Foreword by Arlo Guthrie
Published May 3rd, 2024
312pp / 6 x 8.5 in (150 x 215mm)
£16.95 UK / $24.95 US / $32.95 CAN
For years, Woody had a sign on his guitar, ‘This Machine Kills Fascists,’ and we’d say, ‘Woody, Hitler’s dead—why don’t you take the sign off?’ And he’d say, ‘Oh, this fascism comes along whenever the rich people get the generals to do what they want.’ It’s a good definition of fascism. But then Woody went into the hospital, and that’s when I decided to put something on my banjo, but I thought it should be a little different. ‘This Machine Surrounds Hate And Forces It To Surrender.’
Chopping Wood is Pete Seeger up close and personal like never before. Derived from years of conversations between Seeger and his close friend and collaborator David Bernz, it takes readers on a uniquely personal journey through this legendary folksinger and songwriter remarkable life and career, in his own words.
Listen in as Pete unabashedly shares historical and family stories; tells of learning the banjo, traveling with Woody Guthrie, and finding commercial success with The Weavers; explains how he wrote books and put together songs; delves into controversial subjects like communism and the Peekskill Riots; and highlights those he admired and respected, including Bruce Springsteen, who honoured Pete with his Seeger Sessions album in 2006.
Pete and David share the heavy lifting as they tackle subjects such as the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, Pete’s relationship to Greenwich Village, and the need for copyright reform. Together, they describe how Pete put his worldview into practice in his local community, how he lived with local hero status in later life, and how they made recordings together that resulted in two Grammy Awards.
Minimally edited to preserve Seeger’s trademark cadence, the book is punctuated by historical images and additional commentary from David as well as other musicians and friends. Readers will come to know Pete more deeply as they hear this gentle, principled man’s voice resonate in their own heads and bear witness to his humility and willingness to respect those whose opinions differed greatly from his own—vital qualities in these troubled and divisive times.
‘Essential reading for folk music fans.’ Publishers Weekly
Pete Seeger was America’s best-known folksinger and storyteller whose career spanned over seven decades. Starting out in the union movement of the 1940s and continuing through the blacklist, the civil rights and peace movements of the 1950s and 60s, the environmental movement of the 70s and 80s, and beyond, Pete Seeger stayed current to multiple generations, standing out as a voice for justice and human dignity. His groups such as The Almanac Singers and The Weavers brought folk music onto the national airwaves for the first time, and his songs ‘If I Had A Hammer’ and ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ became hugely popular after being recorded by artists such as Peter, Paul & Mary, and The Byrds. Pete’s almost constant touring of schools and camps with his legendary banjo on his back inspired countless young musicians to follow in his footsteps writing and singing songs of substance. He spent his later years striving to find ways for people to understand their human commonality in an increasingly divided world. His accolades include multiple Grammy Awards, the Kennedy Center Honors, and induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
David Bernz is a Hudson Valley folksinger and a two-time Grammy-winning producer (‘Best Folk Album’ 2008, ‘Best Children’s Album’ 2010). Born in 1958, David has a BA in history from Boston University (1980) and a Juris Doctorate from CUNY Law School (1991). His parents were heavily involved in the folk movement of the 1940s and 50s and were family friends of the Seegers. David grew up knowing Pete and eventually became his producer, recording both music and spoken word with him. David currently owns Main Street Music, a stringed instrument shop in Beacon, New York, together with his son and business partner Jacob Bernz, who is also a gifted songwriter and performer.