Songs of Struggle & Protest: 1930-1950

Pete Seeger

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Songs of Struggle & Protest: 1930-1950 Review

by William Ruhlmann

Folkways Records delves into its archive of unreleased Pete Seeger live recordings for this half-hour collection of topical material concerning issues of the 20th century's fourth and fifth decades. In the mid-'60s, Seeger, in his mid-forties, was in the thick of the liberal causes of the day, but the roots of those causes can be found in many of the songs here, touching on union organizing in the 1930s; the Spanish Civil War ("Los Quatro Generales"); segregation in Washington, D.C. (Leadbelly's "Bourgeois Blues"); and even the 1926 sex scandal involving the evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. Although the applause at the end of the songs has been edited out, sometimes abruptly, the audiences make themselves heard laughing, clapping mid-song, and, of course, singing along with Seeger. These are compositions clearly close to his heart, including songs like "Talking Union" that he performed with the Almanac Singers in the early '40s, and they are often in the same vein as the antiwar and pro-civil rights material he was singing in the ‘60s.

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