Thursday, July 3, 2008

Pete Seeger performs in Montreal with Guy Davis, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger

The return of Seeger
Folk icon Pete Seeger makes a rare stage appearance Saturday in Montreal

MIKE REGENSTREIF, The Montreal Gazette

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The last time I interviewed Pete Seeger was in 1999 just as he was about to turn 80. He was planning to stay close to his Hudson River Valley home and just play a few songs occasionally for school kids or at benefit concerts. It was unlikely, he said then, that he'd travel far enough from home to perform in Montreal again.

Almost a decade later, though, the still-vigorous Seeger is on his way back to Montreal. His Saturday concert here kicks off a quickly arranged, and quickly sold-out, tour of small venues that also takes him to Toronto for two nights, Kingston and Ottawa in the company of acoustic blues revivalist Guy Davis and his grandson, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger of the folk-rocking Mammals. The three will share the stage, swapping songs and backing each other.

Reached at his home overlooking the Hudson River in upstate New York, Seeger told me he has fond memories of performing in Montreal.

"Sam Gesser hired me when nobody else would," Seeger said, referring to the late Montreal impresario who broke into the concert business with a Seeger concert in 1952 when most of the folksinger's performing opportunities were lost to the McCarthy-era blacklist. Gesser, who died April 1, brought Seeger to Montreal often over the next four decades.

Seeger is one of the most revered musicians of all time and has been a major influence on the likes of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen - who's done two albums of songs he learned from Seeger LPs - and almost everyone else who's picked up a banjo or acoustic guitar in the past 60 years.

Seeger's lengthy résumé includes forming two legendary folk groups: the Almanac Singers, with Woody Guthrie, before both shipped out to serve in the Second World War; and the Weavers, the group that brought folk music to the pop charts with Goodnight Irene and Tzena Tzena Tzena in 1949 before being blacklisted. Seeger has written or co-written scores of enduring songs, including Where Have All the Flowers Gone and If I Had a Hammer, has made hundreds of recordings and has been at the forefront of the civil rights, peace and environmental movements.

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