"To Everything There Is a Season": Pete Seeger and the Power of Song

by Allan M. Winkler
     
 

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Author or coauthor of such legendary songs as "If I Had a Hammer," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" and "Turn, Turn, Turn," Pete Seeger is the most influential folk singer in the history of the United States. In "To Everything There Is a Season": Pete Seeger and the Power of Song, Allan Winkler describes how Seeger

Overview

Author or coauthor of such legendary songs as "If I Had a Hammer," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" and "Turn, Turn, Turn," Pete Seeger is the most influential folk singer in the history of the United States. In "To Everything There Is a Season": Pete Seeger and the Power of Song, Allan Winkler describes how Seeger applied his musical talents to improve conditions for less fortunate people everywhere. This book uses Seeger's long life and wonderful songs to reflect on the important role folk music played in various protest movements of the twentieth century.

A tireless supporter of union organization in the 1930s and 1940s, Seeger joined the Communist Party, performing his songs with banjo and guitar accompaniment to promote worker solidarity. In the 1950s, he found himself under attack during the Red Scare for his radical past. In the 1960s, he became the minstrel of the civil rights movement, focusing its energy with songs that inspired protestors and challenged the nation's patterns of racial discrimination. Toward the end of the decade, he turned his musical talents to resisting the war in Vietnam, and again drew fire from those who attacked his dissent as treason. Finally, in the 1970s, he lent his voice to the growing environmental movement by leading the drive to clean up the Hudson River. The book seeks to answer such fundamental questions as: What was the source of Seeger's appeal? How did he capture the attention and affection of people around the world? And why is song such a powerful medium?

Richly researched and crisply written, "To Everything There Is a Season": Pete Seeger and the Power of Song is an ideal supplement for U.S. history survey courses, as well as twentieth-century U.S. history and history of American folk music courses.

To purchase Pete Seeger songs discussed in the text, visit the following link for an iTunes playlist compiled by Oxford University Press:

(http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewIMix? id=375976891)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Winkler's book is obviously a labor of love.... The book is carefully written by a scholar who identifies with Seeger and his causes.... Winkler's fine book should introduce readers to Seeger and encourage further exploration of Dunaway's scholarship. But of greater significance is the encouragement that Winkler gives his readers to listen and sing along with Seeger's music."—History News Network

"Allan Winkler...has written the best brief biography of Seeger in print."—PopMatters

"Winkler pays welcome attention to how Toshi Seeger made possible her husband's life as protester and artist — a fact that can escape Pete."—Cleveland Plain Dealer

"A remarkable testament to Seeger and his contributions to American music and culture, this informative, well-documented, yet conversational book will appeal to anyone with an interest in folk music. Essential."—A.C. Shahriari, CHOICE

"This is an excellent biography for folk-music fans, teen activists, and U.S. history buffs." —School Library Journal

Library Journal

These two biographies celebrate the season of Seeger as he turns 90 on May 3, 2009. Because his life has been lived mostly in the public eye and there are relatively few archival materials, the authors repeat many of the same stories in almost exactly the same words. Both books chronicle Seeger's life from his childhood artistic ambitions to his growing love of music, early years as a folk musician with the Weavers, and passionate commitments to the Civil Rights, anti-Vietnam War, and environmental movements.

An accomplished storyteller, New Yorker writer Wilkinson (The Happiest Man in the World) draws on interviews with Seeger and others to present a seamless chronicle of his life and music, vivifying his passion for humanity, love of the environment, and deep curiosity about music. Although Wilkinson passes lightly over the origins of some of Seeger's songs, he shows how Seeger discovers that music can stem the tide of hatred, ignorance, and prejudice and be a force for reconciliation. Wilkinson includes two appendixes featuring reflections by Seeger's father on the purpose of music and a transcript of Seeger's testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955.

Winkler (Distinguished Professor of History, Miami Univ. in Ohio; Home Front U.S.A.: America During World War II) covers the same ground in a more workmanlike and pedantic fashion. Using the titles of Seeger's songs as framing devices, he peers into each chapter of Seeger's life at modest length, providing some details about how or why a song came to be written. In an afterword, Winkler reveals his adoration of Seeger by telling stories of sitting down with Seeger to play hissongs. All libraries will want a copy of Wilkinson's lively portrait; only large public and academic libraries should consider Winkler's treatment.
—Henry L. Carrigan Jr.

School Library Journal
Adult/High School—Born in 1919, Seeger was surrounded by music. His mother was a talented violinist, and his father played the piano. Growing up, he played the ukulele, accordion, autoharp, and piano without formal lessons. At an exclusive boarding school, he found his love—a four-string banjo. He attended Harvard on a scholarship and left to start a writing career in politics in New York City, leaving music behind. Because of the Depression, it was nearly impossible to find a job. Folklorist Alan Lomax found Seeger and challenged him to play the banjo again. He met the likes of Woody Guthrie, Aunt Molly Jackson, and Lead Belly, and was captivated by the music and songs of protest. His tremendous talent to combine words and music led to the important role of folk music during various activism movements including the 1930s pro-union and Communist Party movements, 1960s Civil Rights Movement, the 1970s anti-Vietnam War stance, and more. Readers will appreciate Seeger's story from his early years exploring music to his conviction about injustice. One of the most influential folk singers in U.S. history, culture, and politics, Seeger's work will have a lasting effect for generations to come. This is an excellent biography for folk-music fans, teen activists, and U.S. history buffs.—Gregory Lum, Jesuit High School, Portland, OR

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195324822
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
08/11/2010
Series:
New Narratives in American History Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
4.70(w) x 6.70(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

Allan M. Winkler is Distinguished Professor of History at Miami University in Ohio. He has also taught at Yale University and the University of Oregon. A prize-winning teacher, he is the author or editor of ten books, including The Politics of Propaganda: The Office of War Information, 1942-1945, Home Front U.S.A.: America during World War II , Life Under a Cloud: American Anxiety about the Atom , and Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Making of Modern America. He is also co-author of the college textbook The American People: Creating a Nation and a Society and the high school textbook America: Pathways to the Present.

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