Back in the late 1970s and early 1980's, Pete did a series of concerts with Arlo Guthrie that was entitled the Precious Friends Tour. It seemed very logical that Pete should perform with Arlo. The tie-ins to Woody were obvious, and the two meshed on stage like two halves of the same whole. I was privileged to have attended this concert series, and was blown away with the music, the soulfulness, the depth of conviction and the wit. Many have asked what the writing is on Pete's banjo. It reads "This machine surrounds hate; and forces it to surrender." This wonderful photo was taken by the brilliant Annie Leibovitz.
Thursday, 30 April 2009
Wednesday, 29 April 2009
In a weird twist of fate, many of Pete's songs have become sadly relevant again. I am certain that he never thought that he would have need of this tune again. This performance is from one of his many college appearances in the early 1970s. The trademark beard finally made its appearance.
Tuesday, 28 April 2009
As a result of his contempt conviction (subsequently overturned on appeal) due to his appearance and refusal to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, Pete was blacklisted and subsequently banned from network television appearances for almost 17 years. Boycotted by commercial venues and media, Seeger performed for children and young people at universities and rallies where he created a boom and rebirth of folk music.
In 1967, the always controversial Smothers Brothers, broke the boycott and invited Pete to play on their variety show. The Viet Nam War deeply offended Pete's sensibilities and he used the platform to sing his original song Waist Deep in The Big Muddy which was a thinly veiled attack on Lyndon Johnson's war policies. The song was cut by CBS network censors prior to broadcast. Following the strong and withering objections by Tom and Dick Smothers, CBS later relented and allowed Pete to return to the show several months later on February 25, 1968, and perform the song in its entirety. Pete has never stopped fighting for freedom of artistic expression in music and this past March, he was awarded the Freemuse Award for “commitment to musicians' freedom of expression in an illustrious career which spans over sixty years. His voice has been one which has constantly been on the side of the oppressed and which has refused to remain silent in even the darkest hours. He remains an inspiration to those musicians who seek to use their work for the greater benefit of mankind.” In a wonderful quirk of fate the award was bestowed upon Pete on March 3 of this year which coincided with Music Freedom Day.
A personal musical aside-note that Pete played and still does play a 12-string guitar. The 12-string is an instrument of Mexican origin that was often favoured by Huddy "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, one of Pete's idols. He often will drop the tuning of the guitar to a DADGBE and tune the whole instrument down 2 full tones to achieve a magnificent bass resonance. I have always personally favoured the 12-string as my guitar of choice as influenced by Pete.
Monday, 27 April 2009
Pete has written the songbook for a generation. One of the phenomenal things about Pete's songs, is that they have become so ingrained in popular culture, that people actually forget that he wrote them. The Byrds didn't write Turn Turn Turn, and Peter Paul and Mary covered The Hammer Song, Flowers and All Mixed Up. This doesn't even begin to cover the songs that he has re-introduced to popular culture over the years, the most poignant being We Shall Overcome. This is rare video of Pete singing his own song, Where Have All the Flowers Gone. Beautiful!
Sunday, 26 April 2009
Following the nightmare of being blacklisted by the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s, Pete came back strong in the mid sixties with a wonderful television show entitled Rainbow Quest. The show was entirely devoted to showcasing folk music. It was filmed entirely in black and white and and featured musicians playing in traditional American genres such as old-time, bluegrass and blues. The show was filmed on a scant budget and Pete and the producers funded much of the program out of their own pockets. As such, only 38 episodes were filmed, but the talent roster is impressive including such luminaries as Judy Collins, The Stanley Brothers, Tom Paxton, Malvina Reynolds, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Roscoe Holcombe and Buffy Sainte-Marie. The very first episode featured the brilliant Johnny Cash and his not yet wife, June Carter. I chose this clip for a friend who needs a bit of a lift these days. Enjoy!
