Most people know the lasting legacy of Harry Belafonte, the entertainer. This film unearths his significant contribution to and his leadership in the civil rights movement in America and to social justice globally.
Oberlin College, 1959. Pete Seeger (who?) was giving a concert. Nothing else for me to do. So I went. This was one of the first times I'd gone to a live musical performance, so perhaps that's why I was totally blown away. Probably not, though. No, I don't remember a single one of the songs he sang. What I do remember, though, is the way I felt -- we all felt -- as members of an auditorium-wide family. We listened; we sang along, we played the "Divide the audience into groups and sing rounds" game. Or maybe the men sing one verse and the women sing another. It was fun. It felt good.
I don't think anyone there thought that we were participating in an historical movement. I know I didn't. But we were. The perspective just wasn't there for us at that time.
This movie provides the perspective. As a performer, Seeger's musicianship is impressive. His reedy voice delivers lyrics strongly and convincingly. But there's more. He has said that rather than have the audience sit attentively, quietly and respectfully, listening to him sing, he wants to hear them sing. He helps them sing. He cajoles, tweaks, shames, damn near forces them to sing.
While this documentary is not a sermon, Seeger himself has an agenda and it is shown. He has been called "An Inconvenient Artist." His music is good music. It has been given credit (or blame) for influencing several generations of young people to ask the difficult questions about their government and themselves. Two small "bits" that I especially enjoyed were Arlo Guthrie on dealing with pamphlets and why the FBI was responsible for the renewed interest in Folk Music in the 50's and 60's.
The movie, like Seeger, is entertaining. The time (90 minutes) will pass all too swiftly. It might be difficult to find (Art Houses and such). Take the time to look for it and go see it. I predict that you will be glad you did. Trust me: have I ever lied to you before?
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