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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

'When he had a hammer,' Pete Seeger considered songs to be weapons

1/28/2014, "When he had a hammer," NY Post Editorial Board

"‘Songs are weapons,” Pete Seeger used to say. For more than seven decades, he led America in sing-alongs, even as most of his audiences remained blissfully unaware of the messages behind many of his songs.

Take the now-iconic “If I Had a Hammer. Today, it is admired as a call to justice. In fact, it was written for a 1949 testimonial dinner for top leaders of the US Communist Party, then on trial for advocating the violent overthrow of our government.

Such facts are missing from the tributes to the former Communist Party member, who died Monday at age 94. President Obama, for example, hailed him as “America’s tuning fork,” while Mayor de Blasio urged everyone to “sing a song for justice.”

Some will argue Seeger’s music should not be judged by the dubious movements he aligned himself with. But to Seeger himself they were inseparable.

Yes, he sang about “justice” and “freedom” and “peace.” But when Hitler and Stalin signed their pact in 1939, Seeger followed the party line, abandoning anti-fascism to sing out against “warmongering” by FDR — only to reverse himself, as the party did, when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union.

And yes, he protested US involvement in Vietnam. But he refused to join fellow singer Joan Baez in protesting the terrible abuses there after the communists won.

However brilliant a musical artist Pete Seeger may have been, honesty requires acknowledging that “America’s national treasure” was a tarnished gem."
via Lucianne.


Comment: I didn't know the story behind "If I had a hammer," which I associate with Peter, Paul, and Mary. 


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