Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pete Seeger -- Live in '65

Live in ‘65

I’ve got dozens and dozens of Pete Seeger CDs and LPs –- and collaborative albums by Pete with other artists –- in my collection, and a lot of them are live recordings. And I wouldn’t even hazard a guess as to how many times I’ve seen him perform over the years. Despite all that exposure, he’s an artist I’ve never grown weary of, so I welcome this never-before-released, 2-CD, concert set recorded in Pittsburgh on February 20, 1965.

Pete was very much in his prime when this concert was recorded. Like others of Pete’s live albums, there are versions of classic standards from his performing repertoire including “Turn! Turn! Turn!” “If I Had a Hammer,” “Guantanamera” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and “Bells of Rhymney.” Despite the fact that I’ve heard Pete’s various recordings of such songs hundreds, if not thousands, of times, I never tire of hearing them again, and of hearing the individual nuances of a particular performance.

Some of my other favourites in the set include “Peat Bog Soldiers,” a song created by concentration camp prisoners in Germany early in the Nazi regime, and which was sung just a couple of years later by members of the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War; “Los Cuatro Generales,” another Spanish Civil War song; “This Little Light of Mine,” which, of course, features harmonies from everyone in the audience that Saturday night almost 45 years ago (half of Pete’s lifetime to date); and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” one of the most powerful of Bob Dylan’s early songs.

There are lots of other great songs on the album including “Healing River,” a civil rights-era song written by Fran Minkoff and Pete’s fellow-Weaver Fred Hellerman, which is not on any of the many other Pete Seeger recordings I own.

And, you can tell that this concert was recorded back before the dawn of the Internet age because, at one point, Pete plays the beautiful melody to “I Once Loved a Lass” -– which was used by Richard Fariña for “Birmingham Sunday” -– and asks the audience if anyone knows the words because he can’t get the tune out of his head and can’t find the lyrics. Nowadays, all he’d have to do is Google -- and presto.

The concert recording is just Pete: singing and playing solo on banjo and 12-string guitar. Or, really, as solo as he could be with 2,000 harmony singers.

I’ve come away inspired from every Pete Seeger performance I’ve ever attended – or listened to. This one included.

Pete Seeger's Live in '65 will be released on November 10.

--Mike Regenstreif


  1. Hi Mike:

    Nice review. A couple of follow-ups:

    "Healing River" was issued (at least in the USA) on the "I Can See a New Day" album (Columbia).

    Pete, not long after this concert, wrote "King Henry", which also used the "I Once Loved a Lass". It's on the "Dangerous Songs!" album, also on Columbia in the USA.

    It's worth noting, also, that his version of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone", on this album is the original one, without the last two verses (by Joe Hickerson) that close the circle.

    Paul Stamler

  2. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for the added info.

    This CD was the first time I'd heard "Healing River." I guess "I Can See a New Day" must be one of the few of Pete's LPs I missed (or don't remember).