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There is hope for the world — and you can find it at this Pete Seeger tribute.
This year’s Brooklyn Folk Festival will host a salute to Pete Seeger, the New York City troubadour who died at the age of 94 earlier this year.
“Pete was such an important figure — we just wanted to pay homage,” said Stephanie Jenkins of the Jenkins Family Band, which will play Seeger’s tunes during the April 20 concert at the Bell House in Gowanus.
In the ultimate homage to Seeger, Jenkins is encouraging all concert-goers to sing along.
“That was his bread and butter — getting people to sing,” said Jenkins, who first saw Seeger live in 2004 and learned the banjo from his book “How to Play the Five-String Banjo.”
Indeed, Seeger was known for his live performances, where he got thousands of people to sing tunes with him.
“People would go to see him just to have a reason to sing together,” said Eli Smith, who is organizing the festival along with the nearby Jalopy Theatre.
More than an entertainer, Seeger was a social activist and is credited with rescuing American music from oblivion at the dawning of the pop music era.
In the 1920s and ’30s, with the advent of the radio, many amateur musicians the country over put down their dobros and started listening to pop radio — the phenomenon threatened the largely aural American music tradition, Smith said.
“Around the mid-20th century, highways and the radio obliterated local music,” he said.
Seeger travelled the South, learning the American canon and re-tooling it for pop audiences, effectively inventing the “folk music” genre, Smith said.
For modern musicians learning the old-time catalog, Seeger is a standard-bearer and an inspiration, Smith said.
“He was the first person like us,” he said, referring to the bevy of Brooklyintes picking up banjos in search of a bygone era.
As with many of today’s washboard-scraping, fiddle-playing folk musicians, Seeger was a college-educated urbanite who sought out the American folk tradition rather than being born into it, he added.
This year’s folk fest, which will take place from April 18–20, will also highlight other old-time bands. Performances will include East River String Band with R. Crumb and Jalopy house band the Whiskey Spitters. There will also be square dancing and the festival’s annual “banjo toss.”
At the Seeger tribute on the festival’s closing night, the Jenkins Family will play popular Seeger hits such as “If I Had A Hammer,” “This Land Is Your Land,” and “We Shall Overcome,” so come ready to wail, Jenkins said.
“I don’t think anything else would be appropriate,” she said.
“Pete Seeger Tribute and Sing-a-Long” at the Bell House [149 Seventh St. between Second and Third avenues in Gowanus, www.brooklynfolkfest.com, (718) 643–6510]. April 20 at 6:30 pm. $15, includes entry to eight other shows.
©2014 Community Newspaper Group
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