Interview with Pete Seeger – Down Home Turns 1!

This weeks show marks the one year anniversary of Down Home Radio! Sure we’ve missed some weeks here and there, but we’ve now been broadcasting for a full year. Its been great and time has really flown by! Lots more great shows in the works, so keep listening!

This week we have a great interview with Pete Seeger, a man who certainly needs no introduction. We talk with Pete about his experiences dealing with the music industry over his long career, trying to make money as a young artist, the controversy surrounding royalties derived from the South African song he first adapted into Wimoweh / The Lion Sleeps Tonight, his Campaign for Public Domain Reform and his thoughts about the state of the world in general. We also play (almost) all the songs he mentions in the interview!

Pete Seeger Interview

Pete Seeger’s public domain reform proposal to the U.N.

“Old songs world wide now in the public domain are often adapted and arranged and the new song copyrighted. We propose that a share, either .01% or 99.99% of the mechanical, print and performing royalties go to the place and people where the song originated. Every country should have a public domain commission to help decide what money goes where.”

– Pete Seeger
The Committee for Public Domain Reform

Follow-up Interview with Mat Callahan – Mat is the person spearheading the actual implementation of this effort at the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) office of the U.N. in Switzerland. He explains Pete’s proposal as well as who the real culprits are in the rip-off scam that is the current copyright regime. Mat also addresses the controversy over the royalties from The Lion Sleeps Tonight and Alan Lomax’s copyrighting of folksongs, as well as the nature of the folk process itself. Click here for Mat’s previous appearance on Down Home Radio

Thanks go to Ellen Ratner at Talk Radio News for letting me use her studio space to conduct this interview. Thanks!


Campaign for Public Domain Reform – Article on Pete’s efforts to change the laws governing the dispersal of royalties derived songs in the public domain.

WIPO Office – World Intellectual Property Organization homepage. Wikipedia entry.
Click Here to write to WIPO, let them know you support Pete’s proposal.

Who Owns Folklore? – 1962 article by Charles Seeger, Pete’s father. You can only access this if you have access to JSTOR. Sorry!

Rian Malan’s Article – This links to excerpts the article first published in Rolling Stone that first shed light on this whole subject. – Lots of good information.

Blessed Unrest – Book that Pete recommends.

I.F. Stone – Pete mentioned he might have liked instead to have been a small town reporter, and done a version of I.F. Stone’s muckraking weekly, here’ s what he was talking about.

Alan Seeger – Pete’s uncle, a noted poet who served in the French Foreign Legion and died in the First World War. This is link where you can read his letters and diaries! Here’s more info on him.

Hard Hitting Songs for a Hard-Hit People – Book of union songs compiled by Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie

Londonderry Air – 17th century Irish tune which Pete mentions is the basis for Danny Boy

Why Suya Sing: Anthropology of an Amazonian People – Book by Dr. Anthony Seeger, Pete’s nephew, an enthnomusicologist at UCLA.

Electronic Frontier Foundation – An organization doing great work in creating an alternative to the current copyright regime.

Leadbelly & the Lomaxes – FAQ

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