Tuesday, January 28, 2014

RIP Pete Seeger

RIP Pete Seeger, dead at 94.

Sometimes I think that one way to look at history is as a map, or flow diagram, of all the events that ever happened, with lines connecting each event to the thing that happened next.  A complete map would just be a jumble of swirls, but if you looked at a portion of it, with an idea in mind, some lines would appear thicker, or somehow more obvious, than their neighbors, and you would be able to discern a probability, or even an inevitability, of a chain of events leading to some ultimate event. A through line appears from the past to a single point of the present. It's pareidolia, a trick of the mind, but it seems obvious when you stare at it. This, I think, is how you get books that say 1815 was the decisive point in history that lead to the modern day, or 1835 was, or the domination of the route to the spice islands, or that Shakespeare must have worshiped the Triple Goddess.

In the case of a blog writer writing a blog post – such as I – then the through-line of history leads up to… me.

And when I look back at it, Seeger is a big part of the through-line to me, even though I've never bought one of his records and have probably heard less than two dozen of his songs.  That's because he was there in just about everything that mattered in my early life.  Unions, like the CIO, the Wobblies, the coal miners, the Lomax recordings, Lead Belly, the influence on Dylan.  The Great Folk Scare in general, and how it pushed rock music to develop  – skiffle and Jimmy Page's first TV break. Folkie Jake Holmes and Led Zeppelin's first big track. Babe I'm Gonna Leave You and the Topanga Canyon people. Civil rights and demonstrations, marchers singing We Shall Overcome.  Hippies and Alice's Restaurant, the famous search for authenticity in music, roots music and Americana.  My parents'  enduring love of folk clubs.  The British miners' strikes, the Three Day Week, the Notting Hill Riots. Thatcher's Britain, the Clash, the Queen's Jubilee.

Seeger and the events he set in motion was the through-line for all of that.

Vale, Pete Seeger.

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