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Pete Seeger Outlasted the Bastards

A fresh stamp recognizes the proud American radical who was simply once blacklisted by Joe McCarthy and several American fascists.

Newport, Rhode IslandPete Seeger was among the couple of visionaries who started the Newport Folk Festival in 1959, at the same time when elite venues refused to permit the daddy of American folk music anywhere near a microphone. So that it was only fitting that the united states Postal Service issued a stamp featuring Seeger the other day on the eve of the festival, in a particular ceremony where musicians and fans honored the singer for his music and his activism.

An unbiased agency of the executive branch of america authorities issued the forever stamp in recognition of the radical who was simply once blacklisted for his ideas and his willingness to speak truth to power.

At the height of the Red Scare in the mid-1950s, Seeger was targeted by congressional Red-baitersparticularly the members of the home Un-American Activities Committee. They identified him being an undesirable dissident who as a man had aligned with the Communist Party when it had been playing a prominent role in organizing unions, campaigning against lynching, and electing members of the brand new York City Council. The Cold Warera criticism of Seeger led r / c to ban his songs. His record label dropped him. And the home Un-American Activities Committee hauled him set for questioning.

Because the anti-Communist witch hunt started to define not only the politics of the united states however the culture aswell, Seeger among others on the leftsuch as singer and actor Paul Robeson and screenwriter Lillian Hellmanwere pushed toward the sidelines of American public life. Conservatives in both political parties silenced some of the most talented performers in the usa at the peak of these careers since they considered suspect an ardent advocacy for desegregation, strong unions, social welfare, peace, and disarmament.

In the 1950s and 60s, Seeger explained that the band of American fascists that targeted him had enough capacity to silence anyone who disagreed using them. But history includes a method of rewarding the righteous. Seegers image is on a USPS stamp now, as the image of the very most prominent of the Red-baiters, Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy, remains as tarnished since it was once the great American lawyer Joseph Walsh asked the senator, Perhaps you have no sense of decency, sir? Finally, perhaps you have left no sense of decency?

The grip of the Red Scare that McCarthy generated, and of the blacklist connected with it, loosened so slowly that lots of of its targetscivil rights campaigners, social justice advocates, peace activists, and artistsdid not live long enough to be exonerated in the court of public opinion. But Seeger, who was simply blacklisted after becoming a global star in the first 1950s when he was singing folk songs with The Weavers, sang his in the past.

He kept cowriting songs, such as for example Where Have All of the Flowers Gone? and when I Had a Hammer. He popularized protest anthems such as for example WE WILL Overcome, played concerts in union halls and open fields, inspired generations of young singers such as for example Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, and finally became a banjo-playing father figure for the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s. But broadcast networks didnt allow Seeger on television until September 1967almost 15 years following the conservative vendetta against him began. He appeared that fall on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and then have CBS censors bar him from singing Waist Deep in the Big Muddy, that has been heard as a protest against growing US military involvement in Vietnam.

Eventually, Seeger became a grand old man of popular music, even while he maintained the radical faith that saw him marching and singing with Occupy Wall Street activists just a couple of years before his death. While he still took the casual Red-baiting jab from probably the most extreme right-wing politicians and pundits, the American public accepted him back to the mainstreamespecially after Bruce Springsteen recorded his 2006 album, WE WILL Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, and toured the united states with a band that performed a lot of Seegers greatest songs. In 2009, when he performed for President Barack Obamas first inauguration, Springsteen invited a spry 89-year-old Seeger on stage to sing a rousing version of Woody Guthries This Land can be your Land.

Springsteen would later recall,

That day, once we sang This Land can be your Land, I viewed Petethe first Black president of america was seated at his rightand I considered the incredible journey that Pete had taken. My very own growing up in the Sixties in towns scarred by race rioting made that moment nearly unbelievable, and Pete had 30 extra years of struggle and real activism on his belt. He was so happy that day. It had been like, Pete, you outlasted the bastards, man!

When Seeger died in 2014 at age 94, then-President Obama praised him for reminding us where we result from and showing us where we have to go.

Said Obama:

Once called Americas tuning fork, Pete Seeger believed deeply in the energy of song. But moreover, he believed in the energy of community to operate for whats right, speak out against whats wrong, and move this country nearer to the America he knew we’re able to be. Through the years, Pete used his voice, and his hammer, to strike blows for workers rights and civil rights, world peace, and environmental conservation. And he always invited us to sing along.

That has been a grand tribute. But theres something a lot more permanent in regards to a postage stamp, especially the forever stamp that has Seegers image. In a day and time when another band of American fascists is on the march, its a reminder that people can outlast the bastardsjust like Pete Seeger did.

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