Tuesday, May 5, 2009

NYTimes Review of Seeger Birthday Concert

Pete Seeger Celebrates 90th With a Concert
New York Times May 5, 2009, Music Review


The celebrator who made the most noise and aroused the strongest sentiment during Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday party at Madison Square Garden Sunday night was the one who couldn’t make it.

No, President Obama was not there, but his presence loomed large over this gathering of progressives. In an updated version of the 1930s labor anthem “Which Side Are You On?” Ani DiFranco sang, “Now there’s folks in Washington that care what’s on our minds.” Bruce Springsteen told of rehearsing for the recent presidential inauguration with Mr. Seeger, who had relayed the story of “We Shall Overcome,” crucial to both the labor and civil rights movements. Watching the transfer of power, Mr. Springsteen said, “was like, ‘Pete, you outlasted the bastards, man.’ It was so nice.”

The new president did send a letter, though, praising Mr. Seeger for voicing “the hopes and dreams of everyday people.” And, as was evident throughout this four-hour-plus event — a birthday party masquerading as a fund-raiser for Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, a preservation charity founded by Mr. Seeger — many have tried to follow in that path, or at least capture some of his refracted glow. More than 40 performers gathered to pay tribute to Mr. Seeger — one of the lions of American folk music and still indefatigable — who, save for a handful of exceptions, outworked them all.

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