, to hopefully appreciate these special things as they are happening to you.....It certainly enriches one's life, I know that!
Here below is a wonderful little taste of just a few minutes of this extraordinary American Masters documentary: "Pete Seeger--The Power Of Song"......Enjoy!





More To Come.......







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31 Comments:
had this to say:

So many connections, like a giant spider's web! I always wondered how you were connected to The Byrds. Thanks for clearing that up.

Monday, March 3, 2008 at 12:31:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Wow, thanks for this.

I never knew Seeger was a Wallace supporter. In fact, I'd forgotten about Wallace (everyone remembers Dewey) until you mentioned him.

Good stuff.

Cheers.

Monday, March 3, 2008 at 5:23:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

I remember learning these songs in junior high. Our music teacher was really cool (compared to the older teachers) and had long hair and a guitar. Ha!

Monday, March 3, 2008 at 6:29:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

I agree with geewits that this is like a spider's web...you just know so much stuff and you have so many connections!

Monday, March 3, 2008 at 6:53:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

If you go to pbs.org/americanmasters and put in your local PBS station with your zip code, it brings up all the dates that Pete Seegar documentary is being run in your area.

FYI----In Pennsylvania, New Jersey & Delaware, on PBS Trenton NJ, it is showing on March 3, 9:30PM, March 13 9PM, and March 16 2AM - VCR alert!!!

On Channel 12 Phila/Wilmington, it is showing March 10 9:30PM.

Naomi, this is an excellent preview to alert us to upcoming showings of this great American.

Thank you so much,
Anne

Monday, March 3, 2008 at 6:53:00 AM PST 

Blogger PI
had this to say:

What a wonderful story and what a wonderful man- not a trace of bitterness. That was such an awful time.
I love the idea of you psyching
yourselves up before going on stage with that great song. BTW I saw Marlene sing the Flower song on TV in 1963 - in that dress - which looked as if she had been poured into it. What a gal!

Monday, March 3, 2008 at 7:46:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Oh, my goodness - did you just bring back a floodgate of memories! I can remember sitting around singing the songs of Seeger on my college campus in the 60s - such a child of the 60s I was - involved in the unjustices that were rampant against not only blacks but gays in our community - a true hippie...damn, Naomi, I probably still am...

Ronnie Gilbert - I have yet to see her in concert - but, if I'm not mistaken she still travels around with the likes of Cris Williamson, Holly Near, Meg Christian and a few others...

Monday, March 3, 2008 at 8:39:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Naomi, you really did have some connections....I loved the Byrds. I am humming Turn, Turn, Turn, as I type this. I hope they put his documentary back on PBS. If they do, please let me know and I will watch it.

Monday, March 3, 2008 at 10:47:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Great stuff Naomi! Was never a big Seeger fan per se... and mostly liked the 'covers' done of his materials by other artists. The Byrds were ( and remain ) one of my all-time Folk-Rock & Country-Rock bands of the 60's. Jim McGuinn ( now "Roger" ) and I crossed musical paths sometime in 1969 and I played harmonica at 2 live summer concerts at a vinyard in Montecito. (Lots of wealthy "wanna-be" hippies! VW's were replaced by BMW's!!
) I particulary remember playing the harp ( harmonica ) parts for "My Back Pages" for them, and a few other I cant recall. ( Old Timers Disease! ) But loved the Byrds harmonies!

-Butchie

Monday, March 3, 2008 at 10:53:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

You know Ronnie Gilbert? How lucky can one person be. She's my hero and has been ever since the days of the Weavers. I had all their records before they were blacklisted and now have 4 of their CD's (as well as some of Pete by himself and a double CD of him and Arlo Guthrie singing Woody's songs.

Ray taped the special for me last night (I went to sleep early) and I'll watch it later today and probably keep the tape.

I'm a little young to remember Pete when he and Woody were part of the Almanac Singers in the 40's but some of their music is probably still kicking around somewhere.

Those singers and the ones who followed in their footsteps united a generation. People scoff today. They call our songs simplistic and trite. Perhaps, but that was the point. They were easy to remember, easy to sing and harmonize to, and they carried a message. I wish we still had that today.

End of rant. Sorry I ran on so long and thanks for posting about one of America's heroes.

Monday, March 3, 2008 at 2:23:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Your life is so enriched Naomi and everytime I pop by here I 'discovered' something new and learn so much.

Thank you for the song, where have all the flowers gone...indeed where have all the time gone too :D

Have a nice day :D

Monday, March 3, 2008 at 5:12:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Ahh.. you'd mentioned the great music historian, Alan Lomax too- who had also dedicated himself to the collection and preservation of the blues. I think he was in the Mississippi Delta area- gleaning the fruits of Johnny Shines & "Honeyboy" Edwards not long before he passed on. He also got many treasured recordings ( originally on "wire" devices! ) of some of the few Delta blues men who still "..blew cane"! They were just rough-hewn "fifes" of a sort, and cut from sugar-cane stalks, wild bamboo or anything useful for making an instrument. They were real prominent instruments in alot of the earliest, post-civil war "blues".

