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Review of Let Your Voice Be Heard: The Life and Times of Pete Seeger

silvey_let-your-voice-be-heardLet Your Voice Be Heard: The Life and Times of Pete Seeger
by Anita Silvey
Intermediate    Clarion    104 pp.
8/16    978-0-547-33012-9    $17.99

“Pete Seeger became the most important folk singer of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. But he might have chosen a very different path.” In addition to abundant primary source material, Silvey makes terrific use of her access to her subject, who died in 2014 at age ninety-four, and tells his sometimes complicated story with clarity and gusto. To elucidate a career spanning seven decades, Silvey covers Seeger’s privileged, mildly eccentric upbringing; his trial-and-error path to folk singing (he first tried journalism, then painting — both unsuccessfully); his complex friendship with Woody Guthrie, who taught him how to become a performer, not just a singer; his rising fortunes as a member of the chart-topping folk group the Weavers; his targeting during the Communist witch hunts of the 1950s (being called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee), which sank the Weavers’ careers; and his subsequent reinvention as a solo artist who entertained all ages. Rushed here are Seeger’s last decades (when he became a crusader for the environmental movement), but this is a mere quibble about a book whose author has an expert’s ear for the interests of her intended audience (including that fact that Seeger once got paid in hamburgers). Scattered throughout are black-and-white photos, many of which capture Seeger’s charisma and the joy he took in music. Appended with extensive back matter, including source notes, a bibliography, and an index.

From the November/December 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Nell Beram

Nell Beram is coauthor of the young adult biography Yoko Ono: Collector of Skies (Amulet/Abrams), which made the 2014 Amelia Bloomer Project list and YALSA’s 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound list.

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