From Publishers Weekly
In his latest book, New Yorker
writer Wilkinson (The Happiest Man in the World
) gives due praise to the influential American singer Pete Seeger, who humbly told his biographer that what's needed is a book that can be read in one sitting. It is just such a spirit of humility that emerges from Wilkinson's lovely and, indeed, brief profile of Seeger (who turns 90 in May), at once social activist, environmentalist and, above all, courageous musician, the peoples' singer, who wholeheartedly believed in his father's dictum that music, as any art, is not an end in itself, but is a means for achieving larger ends. Wilkinson's thorough research is artfully couched in his extended interviews with the singer on his wooded property in upstate New York, during which Seeger elucidates his storied genealogy, recounts his times with Woody Guthrie and describes his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955 (the full transcript of which is reprinted as an appendix). Wilkinson's biography reads as lucidly as if we were there with him, listening to Seeger's history as he boils maple sap down to syrup and chops his daily quota of firewood. In Wilkinson's writing, one can almost hear Seeger's axe splitting the logs. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
--This text refers to the
“Too much has been written about me, and at too great length,” says Pete Seeger, who turns 90 on May 3, 2009, and whose eventful life New Yorker contributor Wilkinson condenses into a one-sitting read (all Seeger thinks is necessary). Seeger’s life has been crammed with interesting activities and people. First among the latter is his father, composer and ur-musicologist Charles Seeger, whose journey to and away from communism prefigured his third son’s similar path; most famous among Seeger’s people is prolific protest singer Woody Guthrie. Freight-hopping minstrel at 20, top-of-the-charts record performer at 30, blacklistee scrambling to support his family at 40, voice of the civil-rights and antiwar movements thereafter, Seeger also built his family’s first home largely by himself, dreamed up a successful project to spur cleaning the Hudson River, and still boils his own maple syrup. His thousands of recordings go unappraised here, attesting the modesty he practices as an obligation more than a virtue. Wilkinson’s writing about him is modest, too: plain with a little clunky folksiness and reservedly though unmistakably affectionate. --Ray Olson
--This text refers to the