News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion Columns

February 11, 2014

RONN MOTT: Pete Seeger

I was saddened to learn that Pete Seeger had passed away. He died in his home along the Hudson River in upstate New York. You think of folk songs and you think of the hill country of the Appalachians, and perhaps the dusty plains of the American Southwest. But Pete Seeger was born in New York City. He was born to musical parents, and his father was studying folk music and going where it was played. Young Pete went with his dad.

Seeger went to Harvard, got mixed up in politics, the wrong kind of politics, but he would drop out and join a bunch of young folk singers in New York City. Among those was Burl Ives, who had left Terre Haute a few years earlier. Seeger was a part of the Almanac Singers and got himself drafted in the U.S. Army for World War II. Like so many who had been enchanted by the Communist Party, he became disenchanted about the same time he was a part of the Weavers, three guys and a girl who sang folk songs. They also discovered Huey Ledbetter, who was in and out of Texas prisons, but also writing and singing songs of his troubled time. The Weavers recorded one of his songs and it became a No. 1 hit. It was “Good Night Irene,” a song I had discovered on the jukebox at Barcklay’s Restaurant on the east side of the square in Newport, Ind. Songs were only a nickel on the jukebox those days in the early 1950s. I really liked the song, although I didn’t completely understand it, but I liked the enthusiasm and the harmony of the Weavers.

They also popularized “On Top of Old Smokey,” and all of that brought them to the attention of the House on American Activities Committee. That time in America when the HUAC was looking under every rock to find a Communist or any influence of the Communist Party in America, Seeger was pointed out for once being a “Red” in his youth, and was banished from television. An attempt was also made to banish the singing group, and it was at least in part successful.

The Weavers were never very successful again after all of this, but folk music, singing songs of the laboring man and injustices and the like, was becoming very successful. The Kingston Trio had a hit song Pete Seeger wrote, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” a song about too many young men dying in war. “Kisses Sweeter than Wine” was about the love of a young man for a young woman, and “Turn, Turn, Turn” was taken from the Bible. Seeger wrote all of these. He said, and I’m not quoting this word for word, “In America, they don’t want you to sing about the dire circumstances of poor people, and the Communists don’t want you to sing about circumstances you find hope in, as in praying to God.” (I’m rather sure I have muddled that up, but the memory isn’t always as good as I would like it to be.) He was a friend of Woody Guthrie and other folk singers of this time and place.

His last big thing was to travel up and down the Hudson River singing songs about its blight and trying to raise funds to clean it up. It is now cleaner than it has been in years.

Pete Seeger was not a great singer, but, perhaps, the best storyteller of anybody who told stories in song. Also, he was a man who stood for his principles in spite of all the pressure put against those beliefs. I’ve always liked Pete Seeger’s music, his love of it and the fact he said you can say things in song that you could not say in ordinary speaking. All of the ills Pete Seeger sang about have not been corrected, but he tried. He tried his entire life. Those of us who like this genre of music we call “folk songs” will always have respect and admiration for Pete Seeger.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion Columns
  • RONN MOTT: Spring activities settle into northside park

    Some say young love blossoms like the flowers in the spring. It must be spring, because we witnessed the first wedding ceremony performed in the Collett Park gazebo on a recent Saturday.

    April 18, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: They didn’t make it!

    The “One and Dones” done went and didn’t! (I know this is grammatically incorrect, but I want those folks down in Kentucky to read it.)

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: Royce Waltman

    In recent days the papers have been full of good things about Royce Waltman. Not a lot of puffery, but more like Royce himself… straight, true and right at you.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Not much peace since war to end all wars

    My jaw dropped the other day when I read that this year, 2014, marks 100 years since the start of World War I. No, you wise guys, I wasn’t there personally.

    April 14, 2014

  • MARK BENNETT: It’s (Not) So Easy

    Arctic air bled into the Wabash Avenue post-hippie-era diner-pub every time the wooden door swung open.

    April 12, 2014

  • ERIC SCHANSBERG: The 1040 tax form turns 100

    The 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution brought us the federal income tax in 1913. A year later, the 1040 tax form was born.

    April 12, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Pondering our planet’s future

    I watched a TV show recently and the subject was global warming.

    April 11, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Bits & Pieces

    I don’t know about you, but I get a total sense of helplessness when I realize 239 people died in one airplane crash. And to make it worse, if that is possible, the loved ones left behind can’t close. Maybe this week.

    April 10, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: Basketball and Done

    I guess I’m going to have to change my mind about the “One and Done” rule. It would seem the future professionals wearing university uniforms — national runner-up Kentucky is an example — has proven me a fool. Why should I care about the education they are getting, or not getting?

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Angling for a mate not fond of fishing

    While many little girls daydream about the dream man they hope to find, it seems to me that they concentrate on all the wrong things. I can’t discount the appeal of beauty, brains and virtue, but my dream man was one who was not dedicated to fishing.

    April 7, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: A fine mess for collegiate sports

    Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were a comedic team in the late 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.

    April 4, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: The Angry Planet

    It is better to imagine an ocean as peaceful and calm.  The problem is, an ocean is very rarely, ever that way. I remember when a writer took his wife and family from New York to England in his sailboat. And later, his wife commented there was never a time she could have something cooking on the stove without the food spilling out.

