Letter: When Pete Seeger reduced a conservative audience to silence

Garth Prince writes: Pete Seeger's performance started as a singalong and ended as the most effective political statement I have ever seen

In 1972 I attended a performance by Pete Seeger at a packed high school in upstate New York not far from where he lived. This performance included the most effective political and social statement I have ever witnessed.

His final song in the show was Woody Guthrie's This Land Is Your Land, and the audience enthusiastically joined in with the well-known chorus. After three verses Seeger stopped and announced: "I'm now going to sing the verses that Woody wrote that don't get into the school songbooks."

These verses deal with, among other things, poverty, property ownership and the dust bowl, each followed by the chorus:

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

The audience, in what was a very conservative rightwing area, gradually stopped joining in between the verses. At the end of the song and the final chorus, which Seeger now sang alone, he put down his instrument, said "Thank you" and left the stage to a stunned silence. The audience of thousands had got the message.

Garth Prince

The GuardianTramp

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