Silvey examines the life of Pete Seeger, whose folk music and social activism brought both worldwide acclaim and a decade of government persecution.
Born into a privileged family in 1919, Pete attended boarding schools from third grade, isolated from his divorced parents and family. He read voraciously and incubated his interests in the outdoors, journalism, art, and music; a high school teacher introduced him to the banjo. After dropping out of Harvard, Seeger pursued a winding path that included performing children’s concerts and cataloging folk music at the Library of Congress. The straightforward narrative chronicles Pete’s musical arc—from hardscrabble touring with Woody Guthrie and the Almanac Singers to the phenomenal success of the Weavers, who introduced Americans to folk and world music. Silvey links Seeger’s music with his commitment to social causes, from workers’ rights and civil rights to the antiwar and environmental movements. She skillfully illuminates Seeger’s 10-year ordeal during the tenure of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Surveilled, blacklisted, subpoenaed, arrested, tried, and convicted, the former Communist Party member was vindicated on appeal in 1962. Silvey’s afterword frankly acknowledges Seeger as a personal hero, avowing that her biographer’s neutrality was trumped by her research into Seeger’s unjust treatment by the FBI and HUAC.
A fine introduction to a musical icon. (photographs, quotation source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-12)