    April 3, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Learning as you go

    I have always been a person who respects education. Education doesn’t always come to you in the orderly process of school and classroom. Sometimes, it finds you in work-a-day situations.

    April 1, 2014

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Words can take us on memorable excursions

    When The Tribune-Star recently asked the reading public to name “the best” in dozens of categories, I didn’t hesitate in naming Mike Lunsford as my favorite columnist.

    March 31, 2014

  • MARK BENNETT: Volunteers’ cleanup efforts key to river’s future role in community

    People throw all kinds of garbage into and along the Wabash River, aiming to make their used-up stuff disappear from their lives.

    March 29, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Even NCAA floors pure Americana

    I noticed during the NCAA Tournament games I have been watching that all of them have identical basketball floors, regardless of where the game was played.

    March 28, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: Guns and Schools

    I guess I just don’t get it. Perhaps I’m not smart enough. Those who don’t agree with me very often probably think that is the problem — me not being smart.
    The idea that children will be safer if you have a gun in your car in the school parking lot, or somewhere on school grounds, leaves me with the traditional “Duh!” I don’t wish to poke fun at those honest citizens who “pack” and hope they will be able to do something good in the way of helping family or neighbors in the event of a crisis, but often in those situations innocent people get shot.

    March 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • RONN MOTT: Flight 370

    Not too many days ago, I heard a reporter refer to Flight 370 as an accident. It wasn’t an accident … it was, most likely, murder. If this aircraft went down in the Indian Ocean, we will be extremely fortunate to find the remains of the plane and any of the people on it.

    March 25, 2014

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Memories stir desire to collect new ones

    I was talking with a friend the other day, a much younger friend. Somehow the conversation turned to early memories. One of her earliest memories had to do with 9/11 and the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers.

    March 24, 2014

  • MARK BENNETT: Dues Paid, change under way

    In the 1940s, Dorothy Jerse sat in a University of Illinois accounting class, listening to a guest speaker.

    March 22, 2014 1 Story 1 Video

  • RONN MOTT: Catching up on the here and now

    Oh my, write down the date, underline it, and say, “The guesswork in Ronn’s column the other day was wrong!”

    March 21, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: The Russian Bear

    As I’m writing this, the official word from the Crimean election is not yet in. It doesn’t have to be … Putin would not have an election for the Crimea to ask itself out of the Ukraine back into Russia because he does not want to be embarrassed. 

    March 20, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: Thank you, NCAA

    The MEAC, the MAAC and the MAC. Do you know? And how much do you know mixed with how much do you care? Now we know the MAC, they’re practically home boys. That’s Northern Illinois, Ball State and a handful of teams in Ohio. But you get reacquainted with some of these schools because of the NCAA Tournament.

    March 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Spreading news from one ‘Liz’ to another

    I received a letter the other day from a Yorkville High School classmate. It wasn’t snail mail, it was written in cursive writing and although it required more than the 3-cent stamp of my youth, it found our mailbox within a couple of days of posting.

    March 17, 2014

  • KIEL MAJEWSKI: Sexual violence demands the world’s action

    I have a lot to learn in life, but I am convinced of this: The day men share power equally with women is the day we will see true peace in this world. The day women and girls are valued as much as men and boys, and are treated with the same respect as their male counterparts, is the day we will finally see healthy societies.

    March 15, 2014

  • MARK BENNETT: All aboard!

    Find me a George Mason University basketball T-shirt in Indiana.

    March 15, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: One and done, 2014 style

    Hoosiers, this time of the year, turn their minds and emotions to the grand old game of “hoops.”

     

    March 14, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Ukraine 2

    The situation in the Ukraine should let us know plainly, and openly, the old saying about a leopard never changing its spots is true. Vladimir Putin is a KGB officer, grew up a communist and, from all appearances, still believes like a communist.

    March 13, 2014

  • MET 031214 BACON MAYO.jpg MARK BENNETT: First BaconFest sure to cure your salty fried meat cravings

    Bacon taught me a life lesson.
    I wrapped strips of it around chicken livers and secured the cold, gooey bundles with toothpicks to earn money.

    March 12, 2014 3 Photos

  • RONN MOTT: SAWS

    A few days ago we talked to John Anderson of the Greencastle Presbyterian Church. He’s the coordinator for a mission of the church that builds ramps and stairs for those who are physically handicapped in Putnam County.

    March 11, 2014

Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Today in History for April 18th Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras
NDN Video
Jabari Parker's Top 5 Plays From Duke Career Kourtney Kardashian Is a Bikini Babe More Manpower Than Ever Expected At 4/20 Rally Debunk'd: Miley Cyrus AIDS, Cheeseburgers Cause Cancer, Military Warning Bill Previewing the NBA playoffs Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite My name is Cocaine Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Lohan Gets Candid About Her Sex List The 2014 New York Auto Show Meet Johnny Manziel's New Girlfriend Chelsea Clinton Announces Pregnancy Funny: Celebrating Easter with Martha Stewart and Friends Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Man hit with $525 federal fine after he doesn't pay for soda refill Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper New West, Texas Explosion Video Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity