Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pete Seeger: The Power of Song

Pete Seeger, who died earlier this week, was known as a walking repertoire of the American Songbook who added a few entries of his own and used this knowledge and his trusty banjo to become a conduit to prove the title suggestion. Seeger lived too full a life to be done justice by my modest aspirations here, but during his storied 94 years he became a tireless champion of leftist causes, from civil rights to antiwar to ecological, while being a primary influence to a generation of earth shaking folk performers, and never deviating from his humble nature. Pete Seeger: The Power of Song is a fantastic documentary from PBS's American Masters series which wonderfully blends archived footage with many of his endearing songs, while he, in between taking an occasional break to chop wood at his rural Hudson River home, and his family guide you through his life. I also appreciated how the documentary occasionally detoured to gain the perspective of common folks who were displeased with some of Seeger's choices, including an protester at a pro-communist rally he headlined or a Vietnam vet from his hometown who was thoroughly disgusted with the artist's visit to North Vietnam in 1972. I must say I was a little irked by the obvious and expected pompous postulations of Bruce Springsteen, Joan Baez, Natalie Maines, and other musicians and the film unfortunately devolves into a change the world advertisement and a too sanctifying portrait of the man but at least for four fifths of its running time, The Power of Song is an excellent look at an impressive life.