|Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert, and|
Fred Hellerman at Carnegie Hall in 1980
But Seeger's was a life of gutsy decisions, some of them simply the result of being in the right place, however ironically, at the right time, and deciding to stay there when a sense of safety might have suggested otherwise.
One of the foundation stones of his home in Beacon, NY, was a rock hurled through his car window by a state trooper in Peekskill in 1949, the aftermath of a concert at which Seeger, Paul Robeson, and many other left-leaning performers performed. As the local VFW saw it, it was a petrie dish of communist bacilla, sure to infect the surrounding populace, so they -- with the help of the troopers and other thugs -- ambushed the staging area and battered the departing vehicles. (An inquiry went to then-governor Dewey, who sided with the thugs.)
The improbable pairing of Seeger's new singing group, The Weavers, and dance-band leader Gordon Jenkins resulted in an even more improbable hit when "Goodnight, Irene" topped the charts in 1950. Jenkins's sweet strings and easy-listening chorus may seem incongruous, but he knew how to grab America's ears and Seeger never had a word to say against him.
An interesting sidenote is that Jenkins asked the Weavers to record their repertory for him before he created the arrangements he made for a series of discs on the Decca label, and those recordings -- along with the Decca sides -- were CD-issued by the Bear Family label and are worth a search.
I reviewed Seeger's recent appearance at Proctors in Schenectady here; there's a CD review here, and a piece about a collection of Broadside recordings here. So long; it's been good to know you.