I posted the full text of The Declaration of Independence at Just Gene’O today. I’m not going to wax poetic here today. I’ll share a song instead.
“This Land is Your Land” has always been one of my favorite songs. It’s Guthrie’s response Berlin’s “God Bless America,” and it’s very much a critical responst. Here’s Pete Seeger and a couple of other musicians you might recognize performing it with Guthrie’s original lyrics at the Presidential Inaugural Concert in 2009. The last stanza was added during the Civil Rights Movement; I’m not sure if it’s Seeger’s work or someone else’s, but it sounds like him.
Once upon a time, wasn’t singing a part of everyday life as much as talking, physical exercise, and religion? Our distant ancestors, wherever they were in this world, sang while pounding grain, paddling canoes, or walking long journeys. Can we begin to make our lives once more all of a piece? Finding the right songs and singing them over and over is a way to start. And when one person taps out a beat, while another leads into the melody, or when three people discover a harmony they never knew existed, or a crowd joins in on a chorus as though to raise the ceiling a few feet higher, then they also know there is hope for the world.
This was a great man. I don’t care how you feel about banjos, or the left, or unions, or songwriting. You can disagree with his politics or say his art is not to your taste. But you cannot deny that Pete Seeger was a great man. I’d be remiss if I allowed this day end without marking his passing.
Look at what Woody Guthrie painted on his guitar.
This Machine Kills Fascists
Now look at what Pete Seeger inscribed on his banjo.
This Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces it to Surrender