Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Pete Seeger: Waist Deep in the Big Muddy

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.

1 comment:

  1. Dawn: Thanks so much for posting this. I really enjoyed the song, the performance, and the background story.