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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Werner Cohn: Pete Seeger's life of dissimulation

...Throughout his career, Seeger promoted fakelore materials, always representing himself as an practitioner of folk art.  One of his earliest songs, circa 1940, was this piece of fakelore to celebrate Earl Browder, the American Communist leader of the time:
Away out west in Kansas — the center of our land
The heart of great America, where John Brown made his stand
Let’s tip our hat to Kansas, where prairie breezes call,
For she gave birth to Browder — the greatest of them all
So Earl Browder, Stalin’s faithful lieutenant in America, is painted as an  American hero.  And this is presented as a piece of authentic “folk” wisdom.  As it happened, Earl Browder ran for President of the United States in that very year of 1940.  The American voters, as it also happened, awarded him exactly one tenth of one percent of their vote.  So when Seeger represented Browder as “the greatest of them all” in the affection of the American folk, whom was he kidding?...

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