Pete Seeger, long-time folk music singer,
songwriter, and musician who blended
political activism into his songs, died
recently. Seeger was 94.
A fixture on the radio in the 1940s,
Seeger had many hit records in the '50s
as a member of the folk group The Weavers,
including a cover of Leadbelly's "Goodnight
Irene" which topped the charts for 13 weeks.
Seeger wrote and recorded "Turn, Turn, Turn"
whose words Seeger took from the Book of
Ecclesiastes in the Bible, along with other
notable songs such as "Where Have All The
Flowers Gone?" (with Joe Hickerson);
"Little Boxes"; "Dear Mr. President," and
"Waist Deep in the Big Muddy". Though
many of his songs were protest songs,
Seeger wrote some folk songs which were
just for the sake of entertainment, some of
which with children in mind.
Pete Seeger involved himself in many issues,
which included poverty, war, racism, unions,
farmers' concerns, and enviornmentalism.
Once a member of the Communist Party USA
(CPUSA), Seeger, in his own words, "drifted
away" from both the party and its politics
while remaining on the Left. He gradually
came to see communism, through the way
that the Soviet Union practiced it, as some-
thing as oppressive, if not more so, than any
other brand of politics or political system in
existence. This did not prevent him from
being blacklisted in the '50s, along with his
Weavers mates and other contemporaries in
their musical genre, all under suspicion of
being communists or having pro-communist
However, to Seeger's credit, he not only left
the communist Left, he decried their foul deeds.
This is in contrast to many outspoken fellow
travelers of old who either never renounced their
politics or else have simply quietly and sheepishly
slipped away from same, refusing to discuss the
oppression and destruction of the communists
rendering into lied the false promise of the
ideology. In 2007 Seeger responded to a former
banjo student of his (the banjo was Seeger's
musical instrument of choice) and former
Trotskyite Ron Radosh who now writes for the
National Review when Radosh criticized
Seeger for his pro-communist activities of long
ago in writing a letter of response to Radosh.
In the letter Seeger stated "I think you're right,
I should have asked to see the gulags when I was
in the USSR (in 1965)". With the letter Seeger
enclosed a copy of a song he wrote slamming
Joseph Stalin. It took great courage for Seeger
to admit that his initial support for communism
and the Soviet union was a mistake, and to make
up fpr it in a very public way. Pete Seeger had
not only the courage but the integrity to do this,
qualities the likes of which many western reds
and pro-communist stooges do not have and never
Pete Seeger was a wonderful musical performer
and storyteller, and a man of uncommon
integrity and decency who truly and deeply
cared about his fellow man. May he rest in peace.