Schools are his favorite venue but media darling Pete Seeger may want to pass on more than folk songs to the next generation.
“The Federal Bureau of Investigation pursued Pete Seeger until the only job he could get was singing to kids,” said David King Dunaway, author of How Can I Keep Him From Singing: Pete Seeger. “They never thought there’d be a problem with Pete Seeger singing to six-year-olds.”
“Little did they know that out of that came not a subversive movement, but an American folk music revival that I think we have to give the FBI credit for helping to establish.” Dunaway’s octogenarian subject is enjoying something of a media renaissance in which his past political activism is largely airbrushed.
Speaking at a March 19th Library of Congress lecture entitled “Force and Violins: What the FBI Had On Folksingers” Mr. Dunaway confirmed that indeed Pete Seeger was a Communist, though this did not seem to bother the English professor a great deal. The University of New Mexico professor had a five-year lawsuit against the FBI and CIA, eventually obtaining documents under the Freedom of Information Act, and detailed much of the “persecution” Seeger and other musicians endured while being investigated by these agencies, such as the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee’s hearings on prosecuting a popular folksong quartet, the Weavers, for “Sedition and Overthrowing the Government by Force and Violence.”
“What does it tell us of the U.S. intelligence community that in the 1940s they found folk music so subversive?” asks Dr. Dunaway. “What does it say about the power of folk music?”
“Music captures the soul in ways that few political speeches can, it has encourged and inspired revolutions. Realizing this, governments have tortured musicians…but songs are made of unbreakable stuff, words and music which need only breath and spirit to live.” says Dunaway.
Is this true? Was Seeger a harmless leftist?
“Given his decisive influence on the political direction of popular music, Seeger may have been the most effective American communist ever.” writes Howard Husock, a writer for City Journal, organ of the Manhattan Institute. Husock charges that Seeger was a member of The Popular Front, a group adopted at the Seventh Congress of the Communist International in 1935. The goal of the Front was to get Western Artists into “art, literature, and music to insinuate the Marxist worldview into the broader culture.” writes Husock.
Pete Seeger and his band, the Almanacs, propogandized for unions in their songs, as well as protesting American intervention in World War II during the time that the Hitler-Stalin pact was actually being observed with lyrics such as:
“Franklin D., listen to me,/You ain’t a-gonna send me ’cross the sea.” A more alarming song had the lyric “Sometimes I think I’ll blow down a cop” which gives one a troubling foreshadowing of today’s rap lyrics. Moreover, Seeger himself has recently admitted to his former banjo pupil Ron Radosh that he turned a blind eye to Stalin’s atrocities.
And later Seeger’s anti American tunes were so popular that he was dubbed “Kruschev’s Songbird” and indeed, his music was requested by the American traitors, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg on their walk to the electric chair.
After Seeger refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955, his career was largely over, except for playing children’s concerts, which kept Seeger’s music somewhat popular. and possibly, may have given way to the troubled 1960s culture as well.
To Dr. Dunaway, however, Seeger was only a victim of an unsympathetic Fascist government. As he says in his brochure “Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, one can now know the extent of privacy crimes committed against Pete Seeger and other musicians.”
Justin Benedict is a
contributing editor to the Campus Report.