Pete Seeger died a few weeks ago. He was a middle class son of left leaning academic parents who began his radical education- then he discovered the real thing- Woody Guthrie, who died the year I was born in 1967 after years of Huntingdons disease.
There was a programme on Radio 4 (catch it on the I player for a few more days here) about Pete Seeger the other day
Never have we needed protest songs more yet no-one seems to write them much anymore.
It occurred to me however that perhaps it always seemed that way. Seeger and Guthrie sold few records. Any plastic winner of Pop idol will sell ten times the product that they managed between them over almost a Century.The songs had nothing to do with making money, and everything to do with collectivising the experience of working people in the face of oppression. The more oppression, the more songs it seemed- black Americans had most of both.
The songs were sung on marches, in protest sit-ins, in union meetings. They were acts of defiance in the face of blatant obvious injustice.
The problem is that we no longer see injustice clearly even when it spits at us. This is the other role of the protest song- to make us look again at what was obscured by all the tinsel and tv. We need prophets to come out of the desert with a Gibson guitar and snarl to us that we have become fat on the meat of other peoples children.
I am reminded again of this song. It is heading in the right direction…