Farewell Pete Seeger: Folk singer, union organizer, political activist, all-around badass

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And when these fingers can strum no longer/Hand your guitar to young ones stronger…

Called before the fearsome House Un-American Activities Committee to defend himself against charges of being a Communist in 1955, Pete Seeger refused to name names. He wouldn’t answer any questions about his political, philosophical and personal beliefs. And while Sen. Joe McCarthy’s anti-Communist storm troopers were at the height of their punishing powers, ruining careers and imprisoning suspected troublemakers at will, Seeger didn’t use his Fifth Amendment protections to protect himself, either.

In other words: Bring it on, bitches.

Check the transcript (abridged for brevity, context remains pure)

MR. TAVENNER: The Committee has information obtained in part from the Daily Worker indicating that, over a period of time, especially since December of 1945, you took part in numerous entertainment features. I have before me a photostatic copy of the June 20, 1947, issue of the Daily Worker. In a column entitled “What’s On” appears this advertisement: “Tonight-Bronx, hear Peter Seeger and his guitar, at Allerton Section housewarming.” May I ask you whether or not the Allerton Section was a section of the Communist Party?

MR. SEEGER: Sir, I refuse to answer that question whether it was a quote from the New York Times or the Vegetarian Journal.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: I direct you to answer.

MR. SEEGER: I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this. I would be very glad to tell you my life if you want to hear of it.

(…)

MR. SCHERER: He was directed to answer the question.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: What is your answer?

MR. SEEGER: I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, or yours, Mr. Willis, or yours, Mr. Scherer, that I am any less of an American than anybody else. I love my country very deeply, sir.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: I direct you to answer that question.

MR. SEEGER: I have already given you my answer, sir.

MR. SCHERER: Let me understand. You are not relying on the Fifth Amendment, are you?

MR. SEEGER: No, sir, although I do not want to in any way discredit or depreciate or depredate the witnesses that have used the Fifth Amendment, and I simply feel it is improper for this committee to ask such questions.

MR. SCHERER: And then in answering the rest of the questions, or in refusing to answer the rest of the questions, I understand that you are not relying on the Fifth Amendment as a basis for your refusal to answer?

MR. SEEGER: No, I am not, sir.

That’s guts. And so is this tune, recorded live with Arlo Guthrie in 1975: