Friday, June 22, 2018

Quotations From Pete Seeger: Folk Music vs. Show Business

In his July/August 1974 Sing Out! magazine column (that's included in the book Pete Seeger: In His Own Words which Rob Rosenthal and Sam Rosenthal edited), Pete Seeger criticized the way most music magazines cover the folk music scene for the following reason::

"What's good about folk music is that it is not show business. It should not be show business.

"But the trouble with most `folk music' that they tell me what professional performer is singing here, and why that one is better than some other one. And somehow millions of people have gotten the idea that folk music is somebody standing on stage with a guitar in his or her hand. I'm sorry I ever had anything to do with giving such a false impression..."

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Quotations From Pete Seeger: On Fame and Celebrity Worship

As the book Pete Seeger: In His Own Words that Rob Rosenthal and Sam Rosenthal edited indicates, during the 1970s Pete Seeger wrote the following about the negative effects of fame and celebrity worship on people in modern society:

"...I feel very deeply that the whole feverish search to get close to `fame' is not only foolish but a symptom of something very bad in modern society around the world.

"Modern technology, mass production, has made some people too famous and has left billions of people feeling that they are unimportant, that they are just cogs in a big machine...This is really false. Everybody is important in this world...

"...I urge all autograph collectors to realize that the kind of fame people get in show business and politics is about the phoniest of all. To be in show business is to be in the professional publicity business. People are hired to send out releases to newspapers and to arrange for TV interviews..."

Monday, June 18, 2018

Quotations From Pete Seeger: On The Movement and The Celebrity Star System

In a May/June 1975 Sing Out! magazine column that was included in the Pete Seeger: In His Own Words book that Rob Rosenthal and Sam Rosenthal edited, Pete Seeger wrote the following about Movement activists' failure to generally fight against the U.S. corporate entertainment media's celebrity star system:

"You ask me, do I know `some big name performer' who can help your cause. Don't you realize that we all have to fight the star system? In this technological society, we have to oppose the cult of personality...

"...Revolutionists have always had to teach the people that some of the greatest talents in the world have no reputation to speak of; they have just been sitting beside us all the time, and we didn't know about it."

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Quotations From Pete Seeger: On The 1960s `Folk Music Revival'

In a letter that he wrote to Don West in the 1960s that was published in a book that Rob Rosenthal and Sam Rosenthal edited, Pete Seeger: In His Own Words, Pete Seeger made the following critique of the post-1960s "Folk Music Revival" in the USA and elsewhere:

"...The whole character and definition of the word `folk music' is being warped by the commercial image of the solo professional performer and the publicity surrounding (him or her)--and I think that you are right that magazines such as Sing Out are consciously or unconsciously contributing to this bad state of affairs by continually boosting the names of performers in articles rather than talking about the music and the unknown people who have created it and kept it alive.

"...In our present commercial system the star syndrome is the regular thing and I believe among the biggest victims of it are the so-called stars themselves. I know that I feel a victim of it personally because for 10 years I have tried to persuade Sing Out to play down my name, but it keeps popping up in every issue. I keep sending letters to publishing companies and record companies, but the basic facts of economic life keep running against me and there goes my name up in huge letters. I consented to a normal interview with the Christian Science Monitor and suddenly see a headline, `A Folk Hero Is Born.' What are you going to do about this kind of shit? I can tell you for sure that many times I've thought of quitting the whole music business because of it..."

In a March 25, 1986 letter that was published in the same book, Seeger also wrote the following:

"...In the long run what the human race needs in the way of music is the ability and the confidence to sing a song, whether it is at the fireside, bedside, tableside, workside, sidewalk side, or anywhere side without having to think of it as a `performance.' And none of the `folk revivals' in any country nor any festivals, magazines, recordings that I know of have really attacked the problem and made much headway in solving it...Music seems still to be in hock to the experts, and most of the millions listen..."

And in a December 20, 1986 letter that was also published in Pete Seeger: In His Own Words, Pete also wrote the following:

"What I wanted to do was try and get rank-and-file people singing again, whether parent singing to children or workers singing on the job or friends harmonizing in a car as they drove down the highway. But the prevalence of loudspeakers has defeated me and a lot of others and in the end our `Revival of Folk Music' seemed more like simply starting up another minor branch of the pop music business, especially appealing to middle-class whites..."