Book Review: The Protest Singer by Alec Wilkinson

Author: Alec Wilkinson
Title: The Protest Singer : an intimate portrait of Pete Seeger
Publication Info:  New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.
ISBN: 9780307269959


This is a short and easy read that summarizes Seeger’s life & career succinctly but still captures why he’s in important.  Seeger himself who never wants much attention focused on him wanted a book that someone could read in one sitting.  Much of the book is based on interviews between Wilkinson and Seeger and takes on a conversational tone.  The book jumps around between events in Seeger’s life similar to the way that one memory can prompt another only tangentially related.  It’s also good for seeing what Seeger finds memorable and important from his own past.  While are more thorough books on Seeger out there, I recommend that anyone interested in learning about this remarkable man start with this book and then check out his albums and a concert if possible.  Then start to make your own music.

Favorite Passages:

After consulting with his lawyer, Seeger said, “I decline to discuss, under compulsion, where I have sung, and who has sung my songs, and who else has sung with me, and the people I have known.  I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American.  I will tell you about my songs, but I am not interested in telling you who wrote them, and I will tell you about my songs, and I am  not interested in who listened to them.” – p. 81

Recommended books: Where Have All The Flowers Gone by Pete Seeger, How Can I Keep From Singing? by David King Dunaway, and Bound For Glory by Woody Guthrie.
Rating: ****

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