Pete Seeger would have been 100

The Pete Seeger Centennial Concert will be held Thursday, May 23 at The Egg in Albany.

Pete SeegerAt some point, I estimated that I saw Pete Seeger perform 32 times. The first time may have been at a George McGovern for President rally at SUNY New Paltz in the fall of 1972.

Pete would show up at various antiwar and environmental events up and down the Hudson in the 1970s.

I believe the only time I ever spoke to him, other than saying, “Hi, Pete!” was at an anti-apartheid rally in Albany in 1981; it was pouring rain. I saw him at a concert at Page Hall in Albany in April 1982. And I was on the Clearwater once.

I’ve written about Pete quite a bit, with some nifty links. I mentioned Goodnight Irene by the Weavers last week, and tomorrow will feature another Pete song.

So if you don’t know who he is, I’ll recommend:
Smithsonian Folkways biography
National Public Radio pieces
Songwriters Hall of Fame page
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame page; he was rightly inducted in 1996 as an early influence
All Music bio
Wikipedia page
Pete Seeger music
IMBD page, which has this quote: “His life since then has been one social cause after another, buoyed by an almost indefatigable career as a self-described ‘sing-along leader.'”

There are a number of Pete-themed centennial concerts this month, including one in Albany today featuring Happy Traum at the Linda. The Pete Seeger Centennial Concert will be held Thursday, May 23 at The Egg in Albany. Arlo Guthrie will be joined by a baker’s dozen of artists.

Listen to:
The Nation: Pete Seeger’s Top Ten Songs. “Musically, Seeger was both a songwriter and, like his idol Woody Guthrie, a great interpreter of America’s most resonant folk traditions.”
Rolling Stone: 20 Essential Tracks.
Greatest Hits, which is a bit of misnomer
Forever Young – Pete Seeger –
He Discusses “Turn, Turn, Turn” from If I Had a Hammer: Songs of Hope and Struggle
A Never-Before-Heard Pete Seeger Recording

S is for Pete Seeger

Johnny Cash and Pete Seeger talk about the origins of the Cherokee written language.

peteseegerI was, and am, a big fan of the late folk singer Pete Seeger (May 3, 1919 – January 27, 2014). I wrote about him on his 90th birthday in 2009 HERE, though I am surprised that I didn’t mention the fact that I had the opportunity to actually talk with Pete at the Springboks demonstration.

My affection for the We Shall Overcome album I have documented.

I remember watching him singing Waist Deep in the Big Muddy on The Smothers Brothers Show after it had previously been yanked by CBS.

The documentary Wasn’t That A Time, about the reunion of the Weavers- Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, Fred Hellerman, and Lee Hays – came out in 1982. I saw it at least a decade later. You should watch it.

Still, I keep learning things about the singer. Earlier this year, I wrote about the song Black and White, popularized by Three Dog Night but performed a decade and a half earlier by Seeger.

Then there was this: Rainbow Quest (1965–66) was a U.S. television series devoted to folk music. It was on public television, but not in any market I was in. There were 39 episodes. Here’s a description of the last one:

“Way back in the halcyon days of black and white TV, Johnny Cash and Pete Seeger talk about the origins of the Cherokee written language, and sing a Peter La Farge song of the Seneca trust broken in treaties with the U.S. government.” June Carter also appeared on that episode.

You can watch a sample of it HERE.

“Starting in the early 1980s 38 of the shows were made available on VHS, Betamax, and 3/4″ (U-Matic) tapes… The 39th show, featuring Johnny Cash and June Carter, was withheld at the request of Pete Seeger because Johnny Cash was heavily on drugs during his appearance. However, in the late ’90s, this show was released to the public.”

Here are some other episodes, along with the last episode in full.

ABC Wednesday – Round 18

The Lion: Mbube to Wimoweh

Pete Seeger expressed concerns about the copyright laws associated with the song Wimoweh.

Mbube1938Way back in December 2008, Coverville, one of my favorite podcasts, presented an episode, #535, Mbube to Wimoweh – The Lion Sleeps Tonight Cover Story. It’s the narrative of a particular song you’ve probably heard.

This Wikipedia post tells how Mbube was a song written by Solomon Linda and recorded by him originally with the group the Evening Birds for the Gallo Record Company of South Africa in 1939.

In 1949, Alan Lomax, then working as folk music director for Decca Records, brought Linda’s 78 recording to the attention of his friend Pete Seeger of the folk group The Weavers.

In November 1951, after having performed the song for at least a year in their concerts, The Weavers recorded an adapted version with brass and string orchestra and chorus as a 78 single entitled “Wimoweh”, a mishearing of the original song’s chorus of “Uyimbube”, Zulu: You are a lion… It reached Billboard’s top ten and became a staple of The Weavers’ live repertoire. It achieved mass exposure (without orchestra) in their best-selling The Weavers at Carnegie Hall LP album, recorded in 1955 and issued in 1957, and was covered extensively by other folk revival groups…

I always preferred the non-orchestrated version myself; here’s the live reunion version at Carnegie Hall.


