Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Pete Seeger is a survivor. His career as America's foremost folk singer has spanned more than 40 years. The composer of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" and "If I Had a Hammer," used his five-string banjo to fight blacklisting in the '50s, racial injustice, Vietnam and environmental waste. So it's no surprise to find Pete Seeger in a museum. Sunday night's concert at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History, featuring Seeger and Sweet Honey in the Rock (a Washington-based a cappella gospel group) in a program of American protest songs had all the promise of a political revival meeting.
Unfortunately, the concert (sold-out 2 months ago) was more of a history lesson than a musical revue. The first half was generally uninspiring, but the crowd - predominantly young, white, wearing flannel shirts and Earth Shoes - needed no invitation to sing along. The brightest moment came when Seeger joined Sweet Honey in the Rock for a rousing version of "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
The second half of the concert led by Sweet Honey's moving medley of civil rights songs, was more spirited than the first hour, but even Seeger the survivor couldn't overcome some shakiness on the high notes and the stuffiness of the setting.
Earlier in the day, more than 1,000 people showed up for Seeger's banjo workshop elsewhere at the Smithsonian, but hundreds had to be turned away, another measure of his enduring appeal.