I'd love to hear more of your "Spoon River" saga Naomi!... and I did come upon quite alot of info, stories and even vids of all of your cast acting or singing... and even excerpts on 'YouTube' of that morning news show that devoted a whole half-hour attempting to fathom how the show could pack the joint to the rafters then be virtually empty on a following night!?... something that even the NY stage pundits were non-plussed over! What I loved somehow ( though it was surely no lovely chore for you! ) was your own endeavors at promotion in the already heavily promoted theatrical quarters of downtown!! Stencils and spray-paint!! Hey... it was free, almost!!

By-the-by... on a sad musical note: placed a memorium in my blog for the late Buddy Miles who passed away last tuesday. Buddy was an accomplished drummer- having played with blues-guitarist Michael Bloomfield & "Electric Flag"... Jimi Hendrix's "Band of Gypsies", Santana, Muddy Waters and soooo many other blues greats!! R.I.P. Buddy...

- Butchie

Monday, March 3, 2008 at 8:26:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

A trip to your blog is always such a joy. My father-in-law was also blacklisted. Seeger was a staple in the house. Seeing/hearing MD sing that...and you were there...an amazing time. What woman she was!

Monday, March 3, 2008 at 8:42:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Naomi. You never (never, never) cease to amaze me with oyur stories of times gone by. And how wonderful of you to share all these memories with us. We are ao lucky to read your stories, thank you. And your connection to The Byrds will have my dad now reading your blog! *heehee*

Monday, March 3, 2008 at 11:19:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I always liked Pete Seeger, and how did you ever find Marlene Dietrich singing where have all the flowers gone?!! LOL..funny how some things seem to survive and just pop up out of the blue. Unless you are near our ages you wouldn't even know Marlene Dietrich !

Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 4:30:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Pete Seeger was great along with Woodie Guthrie and the Kingston Trio !

Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 5:45:00 AM PST 

Blogger jac
had this to say:

again you've given me a wonderful and lovely lesson. you never cease to amaze me!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 8:44:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Watched it last night - twice. Once from the tape Ray made from the Fresno PBS station and again when KQED in San Francisco ran it last night. Taped both just in case.

I thought I knew a lot about Pete and his contemporaries (I was a small part of the movement in the 60's) but I learned many things I hadn't known.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 8:52:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Wow your connection to the Byrds is pretty cool, I will have to tell Mark. I am not too familiar with Seeger, I think being non American a lot of this post doesn't quite resonant with me but thats ok right lol.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 12:24:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I watched and listened to the PBS Seeger special. Learned even more about him than I previously knew. I try to watch all of the PBS musical shows. That's about the only place you can currently find such a variety of music on TV.

Thanks for sharing your account -- reminds me of one of my favorite movies "Six Degrees of Separation." I think for many the degrees are far fewer than six, certainly so in your case.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 3:48:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

That whole story is so interesting, but your connection to The Byrds, WOW! You probably enabled them to have those hits! Too cool!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 5:40:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Such terrific posts, full of interesting facts and history..I have been busy catching up to many posts ...been busy lately so falling behind lol,

Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 5:43:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I know I've said it before but - I really love reading about your life!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 6:10:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I will be looking for The Power of Song documentary. Maybe You Tube has a few clips.

It's interesting that Pete Seeger was connected to Martin Luther King's message w/ the "We Shall Overcome" song. What a patriotic and talented man!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 6:48:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Peter Seeger has certainly made a major contribution to society. I never would have thought of Marlene D singing Where Have All the Flowers Gone. I just love to know what a small world it is and how interconnected our lives are, sometimes it unrolls like a red carpet and we are drawn to others like ripples spreading out.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 7:49:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

PS And I loved the Byrds. I hope you'll post more about them someday. I answered your comment on Porch Vacation. I do know what you mean.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 5:38:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Great stories......

I've always loved Pete Seeger's music. One of my more recent "favs" is Springsteen's CD of all Seeger music.... I put it on in my office when I need a boost.

I spent many summers at a summer camp......both as a camper and on staff. We learned many of his songs and sang them often sitting around campfires. So, when I hear a Seeger song (and btw the Byrds too!!!) I am transported back to sitting close to the campfire with my friends singing together.

ps. thank you for the comments today on my blog. I'm still recovering from the flu.......it's a doozy, and holding on way too long. I think it's what has "dried up" my writing muse.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 5:50:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Naomi, I am late getting to this post, since Bloglines saw fit to drop you from my blogroll (without my knowledge) and I didn't notice it until tonight.

What an interesting life you have led!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 6:51:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I really found this interesting. My brothers had some Pete Seeger albums, and I wonder if they still have them to this day. (We all kept most of our record albums ;))
I'll look for the documentary on PBS when it airs here.
and Naomi, you have had the most interesting life!!!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 9:08:00 PM PST 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

Oh, Naomi, thank you so much for your FYI on my blog about this post.
What a great "respite" for me. I enjoyed it so much! Loved hearing Dietrich sing that song, which I've always loved.
I'm going to see if Netflix might have this documentary....thanks so much for the video of it here. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it. And I agree with everyone else...the connections you've made on your journey have been paved with amazing people and events. Thanks for sharing.
Terri
http://www.islandwriter.net

Saturday, March 8, 2008 at 9:06:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Awesome post! Brings back many memories. (I was in high-school in the late 60's). I started to write a very long comment - but decided to email you instead so as not to hijack your comments!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008 at 6:58:00 PM PDT 

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