Rediscovering a lost treasure thanks to YouTube
Johnny Cash, June Carter, Elizabeth Cotton, Malvina Reynolds and more joined this gem of a show.
The central song in 'Inside Llewyn Davis' has been performed by everyone from Pete Seeger to Bob Dylan to Jeff Buckley.
Nothing quite captures the myth of the vinyl-era music industry as a benevolent autocracy like the narrative of the career-making audition. A scruffy young unknown hitchhikes from the mine country of Minnesota to midtown Manhattan, where a white-haired and golden-eared man in a suit hears something in the boy that no one else has noticed and signs him to a record contract, through which fame and glory ensue.
I am told that “Guantanamera,” a song derived from a poem by the Cuban turn-of-the century revolutionary Jose Marti and made famous by the American Communist folk singer Pete Seeger, refers to a girl, presumably very beautiful, from Guantanamo. The original Spanish lyrics do not confirm this.
The Spanish Civil War was the iconic international struggle of the thirties. Franco and "los cuatro generales" were the villains. And the Spanish people were the victims. Their songs were our songs, Pete Seeger our medium. We did not travel to Spain; we boycotted Spain. We paid homage to Guernica by visiting Picasso's gruesome mural of that name at MoMA (and hanging posters of the painting in our dorm rooms.) We choked up whenever we saw Robert Capa's famous photograph "Falling Soldier." This was the first war against fascism, and democracy was defeated.
I don't think I will have reason to write about Pete Seeger ever again. (I suppose I've written about him quite enough in this space, and so, too, has Ron Radosh who probably knows more about old Pete than even the F.B.I., which probably tracked him as if he were a Soviet agent looking for an atomic lab to blow up.) Why am I forgoing the pleasures of Pete?
"Pete Seeger: The Power of Song" is a documentary film about well, Pete Seeger. Now, I admit that I haven't seen it. And, frankly, I have had my fill of Pete all my life. So I guess I won't see it. Enough is enough.
"Pete Seeger: The Power of Song" is opening at the Tribeca Film Festival, the creation of Robert De Niro, who also is the creator of the tremendous real estate values attached to the greater Tribeca neighborhood. The blurb below from the festival's publicity alludes to the film, made by Jim Brown, as a "social history" about "one of this country's most compelling forces for change." All well and good. Pete Seeger: The Power of Song, a documentary directed by Jim Brown. World Premiere.