Saturday, 25 April 2009
Friday, 24 April 2009
The father of the modern folk music will be celebrating his 90th birthday next Sunday May 3. How does one ring in a brand spanking new decade? How about a musical party for thousands of your nearest and dearest? As such, Pete will be celebrating his 90th on stage at a sold-out concert benefiting Clearwater at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Hudson River Project has long been a passion for Pete, and he managed to convince a few of his friends like Dave Matthews, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Paxton, Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, John Mellencamp, Emmylou Harris, Tom Chapin, Richie Havens, Roger McGuinn, Steve Earle, Kris Kristofferson, Bruce Cockburn, The MacGarrigle Sisters to join him in raising money for his cause. (The list of performers goes on and on!) I desperately wanted to be in NYC for this once-in-a-lifetime event, but time and cost precludes it. I will have the chance to see Paxton here in TO on Monday before he treks to the Big Apple for the party. I felt like I owed Pete a bit of a gift so I will count down to Pete's big day by presenting a series of videos of The Old Folkie through the years. Check back in this space over the next week for some special music from the master. Now if I could only pluck my banjo the way he does!!
Wednesday, 22 April 2009
The Doctor was a bit off the mark last night and gave up 2 2-run home-runs, but he struck out 9 and went 8 strong innings.
My new crush is Aaron Hill. The man is short, compact, and plays every ball as if it were the 9th inning of the World series. Right after this picture was snapped he lay full out to snag a liner to right and threw out the runner. He also homered and doubled. I think I am in love!
For shame Toronto!!
Sunday, 19 April 2009
- Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
- One in 200 American women suffer from anorexia
- 2-3 in 100 American women suffer from bulimia
- The mortality rate associated with anorexia is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15-24 years old.
- Anorexia is the 3rd most common chronic illness among adolescents.
- 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25
- 50% of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 see themselves as overweight.
- 80% of 13 year old girls have attempted to lose weight.
Thursday, 16 April 2009
Poor little orphan. We have been told not to touch it, just in case Mama and Papa decide to repatriate it.
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
Saturday, 11 April 2009
Sunday, 5 April 2009
In general, kitniot are those small (kitniot - from katan) seeds or beans which look a little like grains and which need to be cooked to be eaten. Though frequently translated as legumes, aside from peas and peanuts, they are NOT legumes. And some legumes, like alfalfa leaves which can be used for salad, ARE NOT kitniot. Legumes are plants whose root nodules make nitrogen. Since "teensy-weensies" or "tinies" are not translations that are very likely to make it into ordinary English parlance, the most appropriate translation for kitniot, it seems to me, is kitniot.At Pesach, all Jews are to refrain from the eating of chametz, (leaven) and the Torah is quite explicit as to which grains are to be included in this category. From the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR):
"It is a mitzvah to abstain from eating leaven (Chametz) during the entire seven days of Pesach." By "chametz", the tradition means those grains from which matzah may be baked: wheat, barley, oats, rye, and spelt. No other foodstuffs are regarded as chametz.It has also become customary for Ashkenazi Jews to adhere to a prohibition on rice, corn, seeds and legumes in a somewhat misguided attempt (my opinion) to expand the observance of the festival and build fences around the Torah to impose safeguards for the public for their own chametz protection. In other words, let's assume that the people are so stupid as to not know what they are or are not eating, that they require salvation from the evil consumption. In a word, horseshit. More from Rabbi Israel:
By the 18th century a halachist like the Korban Nathaniel (you have never heard of him) writes that there is no need to outlaw these cooked products just because they may appear similar to other cooked products which are actually chametz. One may, for example, use flour made from lentils, because it cannot become chametz, and there is no need to worry that people will confuse it with other flour which is really chametz. However, Ashkenazic (though not Sephardic) Jews have accepted a great stringency regarding these products, despite the fact that they are not chametz, and despite the permissibility of these items documented by earlier sources. The reason for the prohibition is based on a gezeirah, a preventive decree, from Ashkenazic rabbinical authorities.The prohibition on kitnityot runs contrary to the opinions of every single Talmudic and Mishnaic sage with the exception of one, (R. Yochanan be Nuri, Pesahim 35a) and is in direct contradiction to the decision in the Babylonian Talmud. (Pesahim 114b) This responsa is from the Conservative rabbinate in Israel.
The familiar and relatively late explanation for this gezeirah goes exactly contrary to what the Korban Nathaniel says. The gezeirah was justified on the grounds that people can too easily confuse a product cooked with kitniyot, with a similar product cooked with one of the five grains, and if the kitniyot product is allowed, one may come to allow a grain product, which is really chametz, as well. Moreover, kitniyot are similar to the five grains in other ways too, including the fact that some people make bread out of kitniyot as they do from the five grains, and people who are not knowledgeable may end up making a mistake and eat real chametz.
