- Paperback: 560 pages
- Publisher: Villard; Reprint edition (March 18, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0345506081
- ISBN-13: 978-0345506085
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #905,810 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How Can I Keep from Singing?: The Ballad of Pete Seeger Paperback – March 18, 2008
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Pete is not perfect. At times, it seems that he only thinks one way, and it is very difficult for him to change his mind. Of course, I'm not saying that he is wrong. However, times do change. He took decades to admit that his beliefs in the Soviet Union were wrong. He had a hard time understanding that the union movement of the 1930s had greatly changed after WWII, and that they no longer had a use for his type of songs. Nor, in fact, did the union movement of the 1950s readily support integration. In fact, they often opposed it, at least below the highest levels. The workers viewed it as a threat to their own employment.
This book is well written, and was fascinating to read. I do wish it had commented more on Pete's disagreement with Burl Ives' over the latter's going before HUAC, and his much later meeting with Ives shortly before Ives died, when they spoke and Seeger forgave him. While the book did mention Seeger's being upset, it did not mention his forgiveness.
I should explain. My father was, on his mother's side, a descendent of Massachusetts Colony Puritans, while his father was a Norwegian immigrant who trapped and rambled the northwest states and provinces from Minnesota to British Columbia.
Until reading this book I had always tried understanding my father through his father. Now, though, I find that Dad, born three years after Pete, developed habits and principles so much more akin to his own mother and her family and blended them with his own father's Seton-style life dreams and habits.
My first memory of the name Pete Seeger was while serving aboard PG 99 Beacon. We went to visit our namesake, Beacon NY. As we neared the hamlet we passed by the Clearwater and admired the sloop. Our senior chief explained to us the owner of the sloop was a Communist Folk Singer.
Our visit to Beacon included an interview with the local newspaper that was well written by mis-attributed my folksy comparison of living on a small ship to living in a small town.
Fast forward to 1976: Serving on the USS Sperry I spent duty nights listening to folk music on a local college sponsored radio station. The most notable artist was, of course, Pete Seeger. I bought several of his albums not so much because of the earlier connection, but, simply, because I had become hooked on listening to somebody whose songs were stories instead of noise and whose songs reminded me of my youth.
You see, on Friday mornings at Mark Twain Elementary in Lynwood, CA we always sang folk songs and many of them had, I learned in the 70's, been written or popularized by Pete Seeger.
By 1986 the world was changing. I loved folksy-type back to nature living and was trying to find my way to a life of E. T. Seton by publishing a very small Living Among Nature Daringly magazine. After publishing my first issue (such a disaster I nearly gave up) I received a reply from Pete Seeger to a lengthy list of questions I had naively mailed him some weeks previously.
I delighted in his thoughtful honest response to my letter and went on to publish issue two almost only because he did respond. I then went off to Cairo, Egypt for 19 months and continued publishing because his response gave me a reason to work my dream!
LAND Magazine went on to be awarded Best New magazine for 1986 by Bill Katz and Library Journal. Not bad for a periodical started by a man with no writing experience and only $22 and a Texas Instruments home computer and dot matrix printer!
Pete Seeger is responsible for my success then and with my having developed into a journalist with a determination to work for a unified peace-oriented world that puts human beings at the center of society. With Seeger and my father I share the dream for equality in pay, rights and privilege. In a nutshell that is what Pete Seeger told me was his primary goal in my interview of him in 1986. He told me also that his ideal was communism of the sort practiced by native Americans.
Altruistic perhaps but, as our society stretched along the road where some got ultra-rich while those who actually do the daily dredging slipped ever further into debt it was inevitable that a too-little-regulated capitalism would lead to panic for the rich in which the conservative wealthy would demand and obtain rescue while continuing to sacrifice the low and middle income workforce.
In short, what Pete and Woody and Huddie sang for was to prevent precisely what happened when nobody was around to sing or be heard singing for - freedom of speech, equality of privilege; civil rights; peace.
This book, How Can I Keep From Singing has done far more credit to Pete by staying frank, honest and balanced than it would had it adopted the natural line of hero-worship.
Where have all the flowers gone? Let us all plant the seeds today for the next generation. Pete Seeger and Toshi did for us.
In How Can I Keep From Singing? The Ballad of Pete Seeger, David King Dunaway has planted the first seed. How many others among us will do likewise? - C. William Anderson