Agitprop BanjonDavid King Dunaway: How Can I KeepnFrom Singing: Pete Seeger; McGraw-nHill; New York.nFrances Davis: A Fearful Innocence;nKent State University Press; Kent,nOhio.nby Gary S. VasUashnVv hen I think about folk music, I cannremember myself at about age nine,nwondering if the guy was ever going tonget the correct change to get off the trainnin Boston in the Kingston Trio song,nwondering why the performers on Hootenannynwere allowed to appear less sartoriallynresplendent than those who sangnalong with Mitch. Upon receipt of DavidnKing Dunaway’s biography of PetenSeeger, How Can IKeep From Singing, Inthought 1 would learn something about anmusic of which I know little. After all,nthe news release accompanying the bookncalls Seeger “Mr. Banjo,” and, surenenough, Seeger’s signature, which appearsnperiodically throughout the pages,nshows that he even pens a little banjondirectly following the letter r. A discographynis included that lists nearly 220nrecordings that feature Seeger, and it indicatesnthat he played with such notablesnas Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, JoshnWhite and Burl Ives. I was sure that Inwould learn about folk music.nI should have been keyed in right awaynafter I examined the illustrations. Thensecond is a picture of Seeger in 1954,ntaken not at a folk festival, but when henappeared before the House Committeenon Un-American Activities. Music is notnthe bedrock of this biography; rathernchintzy leftism is at its center,npermeating the pages, as in any othernstrident tract.nConsider a man who is responsible fornsome of those posters one sees on occa-nMr. Vasilash is associate editor o/ManufacturingnEngineering.n24inChronicles of Culturension in texts on the Soviet Union, postersnshowing brawny men and ample womennturning parts on lathes or happily flingingnwheat over their shoulders into thencornucopia of state agriculture. Pithyncaptions on the posters are to serve a5 inspirationnfor attaining the goal of highernproductivity. Consider Jane Fonda’snComing Home and The China Syndromenor Warren Beatty’s Reds. Is thenposter illustrator an artist or a mere toolnof the Party? Were any of those filmsnmade primarily for entertainment, ornwas the purpose to enlighten the massesnabout the criminality of the war in Viet­nnam, the horrors of nuclear power, theninsane drive for profits at any cost, andnthe sexiness of Bolshevism? While explicatorsnof a Marxist bent see ideologicalnstatements in all forms of art as the art’snglory, I like to think that in some cases angiven work exists simply as a pleasing ornthought-provoking object in itself. Onenwho stmms a banjo and sings tunes liken”The Blue Tail Fly” and “Kisses SweeternnnThan Wine” is undoubtediya folknsinger. Seeger did that. But it seems thatnwhat Seeger sang most often were thenbeatitudes of the American CommunistnParty—which makes him less of a folknsinger and more of a “people’s” troubadour.nAnd in the parlance of Seegernand his ilk, the nonapeople has an ominousnmeaning. It stands for the communistnhenchmen who subjugate a societynin the name of its common folk. Onlyntheir lackeys and trained murderers arenpeople, everybody else is not. In today’snPoland, 98 percent of the society is notnpeople—the two percent who oppressnthem, with the assistance of the imperialnRed Army, are people.nJDefore examining the life of the mannwho broke down in tears at his warm,ncomplete with hugs and flowers, receptionnin Hanoi during the war in Vietnam,nthe man who could bring himselfnto criticize only a small number of pollutednlakes and the weather of the SovietnUnion after a ttip there, it’s worthwhilento note the point of view of the author ofnwhat is reportedly the first full-scale biographynof Seeger to be written with thencooperation of the subject. The firstnthing that struck me is that the termsn”right-wing” and “conservative” arenused interchangeably, and both designatenpeople who are cretinous yahoos. Antypical observation from Dunaway: “innthe name of patriotism, conservativesnwould attack Seeger in every way short ofnassassination.” Dunaway says this of Seegernin the late 50’s: “When he arrived atna hotel, he had to check closets, for fear ofna right-wing frame-up.” Was Seeger everndeprived of the freedom to sing whatevernhe wished, locked up in a psychiatric hospital,nsent to a concentration camp,nevicted from work and home by the government?nAuthor Dunaway is unable toncome up with any evidence of such hostilenmaltreatment. And even when Seegernwas convicted on ten counts of contemptnof Congress in 1961,’ he spent onlyn