Theo Bikel with Pete Seeger (and more)

Theo Bikel with Pete Seeger (and more)

First, here’s another item for consideration by people who think that Pete Seeger was anti-Israel. (If you haven’t already, read Hillel Schenker’s recent post on this.) We have the permission  of Gerry Magnes active with the Albany, NY regional J Street chapter, who married into an Israeli family — to quote what he emailed the other day:

Thought I would share a small anecdote my father in law once told me.  He’s 95 and still living on a kibbutz (Kibbutz Evron) in the Western Galilee.  Last winter, when my wife and I mentioned to him that we’d just attended a Pete Seeger concert . . . in Schenectady, . . . he related how he’d seen him perform (I think in Tel Aviv), probably in ’64.  When he [Seeger] began to speak about the Israeli-Palestinian/Arab conflict at that time and his hopes for peace, he began to cry.  He had to stop talking or singing for a bit until he could collect himself.  . . .  The sincerity and depth of feeling left a deep impression on my father in law.

Partners’ board chair Theodore Bikel goes back a long way with Seeger.  They were part of the original board (with Oscar Brand, George Wein and Albert Grossman) that founded the Newport Folk Festival. This image captures a festival high point in 1963, with Theo and Seeger (at right) joining Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, the Freedom Singers and Peter, Paul and Mary to sing “We Shall Overcome.” 

Here’s Theo singing Hine Ma Tov with Seeger and Rashid Hussain (the latter identified as a Palestinian poet) from episode 29 of the 39-episode run of the “Rainbow Quest” UHF television series (1965-66), dedicated to folk music and hosted by Seeger: 
Upon hearing of Seeger’s passing, Theo wrote this on his Facebook page:

An era has come to an end. They will all say that, but of course it is not true. What Pete is, and was, lives on independent of his body. His voice, that in the end gave out, is still strong in my head and in my memory and it will stay that way not just for me but for millions of American kids who never even knew the name of Pete Seeger but they will know that he had a hammer and that he had a bell and that he taught us all that we had a song to sing all over this land. 

Also in that episode of “Rainbow Quest,” Theo, Seeger and Hussain sang “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream,” but the YouTube recording was removed from the Web due to copyright concerns. We conclude this post with the lyrics; those who know, no doubt, will add the tune from memory (Words & Music by Ed McCurdy):   
Last night I had the strangest dream 
I never dreamed before  
I dreamed the world had all agreed 
To put an end to war  
I dreamed I saw a mighty room 
The room was full of men  
And the paper they were signing said 
They’d never fight again 
And when the paper was all signed 
And a million copies made 
They all joined hands and bowed their heads 
And grateful prayers were prayed 
And the people in the streets below 
Were dancing around and around  
And swords and guns and uniforms 
Were scattered on the ground  
Last night I had the strangest dream 
I never dreamed before 
I dreamed the world had all agreed 
To put an end to war  
By | 2014-01-30T14:52:00-05:00 January 30th, 2014|Blog|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Gerry Magnes February 6, 2014 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    I spoke with my father in law again and asked him if there were any other details he could remember of the Pete Seeger concert that he had attended 50 years ago. He said that it was actually in Akko (Acre), not Tel Aviv, and that he was a Mechanech (Educator) with 12th graders then and took the class to hear Pete. He mentioned that Seeger also sang “We Shall Overcome”.

    He took questions from the audience after finishing his performance. In response to a question from one of my father in law’s students, Seeger emphasized how important it was to work for peace. He went on to say that almost nothing good comes from war, while there’s always the potential for good to come from peace.

    He also asked if the student who had asked the question had come alone or with someone else. She mentioned that her teacher had brought her. Pete asked who the teacher was, and when my father in law identified himself, he began clapping from the stage and got everyone else to join in. Thought you might appreciate these additional details of Pete.

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