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How Seeger's songs informed my political life.

"KEEP your eyes on the prize" is a line from a Pete Seeger protest song.

If you started off your political life in the Sixties, learning and singing protest songs from his albums just came to you like mother's milk. We Shall Overcome, We Shall Not Be Moved and my favourite - Little Boxes.

Musically, it was wonderfully simple but the message behind it, criticising suburban life on an executive housing estate, was really profound. If you missed the Sixties and never heard it, try to catch it now.

Pete Seeger died this week aged 94. He was a Harvard drop-out and came from an impeccable bourgeois background, his father a professor and his mother a concert violinist.

But the two big influences on him were growing up in the Great Depression and his father's interest in the 'real music' of the American backwoods, the hillbilly music of the Appalachians.

He wanted to make sure that somebody recorded it before the old folks that played died off. Pete wanted to actually learn to play it.

Despite his whole life being one long protest song, believe it or not, he did have a Number 1 in the Hit Parade. That was back in the early '50s with Goodnight Irene, composed by Lead Belly and sung by The Weavers, the folk group Pete formed.

He then had a really serious brush with Senator McCarthy and the House Unamerican Activities Committee. He was out of the sports for 10 years followed by a glorious comeback in the '60s. My life in politics would have been so different without him.


American troubadour, folk singer and activist Pete Seeger, who has died aged 94, pictured in 1967
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 1, 2014
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