Thursday, December 1, 2011

Weekly drawing 18: Seeger & Lead Belly

Seeger and Lead Belly

This drawing was inspired by reading To Everything There Is A Season: Pete Seeger and the power of song, a biography by Allan M. Winkler (Oxford University Press, 2009). Pete Seeger has amazing credentials: he spent time travelling with Woody Guthrie and they wrote 'Union Maid' together; he was friends with Allan Lomax, the great field collector of folk music; he even played with Lead Belly

I wanted illustrate a young Seeger, full of energy and enthusiaism, with the aging hard man who was finally free after a long life in and out of jail.

Allan M. Winkler writes:
Through Lomax, Seeger met Lead Belly. One day Lomax called Seeger and told him to grab his banjo. Off they went to another apartment on the Lower East side, this one inhabited by the fabled folk singer (...) Wearing overalls in an awkward effort to identify with the working class, Seeger at first had a hard time relating to the well dressed Lead Belly."There I was," he said, "trying my best to shed my Harvard upbringing, scorning to waste money on clothes other then blue jeans. But Lead Belly had on a clean shirt and starched collar, well-pressed suit, and shined shoes." Seeger nonetheless found himself fascinated by the man who "moved with the soft grace of an athlete. He had a powerful ringing voice, and his muscular hands moved like a dancer over the strings of his huge twelve-stringed guitar." As he watched him play, and played along with him, Seeger saw that Lead Belly "was not the cleverest guitar player; he didn't try and play the fanciest chords, the trickiest progressions, or the fastest number of notes... The notes he played were powerful and meaningful."

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