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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon October 23, 2009
There is no questioning that Pete Seeger is an icon in the music world. He is a folk legend but also an inductee in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - quite a stretch for some people to imagine; but what else could you expect from a man whose music has moved to action civil rights activists and union organizers.
This book describes Pete Seeger's life, mainly from his college years to about 2006. There are wonderful forwards by the editors and Tom Paxton, which will give you an idea of the depth of Seeger, if you have no idea who he is (but how could you not know his music?). Pictures from the collection of Pete and Toshi are integrated throughout the book.
There is much mention of how blue blooded Seeger is, but this is really never gone into in any depth to satisfy my curiosity..
His meeting and collaborations with Woody Guthrie and Guthrie's influence on Seeger is explained; but Pete's private life, his marriage with Toshi and some of his heartbreaks are also described. The period of his life and the effect of the years of the Red Scare are well delved into. The much told story of Dylan and Pete at the Newport Folk Festival is made clear and the birth of the Clearwater Movement for the Hudson is included.
It is interesting to learn how Pete wrote `Where Have All the Flowers Gone' from a Ukrainian folk song and how `We Shall Overcome' was developed. He truly is the beloved father of the American folk movement, even starting David Guard of the Kingston Trio on his way with the Seeger book ` How to Play a Banjo'.
As for the included CD, it is nice to have this 36 minute - 10 songs of Pete in his best voice. It contains his best known pieces.
Turn, turn, Turn/ Talking Union/ If I Had a Hammer/ Where Have All the Flowers Gone/ We shall Overcome/ Waist Deep in the big Muddy/ Sailing down My Golden River/ Abiyoyo/ Winoweh/ My Get up and Go.
The book and CD are truly essential for anyone interested in music of America.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2011
Until I read this book, I did not realize the debt I owe to Pete Seeger.

Some years ago, I was asked to play guitar and lead some singing for a Cub Scouts campfire. I had never lead campfire songs before and was unsure of how it was all going to work. Specifically, I needed some easy songs that everyone could sing, the type that if you didn't know it already, you could learn it quickly. The first song that I thought of was "If I Had a Hammer" (also known as "The Hammer Song"), which I now know was co-written by Pete Seeger. The song was a complete success and continues to be an integral part of my campfire repertoire.

This book is sparse on the biographical details of Seeger's life, since there is an extensive biography on Seeger already, How Can I Keep from Singing?: The Ballad of Pete Seeger. However, it focuses on the development of Seeger's beliefs in social change and how he used his chosen medium--singing and the banjo--to promote that change. In that regard, this book does a fine job. Having thought of Seeger as a musician first and an activist second, this book tells me that it was in fact the other way around.

Still, Seeger's musical influence is large. After the success of that first campfire, I felt I needed more material. I purchased a copy of Rise Up Singing which not only includes numerous songs by Seeger, it is published by Sing Out! magazine, which was started by--you guessed it--Seeger. Anyone who is interested in music as a collaborative process owes a debt to Seeger's work.

I've removed a star for a couple things that bugged me. The writing overall seems amateurish considering Winkler is a distinguished professor of history at Miami University in Ohio and the book is published by Oxford University Press. I expected a standard work of biography, but this feels more conversational, like a magazine article for young readers. Winkler to some extent explains this in his afterword, but by then it had already begun to annoy me. Also, I felt that the timeline of Seeger's life got muddled in the narrative and that maybe an appendix with a chronology would have helped.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2014
I so wish I had met this man before he died. Reading this book has affected me deeply ... in the most positive of ways.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Winkler has given us a stimulating biography of Pete Seeger. While shorter than David Dunaway's pathbreaking biography, it captures much of the essence of Seeger's music and politics, from a most positive perspective. Recommended for all folk music fans!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2015
Gave as a gift
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3 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2009
People who already know Pete seeger and have already readk books about him won't learn anything from this book, which take a little this and that from other books.
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