In 1961, two RCA producers…engaged Juilliard-trained musician and lyricist George David Weiss to fashion an arrangement for a planned new pop music cover of “Wimoweh”… Weiss wrote English lyrics:

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight…
Hush, my darling, don’t fear, my darling, etc.

He also brought in the soprano voice of opera singer Anita Darian to vocalize (reprising Yma Sumac)… her eerie descant sounding almost like another instrument. The Tokens, who loved The Weavers’ version of the song… were appalled and were initially reluctant to sing the new arrangement. But ultimately, they allowed themselves to be persuaded. Issued by RCA in 1961, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” rocketed to number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

Why am I thinking about this again? Because that copyright course I took a couple of months ago had a reference to the history behind the controversy over “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and links to these three YouTube videos:

Linda’s “Mbube” – 1939 (start at 0:21)
The Weavers with Pete Seeger “Wimoweh” – 1952 (start at 1:13)
The Tokens “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” – 1961 (start at 0:15)

Pete Seeger expressed concerns about the copyright laws associated with the song… Although Linda’s name was listed as a performer on the record, The Weavers assumed that the song was traditional. The Weavers’ managers and publisher and their attorneys, however, knew otherwise, because they were contacted by and reached an agreement with Eric Gallo of South Africa… As early as the 1950s, when Linda’s authorship was made clear, Seeger sent him a donation of one thousand dollars and instructed TRO/Folkways to henceforth donate his (Seeger’s) share of authors’ earnings.

But that did not happen.

“In July 2004, as a result of the publicity generated by [Rian] Malan’s Rolling Stone article and the subsequently filmed documentary, the song became the subject of a lawsuit between Solomon Linda’s estate and Disney,” who had used the song, albeit briefly, in the movie The Lion King. Linda’s heirs are finally getting rewarded for the use of a song that had gone through a tremendous transformation.


As mentioned, there’s been a legal settlement between the heirs of Jack Kirby (at minimum, co-creator of half of the early Marvel Comics universe including X-Men, Fantastic Four, and The Avengers) and Disney/Marvel. A lot of fanboys have it wrong that Kirby sued Marvel, or that Kirby’s heirs are just greedy. Here’s the report in Reuters, and Geeky Universe, and Kurt Busiek’s comments on CBR, which begin: “The amount of misinformation presented in this thread is staggering.”

SOMETHING must have spooked Disney/Marvel. They had won several preliminary decisions in lower courts, and the current composition of SCOTUS, where the Kirbys appealed, tends to support the corporations. In spite of it all, Dis/Mar thought it could lose, and worse, set precedent for other creators of that period. Maybe the amicus briefs noted by Busiek helped.

Maybe I can finally start seeing those Marvel movies again, which I had been avoiding until this case was settled. First up, The Avengers.

September Rambling: unlikely friendships, and NYC songs


Infrastructure, Suburbs, and the Long Descent to Ferguson. Also, Pantheon Songs on the singing group The Impressions, featuring Curtis Mayfield, which is also about Ferguson.

Next Time Someone Says Women Aren’t Victims Of Harassment, Show Them This. Plus, These Are The Things Men Say To Women On The Street. Oy: Woman Discovers ‘Rape Room’ in Comic Book Store; Is Promptly Fired. Also, Ray Rice, a Broken NFL Culture, and How to Fix It and ‘The Burning Bed,’ 30 years later. And Ray Rice, now.

John Oliver’s investigation reveals Miss America scholarship claims are made of lies.

This month, the 7th circuit struck down gay marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin. “The three judge panel was unanimous and the opinion was written by [conservative] Judge Richard Posner.” After listening to his oral arguments and reading the opinion, what kind of rebuttal could someone could possibly make? Continue reading “September Rambling: unlikely friendships, and NYC songs”

March Rambling: mostly about me

I’ve been Superman, Abraham Lincoln, and a Georgia O’Keefe painting.

My old buddy Augustus (who you FantaCo customers might have known as Matt), put this together for my birthday. Pic on the left is from the cover of the FantaCon 1988 convention program, drawn by the late Chas Balun. The image is on the right was John Hebert’s rendition from Sold Out #1, c. 1986.
This is about me because: It was so cool. And he wrote: “Thank you for turning me on to a world of literature far beyond science fiction and fantasy. You are still an influence on this boychik. Long may you arrange. (books in order).” And you thought I couldn’t blush.

Now Jaquandor KNOWS how to celebrate my birthday. He added me to his sentential links here. He answered my question about football.
This is about me, obviously. (Sidebar: some highly educated person wrote: “As is my want” recently in a mass e-mail I received. You have NO idea how difficult it was for me NOT to correct him. Jaquandor would NOT make this misteak, er, mistake.)

Tom Skulan of FantaCo is being interviewed for Theater of Guts.
This is about me because: I worked at FantaCo for over eight years I took the photo of Tom, and also the pic of the late Chas Balun looking towards the ceiling. I find it interesting that my photos of the store and the FantaCon have been so heavily used since I am really a lousy photographer.

