Newport Folk Festival turns 50 and Uncle Phil's pick: Kid's Song

Pete Seeger is my hero. In this day of transparency and tell-all-books, it's hard to hold anyone up to the standard that let's us use the word "hero", but for me Pete is the real deal. Do a little reading and make that call for yourself, but beyond his humanitarian ideals and convictions and his strength to stand up for them, I revere his dedication to the fact that people can share experiences which raise us up emotionally, spiritually and idealistically, and engulf us in the power of love. Yes, it's mushy, because cynicism and sarcasm and all of the social armor we go around in falls apart when confronted by Pete's ability to make us sing along with him.

This weekend I'm truly thrilled to have an opportunity to attend the venue that introduced Joan Baez to the world, saw the first public performance of "Alice's Restaurant" by Arlo Guthrie, and, according to folk lore, in 1965 Pete Seeger searched for an axe to cut the power cord on Bob Dylan's Fender Stratocaster for his audacious decision to go electric at at a folk festival. Though I don't believe that last one's been proven to have happened, I like the image it invokes. What I'm referring to, of course, is the Newport Folk Festival.

In the spirit of attending the 50th Anniversary Newport Folk Festival this weekend, I want to share a newer folk song with you, shared with me by my favorite kids radio show DJ Uncle Phil, who's show airs every Friday at 10am on WSCA, Portsmouth Community radio.

The Kid's Song, by Alastair Moock

Hope you liked it... now go write your own and send me the video!!

Pete Seeger

One day in high school, one of my friends told me to make sure to watch the Smothers Brothers show the following Sunday. They were going to have on the show some singer who'd been banned from TV since the early 1950s. I was told that this guy had been blacklisted for refusing to name names during the McCarthy hearings. That got my attention. That was the first time I ever saw Pete Seeger perform. A few years later when I was at Oberlin College, he performed there every year. The story was that he had a particular soft spot in his heart for Oberlin because during the period he was blacklisted, Oberlin was one of the few places in the country that welcomed him. When the time rolled around for my class' graduation, Pete was our commencement speaker -- well commencement singer actually. It was through Pete's concerts that I developed the mistaken notion that all concerts were supposed to involve audience participation. In thinking back on it, I realize that Seeger's ability to get the audience singing along was unmatched by any other performer I've ever seen. And according to the show PBS has been airing of Pete's 90th birthday celebration, even now that his voice isn't what it used to be, he can still get his audience singing, and they make up for what time has stolen from him!

Pete Seeger - How Can I Keep From Singing?

Thank you so much for your comment Mark! Having Pete as your commencement speaker/singer must have been fantastic, what a story! When we saw him at Newport just a few years ago he still had the audience singing and crying and cheering along with him, and although I've had the pleasure of experiencing other performers that bring the audience along for the ride (like Arlo Guthrie, who learned it from Pete) nobody does it like Pete. I was fortunate enough to meet him that weekend after watching his grandson Tao perform. He crouched down, leaning against a tent-pole, to sign a poster for a fan and drew a picture of his banjo on it. Then it came time for him to stand back up, which involved a few helping hands, including my own. I then got to tell him that he's my hero, which is something that too few people every get the chance to do, whomever their hero may be. Creating profound connections between people is what the man does, and we're all lucky to have had him around. Thanks again for sharing your story! ~ K P.S. PBS produced "The Power of Song", a documentary about Pete Seeger which I haven't seen yet, but am anxious to check out.