This custom is mentioned for the first time in France and Provence in the beginning of the thirteenth century by R. Asher of Lunel, R. Samuel of Falaise, and R. Peretz of Corbeil - from there it spread to various countries and the list of prohibited foods continued to expand. Nevertheless, the reason for the custom was unknown and as a result many sages invented at least eleven different explanations for the custom. As a result, R. Samuel of Falaise, one of the first to mention it, referred to it as a "mistaken custom" and R. Yerucham called it a "foolish custom".
This craziness has been perpetuated for centuries and has continued to this day. The reason that my Ashkenazi relatives in Poland ate potatoes instead of corn or rice at Pesach, is simply because of supply. Whoever heard of sushi in the shtetl? Rice and corn are foods that were unknown to my ancestors in the part of the world that they resided. When they did come in contact with these foreign substances, their rebbes reflexively banned them from consumption at Pesach as much out of ignorance as anything thing else. In my neighbourhood, which I have lovingly referred to as the "North Jewish Ghetto", the cost of observing the holiday in a kitniyot-free environment has become astronomical. It is not unheard of nor is it unusual to hear stories of families spending upwards of $2000.00 on Pesach preparations. The purchasing of products like kosher for Pesach Coke and ketchup (the high fructose corn syrup in these products has labelled them kitniyot!) has become a strange game of "Keeping as Kosher as the Steinbergs". There was even a midnight madness sale at our resident grocery store this past Saturday evening. The image of observant men and women fighting over the last box of matzah meal is one to behold. Once again from the Conservative responsa in Israel:
Therefore, the main halakhic question in this case is whether it is permissible to do away with a mistaken or foolish custom. Many rabbinic authorities have ruled that it is permitted (and perhaps even obligatory) to do away with this type of "foolish custom" (R. Abin in Yerushalmi Pesahim, Maimonides, the Rosh, the Ribash, and many others). Furthermore, there are many good reasons to do away with this "foolish custom": a) It detracts from the joy of the holiday by limiting the number of permitted foods; b) It causes exorbitant price rises, which result in "major financial loss" and, as is well known, "the Torah takes pity on the people of Israel's money"; c) It emphasizes the insignificant (legumes) and ignores the significant (hametz, which is forbidden from the five kinds of grain); d) It causes people to scoff at the commandments in general and at the prohibition of hametz in particular - if this custom has no purpose and is observed, then there is no reason to observe other commandments; e) Finally, it causes unnecessary divisions between Israel's different ethnic groups. On the other hand, there is only one reason to observe this custom: the desire to preserve an old custom. Obviously, this desire does not override all that was mentioned above. Therefore, both Ashkenazim and Sephardim are permitted to eat legumes and rice on Pesah without fear of transgressing any prohibition.It seems to me that the only reason to continue the practice of forbidding the consumption of kitniyot is tradition; Bubby didn't eat corn so we don't eat corn, and while I certainly think that this should always be a matter of personal conviction, I cannot abide. I need to feel that religious practice has some basis in logic and law in order for it to remain a religious practice in my world. The spirit and the celebration of Pesach is enhanced and maintained by the prohibition of the chametz. Anything else must be defined, in my opinion, as a religious fiction and cannot be taken seriously. My Passover includes rice and corn. I will give the final word to the CCAR.
We do not accept the orthodox argument that a customary observance, once widely adopted, can never be annulled. This notion is questionable, in general, as a matter of halakhah, especially when the observance is based upon a mistaken interpretation of the law. In our specific case, moreover, there is absolutely no evidence that this customary prohibition was ever ratified by rabbinic decree or accepted as binding in the form of a vow. Had a decree or a vow existed, after all, those authorities who criticized the practice down to the eighteenth century would never have spoken so bluntly against it. We think, rather, that some rabbis resort to these arguments in order to support practices and customs whose original purpose--if there ever was a legitimate original purpose--no longer holds. When a religious practice has outlived its purpose, when its retention is perceived by the community as unnecessary and burdensome, Reform Judaism affirms the right of the observant community to alter or annul that practice in favor of a new standard which better expresses our understanding of Torah and tradition and the religious sensibilities of our age.
Chag Sameach to all observe and may your time with family and friends be sweet and peaceful.