#845: 1942, Pete Seeger, Dear Mr President

by George_East on January 29, 2014

Monday saw the death of folk legend and civil rights activist Pete Seeger at the ripe old age of 94.  His longevity is really astounding.  From his involvement in the New Deal folk scene of the mid to late 1930s through the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s to his appearance at the inauguration of Barack Obama singing This Land Is Your Land, Pete Seeger was there. 

He was friends with Woody Guthrie and Huddy “Leadbelly”  Leadbetter (another songwriter long overdue a song in Songs To Learn and Sing) and an inspiration to just about every politically oriented singer songwriter to emerge in the pop and rock era, from the young Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, through to  Bruce Springsteen to Billy Bragg.

He is probably the last musical connection to the Great Depression era.    This song, in a talking blues style familiar to many of the political folk songs of the era, embodies the commitment of the Greatest Generation to the defeat of Hitler and the hopes that that would lead to a better America.   The message is let’s put aside our differences now to fight the Nazis and then return to fight injustice on our home shores:

This is the reason that I want to fight,
Not because everything’s perfect or everything’s right.
No. it’s just the opposite…

I’m fighting because I want
A better America with better laws,
And better homes and jobs and schools,
And no more Jim Crow and no more rules,
Like you can’t ride on this train ’cause you’re a Negro,
You can’t live here ’cause you’re a Jew
You can’t work here ’cause you’re a union man.’

 

RIP Pete Seeger.

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