Pete Seeger: In His Own Words

Pete Seeger: In His Own Words

Pete Seeger: In His Own Words

Pete Seeger: In His Own Words


Long an icon of American musical and political life, Pete Seeger has written eloquently in a diverse array of publications but nowhere is his life story more personally chronicled than in these, his private writings, documents and letters stored for decades in his family barn.Pete Seeger: His Life in His Own Words, collects Seeger's letters, notes, published articles, rough drafts, stories and poetry - creating the most intimate picture yet available of Seeger as a musician, an activist and a family man. The book covers the passions, personalities and experiences of a lifetime of struggle - from the pre-WWII labour movement and the Communist Party, to Woody Guthrie, the Civil Rights movement and the struggle against the war in Vietnam.The portrait that emerges is not of a saint, but a flesh-and-blood man, struggling to understand his time and his place.


Pete Seeger in His Own Words is destined to become a classic for the ages.

Rob Rosenthal and Sam Rosenthal painstakingly selected from countless letters and articles in Pete Seeger’s personal archive this collection of gems—most of which are now being published for the first time. Together these writings reveal the unique strength of character that has made Pete Seeger a blessing for American society. Pete has helped to create a better world ever since he left Harvard in 1938, traveling the ribbon of highway with Woody Guthrie to Oklahoma and Texas.

As with Hector Berlioz’s classic memoir Evenings with the Orchestra, the letters of Mozart and Beethoven, Dizzy Gillespie’s spirited To Be or Not To Bop, Woody Guthrie’s Bound for Glory, and Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, we enter worlds of music that few of us have experienced before. Pete encourages us to join him in celebrating these musical highlights, sharing what he has learned during his journeys in the same inclusive way that he brings us together every time he invites us to sing along.

Pete’s articles about folk music are among the best ever written. His knowledge of the history of thousands of songs has always been legendary among musicians. Now a wider audience has the opportunity to see Pete as a historian of the music he plays, as well as a brilliant and incisive biographer of himself and others.

One of the book’s highlights appears in a previously unpublished letter to be read by his grandchildren after his demise. Fortunately, Pete gave permission to publish it here to share his philosophy of politics. He describes the story of some of his forebearers, a group of dissenters, who arrived on these shores on a ship called the Mayflower. Pete Seeger in his Own Words details how this descendent of the settlers has become a voice for all Americans. On every page, his words ring as clear as his banjo playing.

For more than fifty years, I have been fortunate to know Pete and play music with him. I continue to marvel at his dedication to his ideals. A recent event sums up what he has always been like—and how he remains, at the age of ninety-three—an idealist in action.

After an enerlecturing on these matters, I had become
deeply concerned with the matter of singular reference and predi
cation, and their objects – a topic which has remained central to
my thought throughout my working life.

(Strawson 1998a: 7)

That time and place were the late 1940s in Oxford, at the beginning of the diverse, productive and lengthy career of Peter Strawson, whose accomplishments clearly place him at the forefront of Anglophone philosophers in the latter half of the twentieth century. The questions that engaged him at the outset concern our common use of expressions to refer to particular persons and things as the fundamental objects of reference. That use is fundamental, but since anything whatsoever can be identifyingly referred to, the individuals of our discourse will include not only particular objects, but also all manner of concepts, such as those of species, qualities and relations. This linguistic use is indeed common but, on Strawson’s own account, an attentive investigation of what that presupposes leads us straightaway not only to the most fundamental questions of logic, but also to those of ontology and epistemology.

It is remarkable that while the theme of singular reference and predication, and their objects, has been consistently central to his work, that one theme has at the same time given entry to a broad world of descriptive metaphysics, and to a consequent fresh and critical view of contemporary scepticism and naturalism. Thus Strawson’s work is not a narrowly contained special interest; rather, it embraces an attempt to confront with rigour many of the traditional questions of Western . . .

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