CLHP Intern Blog: Hannah Rank

Working with the Caffè Lena History Project this summer has reassured my belief that important causes can endure the test of time.  As the Caffè marches through 50+ years, a lot has changed, but its purpose remains to support folk music and community values. It continues to preserve an important history about a community that has consistently promoted important messages about equality and togetherness. The fact that the Caffè still stands is a testament to that message.

In transcribing interviews from the Caffè Lena Oral History Collection of the performers at Caffè Lena throughout the years, I kept hearing over and over how much they felt Pete Seeger influenced them as musicians, but also as fellow members of the Folk Revival Movement. I couldn’t help but draw a parallel between the enduring nature of the coffeehouse and the omnipresent and enduring nature of Pete’s voice and message in advancing the cause of the movement.

In 2011 Pete shared his stories with the CLHP

Pete was such a seminal force driving the movement, and it was coffeehouses like Caffè Lena that helped him and other artists spread their message and music. Without places like Lena’s, that symbolized the grassroots nature of the Folk Revival Movement, he and other musicians may not have been able to make the same impact.

While some artists recognize Pete’s prowess and mastery of the banjo, praising him for his musical skills, other artists credit him for spreading his progressive way of thinking into the folk community. In either light, musically or ideologically, most see Pete’s contribution as essential to the Folk Revival Movement.

I have never had the chance to see Pete Seeger perform, but through my work with the Caffè Lena History Project, I was inspired to research his concerts from throughout the years. This helped to put together the pieces of the puzzle in my mind about how truly great his impact is. Not only is he an accomplished musician and a great person, but also he is a wonderful performer and his shows often focus on bringing people together. And he hasn’t changed either—even at 93 he still brings the crowd together in song with the same banjo!

Ed note: Visit these links to view the videos Hannah uncovered in her Pete Seeger research:

Pete Seeger in 1963 in Melbourne, Australia performing “Down by the Riverside”

Pete Seeger in 2012 performing “Quite Early Morning” on the Colbert Report

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