Rock & Roll Summer Reading

Rock & Roll Summer Reading

How Can I Keep from Singing? The Ballad of Pete Seeger

by David King Dunaway
Villard/Random House, 544 pp., $18 (paper)

What to think? Populist Pete Seeger was literally stoned by conservative groups and investigated for sedition during McCarthyism, only to be subsequently feted with a Kennedy Center Lifetime Achievement Honor and the National Medal of Arts. America's complex contradictions are perhaps best embodied in the storied career of this seminal folk musician, lovingly told in great detail in this updated biography. Fulbright scholar and University of New Mexico professor/author David King Dunaway worked closely with Seeger on the original 1981 tome, as well as this updated version. Seeger's associations with Paul Robeson, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Woody Guthrie, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Alan Lomax are balanced with exposition on seminal compositions "Turn! Turn! Turn!," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?," and "If I Had a Hammer." Thirteen chapters track the former Weaver from his nascent banjo-plucking days to influencing Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, et al. Dunaway's prose is thick but readable, and he doesn't hesitate to call bullshit on the lanky living legend. This new version adds 80 pages – including text on the FBI and CIA spying on artists – and 16 pages of photos. Given its hundreds of interviews, investigative depth, and historical background, Pete Seeger himself couldn't have penned a more inclusive work than How Can I Keep From Singing?

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