Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Elizabeth Cotton, Pete Seeger and YouTube

We've mentioned old Stalinist Pete Seeger a few times here. I was brought up on his sweet, clear, warm voice. I sing "Hobo's Lullaby" to my kids, in the version I learnt from him. My son also likes to sing "Shake Sugaree", the song written by Elizabeth Cotton, who cared for Pete's younger half-siblings when they were kids. The Elizabeth Cotton story is amazing: a self-taught genius who only reached an audience when she was over sixty. It was pure coincidence that Cotton found little Peggy Seeger when she was lost in a department store, which led to the Seegers employing her as some kind of housekeeper or maid, after which she rediscovered her childhood passion for guitar and began to record and play live.

Without the Seegers, she would have been unknown to the world of music, and the world in general would be a poorer place for that. But there is also something a little icky, a little colonial, about their patronage of her, with which I am uncomfortable. However, even my heart was melted by this lovely YouTube clip of Elizabeth with Pete, posted yesterday by Paulie, with her telling the story of and singing her classic, "Freight Train".

This clip, to me, alone justifies the existence of YouTube.
Image from Recall Music.

2 comments:

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Thanks for posting this classic. I never heard the radio show about her. But I will do my best try to find something by Internet, I guess it'd be easy because she was one of the best in that genre. j23j

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