Saturday, November 24, 2012

Pete Seeger

Following on from some past posts about age, here is another item, this time the lyrics to a Pete Seeger song. He can be viewed singing it at: 

There are some worthwhile messages in there . . . 

Old age is golden, or so I’ve heard said, 
But sometimes I wonder, as I crawl into bed, 
With my ears in a drawer, my teeth in a cup, 
My eyes on the table until I wake up. 
As sleep dims my vision, I say to myself: 
Is there anything else I should lay on the shelf? 
But, though nations are warring, and Congress is vexed, 
We’ll still stick around to see what happens next! 

How do I know my youth is all spent? 
My get-up-and-go has got up and went! 
But, in spite of it all, I’m able to grin 
And think of the places my getup has been! 

When I was young, my slippers were red; 
I could kick up my heels right over my head. 
When I was older my slippers were blue, 
But still I could dance the whole night through. 
Now I am older, my slippers are black. 
I huff to the store and puff my way back. 
But never you laugh; I don’t mind at all: 
I’d rather be huffing than not puff at all! 

How do I know my youth is all spent? 
My get-up-and-go has got up and went! 
But, in spite of it all, I’m able to grin 
And think of the places my getup has been! 

I get up each morning and dust off my wits, 
Open the paper, and read the Obits. 
If I’m not there, I know I’m not dead, 
So I eat a good breakfast and go back to bed! 

How do I know my youth is all spent? 
My get-up-and-go has got up and went! 
But, in spite of it all, I’m able to grin 
And think of the places my getup has been! 

Peter "Pete" Seeger (1919 - ) is an American folk singer and songwriter. Well known from radio in the 1940’s, where he performed with Burl Ives, Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie, he was an early advocate for progressive causes which included racial integration, unionisation, workers’ and equal rights of all persons. As a member of the group The Weavers, there were a string of popular hits but the early 1950’s saw them blacklisted as part of the McCarthy Communist witchhunts. 

Seeger’s popularity was revived in the 1960’s when he led the protest song movement, spearheading support for disarmament, civil rights and environmental causes. Seeger is also known for writing, or co-writing, Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, If I Had a Hammer and Turn, Turn, Turn. He has continued performing and taking an active part in causes. 

Film of him performing at his 90th birthday concert can be viewed at: 

On April 26, 2012, tens of thousands of Norwegians gathered in a show of unity at a rally in Oslo to sing Pete Seeger's song "My Rainbow Race" which mass murderer Anders Breivik had ridiculed as an example of "Marxist" brainwashing. The song, which Seeger wrote in 1971 to protest the war in Vietnam, has long been a popular children's song in Norway. Culture ministers from Sweden, Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Iceland joined in the singing.. From the U.S. Pete Seeger voiced his support of the event. 

Pete Seeger testifies before the HUAC, 1955

Jim Musselman, founder of Appleseed Recordings, producer of Pete Seeger’s records and longtime friend, has commented on Seeger’s appearance before McCarthy’s House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in 1955: 
“He was one of the few people who invoked the First Amendment in front of the McCarthy Committee. Everyone else had said the Fifth Amendment, the right against self-incrimination, and then they were dismissed. What Pete did, and what some other very powerful people who had the guts and the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the committee and say, ‘I’m gonna invoke the First Amendment, the right of freedom of association.’ And I was actually in law school when I read the case of Seeger v. United States, and it really changed my life, because I saw the courage of what he had done and what some other people had done by invoking the First Amendment, saying, ‘We’re all Americans. We can associate with whoever we want to, and it doesn’t matter who we associate with.’ That’s what the founding fathers set up democracy to be. So I just really feel it’s an important part of history that people need to remember.” 
Some of Pete Seeger’s responses to HUAC questioning: 
“I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this. I would be very glad to tell you my life if you want to hear of it.” 
"I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, or yours, Mr. Willis, or yours, Mr. Scherer, that I am any less of an American than anybody else. I love my country very deeply, sir."
“I feel these questions are improper, sir, and I feel they are immoral to ask any American this kind of question.” 
“I have sung for Americans of every political persuasion, and I am proud that I never refuse to sing to an audience, no matter what religion or color of their skin, or situation in life. I have sung in hobo jungles, and I have sung for the Rockefellers, and I am proud that I have never refused to sing for anybody.” 
“I am proud that I have sung for Americans of every political persuasion, and I have never refused to sing for anybody because I disagreed with their political opinion, and I am proud of the fact that my songs seem to cut across and find perhaps a unifying thing, basic humanity..” 
“I am saying voluntarily that I have sung for almost every religious group in the country, from Jewish and Catholic, and Presbyterian and Holy Rollers and Revival Churches, and I do this voluntarily. I have sung for many, many different groups-and it is hard for perhaps one person to believe, I was looking back over the twenty years or so that I have sung around these forty-eight states, that I have sung in so many different places.” 
“I decline to discuss, under compulsion, where I have sung, and who has sung my songs, and who else has sung with me, and the people I have known. I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American. I will tell you about my songs, but I am not interested in telling you who wrote them, and I will tell you about my songs, and I am not interested in who listened to them.” 
Pete Seeger was sentenced to a year in jail for contempt of Congress but appealed his case successfully after a fight that lasted until 1962. 

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