“To Everything There is a Season,” written and recorded by Pete Seeger in 1962, is one of the most recognizable songs in American music history.
In time for Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday, Miami University Distinguished Professor of History Allan M. Winkler has written To Everything There is a Season: Pete Seeger and the Power of Song. Winkler uses Seeger’s life and music as a frame of reference to discuss the important role popular music played during the various protest movements in the 20th century.
“Seeger’s life reflected the turbulence of his times and his songs sounded the spirit of the issues that he felt mattered most,” Winkler said.
The book also features a CD sampler of 10 songs, including “If I Had a Hammer,” “Where Have all the Flowers Gone” and “Wimoweh.”
Winkler plans to attend a concert this Sunday, May 3, at Madison Square Garden that honors Seeger, who was often an outspoken advocate of justice. He supported union organization in the 1930s and 1940s and joined the Communist Party, performing his songs with banjo and guitar accompaniment to promote worker solidarity.
Seeger sang out against American involvement in World War II in the early 1940s, only to change his tune after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He enlisted in the Army and, still singing, served overseas in the South Pacific.
In the 1950s, he escaped a jail term for refusing to cooperate with the House Committee on Un-American Activities, when his contempt conviction was thrown out on a technicality.
In the 1970s, Seeger lent his voice to the growing environmental movement by leading the drive to clean up the Hudson River. Most recently, he was part of the celebratory concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial the day before Barack Obama’s inauguration.
Winkler has been a professor at Miami since 1986 and written several other books on such topics as World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the atomic bomb and the Cold War.