Dustbury answers my question about women’s fashion. Not only does he know more about the topic than I do, but he also knows more about popular music.
This is about me because: as a librarian, I am always ready to defer to people with greater expertise.

Occasionally, I’ll do one of those BuzzFeed games. This month, I’ve been Superman, Abraham Lincoln, and a Georgia O’Keefe painting.
This is about me because: actually I found the first two descriptions relatively accurate; the third, maybe not so much.

Meet Jeopardy!’s new master–and his controversial strategy, [Podcast interview] by Glenn Fleishman, two-time JEOPARDY! winner. Plus Arthur Chu’s social media brand, from the New Yorker.
This is about me because: I like to watch JEOPARDY! And now that Chu’s 11-day run is over, these articles will stop, at least until the Tournament of Champions. See also, Ken Jennings’ interview with Julann Griffin, the mother of JEOPARDY!

Tosy continues to count down his U2 song rankings, from 144 to 135 and 134 to 125 and 125 to 115 and 114 to 101.
This is about me because: When I wrote that I was linking to his return post last month, he wrote, “Thanks, Roger! I need the pressure!” I THINK he meant that in a good way.

Eddie, the Renaissance Geek, links to Green Day songs.
This is about me because: I mean it’s GREEN Day. Yeesh. How is it that American Idiot is MORE relevant now than it was a decade ago?

In the years 1965-1966, Pete Seeger hosted a television series, Rainbow Quest, devoted to folk music. Here are 13 of the 39 episodes.
This is about me because: I loved Pete Seeger’s music, and I used to sing folk music, and this was posted by a sort of relative.

Incredibly dirty R&B: gloriously filthy music from the 30s-50s
This is about me because I really like music, as my posts this year should suggest. I’m particularly interested in the history of music in the United States. Yeah, that’s the story.

Why Sharp Little Pencil writes.
This is about me because: we lived in the same county (Broome, NY), at the same time, once upon a time. And because she speaks truth to power, which I find to be an admirable thing.

Here is, on a wall of Binghamton High School, a picture of Rod Serling.
This is about me because: Rod Serling went to what was then Binghamton Central High School, as did I. He was student government president, as was I. I got to introduce him to an assembly, sort of.

Mark Evanier linked to twelve songs, all but one sung by Mel Blanc, voicing a different cartoon character, each a “Happy Birthday” song for a different month. Here’s
January and February, and
March and April, and
May and June, and
July and August, and
September and October, and
November and December. PLUS Happy Birthday played on “the 5th largest organ in the world”
This is about me because: did I mention this is my birth month?

12 YEARS A SLAVE: portraits of Solomon Northup’s descendants
This is about me because: what it says about our preconceived notions. And because it’s about movies. And Northup lived around here.

My cousin Dr. Anne Beal is leaving one important job for another.
This is about me because: my family had Thanksgiving dinner with hers, and about a dozen other people, in 2013.

Stephen Bissette‘s open letter to DC on Facebook about NBC’s Constantine.
This is about me because my friend Steve’s dissection of DC is so deliciously understated, and addresses the issue of common courtesy.

Rory O’Neill, aka Panti Bliss, a leading drag performer in Ireland, speaks about homophobia.
This is about me because the narrative reminds me of certain people on a certain “news network” defining racism for black people.

Lisa retells the story of Esther, which led to the holiday of Purim.
This is about me because: about 20 years ago, I played Haman in a church play.

What’s the reality behind “senior moments”?
This is about me because: because…because…oh, yeah, because this TOTALLY explains mine.

Anthony sees an anxious face in this picture of a building.
This is about me because: so do I.

The Lost Art of the Unsent Angry Letter from Jaquandor, and the AmeriNZ response.
This is about me because: I seldom respond quickly to comments on the Internet so that I can avoid unnecessary noise.

SamuraiFrog is linking to Muppet stuff, such as Sequel Song and Lipton Tea commercials, and searching for sushi and St. Patrick’s Day.
This is about me because: The Daughter REALLY wants to see the new Muppet movie, so I GUESS I’ll just HAVE to take her.

Les Miserables is back on Broadway, and Sesame Street has put together an excellent cookie-themed parody of it.
This is about me because: I love theater and Muppets. And COOKIES!


Frog is also still writing his 50 Shades of Smartass. Here’s Chapter 17 and Chapter 18 and Chapter 19 and Chapter 20.
This is about me because: now I have an excuse to REALLY NEVER EVER have to read the books.

Dustbury notes that a strange story about the woman’s auto-payments hid her death for six years!
This is about me because my auto-posting on this blog, and directed to Facebook and Twitter, would probably hide my own demise for a month.

I love this church sign.
This is about me because: I TOTALLY mean it. Bring it on, Westboro! Here’s my Fred Phelps tribute post. Here’s Nathan Phelps’ statement on the death of his estranged father. And Dustbury points to the new Westboro poison meister.

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