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Pete Seeger...A Song and a Stone

Pete Seeger...A Song and a Stone(1972)


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According to Filmfacts, producer-director-writer Robert Elfstrom and his camera followed singer-songwriter Pete Seeger (1919-) for a year-and-a-half period, in order to make the film. According to the Box Office review, Seeger sings about twenty songs in the film, either in concert sequences or as background music. The New York Times review reported a sequence showing a young boy running through the woods, during which the anti-war poem, "I Come and Stand at Every Door," by twentieth-century Turk Nazim Hikmet is heard. The Variety review described an interspersed sequence showing footage of a small-town, patriotic parade, in which images of children dressed in Revolutionary War costumes leads to a parade of Boy Scouts and finally soldiers. The New York Times reviewer noted there was an overall symbolic progression in the film, taking Seeger from "lonely eminence to militant solidarity."
       As mentioned in the film, Seeger's musical family included his father, musicologist-folklorist Charles Seeger, his mother, concert violinist Constance Edson Seeger, his step-mother, composer Ruth Crawford Seeger, as well as an uncle, brother and sister who were all prominent twentieth-century American musicians. Following in his father's footsteps, Seeger attended Harvard University, but dropped out in his sophomore year. Among Seeger's many accomplishments are his authorship of a now classic instructional book for the five-string banjo, his tenure as folk song archivist at the Library of Congress and his writing and recording of many songs. His song "Goodnight, Irene" remained at the top of the record charts for many weeks in 1950.
       As a founding member of the Almanac Singers and the Weavers, two politically oriented musical groups dedicated to fighting social injustice through song, Seeger performed with Woody Guthrie, Lee Hays and many other well-known folk musicians of the mid-twentieth century. Early in his adult life Seeger had become active in social reform and was a member of the Communist party, which led to his notoriety in the 1950s. He is considered a pioneer of the protest song and the legacy of his many works continue to be performed by present-day musicians. In 1966, Seeger founded an environmental organization that has helped to raise awareness and funds and encourage legislation to clean up the Hudson River.
       Seeger also appeared in the 1969 film Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (see below), which was directed by Otto Preminger and starred Liza Minelli and Ken Howard. Although Pete Seeger...A Song and a Stone marked Elfstrom's debut as a producer, he directed several other documentaries, among them, the 1969 Johnny Cash! The Man, His World, His Music. A documentary, Pete Seeger: The Power of Song, which was directed by Jim Brown, was released in 2007.