The Protest Singer by Alec Wilkinson

The Protest Singer
176 pages; Knopf
"People ask, is there one word that you have more faith in than any other word," [Pete Seeger] told me, "and I'd say it's participation. I feel that this takes on so many meanings. The composer John Philip Sousa said, 'What will happen to the American voice now that the phonograph has been invented? Women used to sing lullabies to their children.' It's been my lifework, to get participation, whether it's a union song, or a peace song, civil rights, or a women's movement, or gay liberation. When you sing, you feel a kind of strength; you think, I'm not alone, there's a whole batch of us who feel this way. I'm just one person, but it's almost my religion now to persuade people that even if it's only you and three others, do something. You and one other, do something. If it's only you, and you do a good job as a songwriter, people will sing it. "