Music for the ages – and for the present – will fill West Seattle’s historic-landmark Admiral Theater next Sunday, with a live double bill under the title “Tribute Times Two – Anthems of Activism” — expected to be a moving and unforgettable experience, both musically and in the context of the national election three weeks later.
The opening tribute at 4 pm Sunday features Peter McKee, a singer and banjo/guitar player who performed with his folk group Clallam County as part of Seattle’s celebration of Seeger’s 90th birthday three years ago at the Admiral. It’s the premiere of his one-man, multimedia show, weaving together recordings, images, and live performances that reveal the breadth and depth of the legendary humanitarian who at age 93 continues to inspire with his commitment to peace, justice, and environmental sustainability, via ever-relevant songs:
Says McKee, “For more than 70 years, the songs he has sung and written are songs of consequence, they are songs of import. He has been on the forefront of virtually every major social issue that has confronted our nation since 1940.”
Also continuing to inspire – though he’s been gone for 28 years – is Steve Goodman, who proudly considered himself one of Seeger’s disciples. At 7 pm Sunday, historian, Admiral Theater patron, and Goodman biographer Clay Eals will take the stage to focus on the story and music of Goodman, who wrote and performed hundreds of songs throughout the United States and Europe during his 15-year career, before leukemia ended his life here in Seattle in 1984 at age 36.
Anchoring the Goodman show next Sunday will be the stalwart of Eals’ events, Tom Colwell, whose track record as a singer/songwriter and interpreter of others’ music spans more than 50 years. Colwell was the featured performer in the Seeger 90th-birthday bash held at the Admiral 3 years ago. He actually shared a stage with Goodman – and told the story at a Sunday rehearsal for the upcoming show:
“City of New Orleans” – the signature Goodman song mentioned by Colwell – was also part of his rehearsal with bassist/harmonica player Bruce Hanson,dobro/steel guitar/harmonica player Mark Myers and Eals:
Colwell’s respect for Goodman manifested in 2009 when he formed a nine-piece band he dubbed Tom Colwell and The Southbound Odyssey, the name stemming from a phrase in “City of New Orleans.”
Eals will emcee and take part in performances of a rich sampling of Goodman songs that take on a diverse array of social and political challenges – corporate greed, campaign hypocrisy, commercialism, sexual myopia, global warming, the homefront devastation of war, and indifference to bedrock values – with unfailing warmth, gentle humor and personal resilience. A sampling of Goodman’s song “Unemployed” rings true today in the wake of the millions of jobs lost in the last 4 years.
“And I filled out those forms they had in personnel
There’s twenty men applying for every job to fill
Some boys in line are just bums like me
And some of them got sheepskins and PhD’s
It’s a sorry situation that you can’t avoid
When you’re over-educated and unemployed…
Whenever they had hard times in this land before
Then they said the way you stop it is to start a war
Well I don’t want to hear none of that from no politicians no more
Or next election day they’ll be unemployed”
Then there’s the wry “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request,” which Eals, Colwell, Myers, and Hanson were running through when we arrived at their rehearsal venue. A snippet:
“Though I saw him perform only two times, Goodman stole my musical heart, touching me like no other performer,” Eals said. “I knew that I wasn’t alone, and a decade of research that culminated in my 800-page biography ‘Steve Goodman: Facing the Music‘ [ECW Press, 2007] confirmed it. His songs, singing, and guitar-playing, not to mention hundreds of recordings, official and unofficial, combined to make him the most affecting performer I have ever experienced. This is a big part of why the book is, so far and by far, the most significant project of my life.” (And it’s in its third printing.)
The roster of musicians for the Oct. 14 show doesn’t end there, however. Reflecting the magnetism of Goodman’s legacy, the show will feature three uniquely appealing musical guests playing Goodman’s tunes:
* Kat Eggleston of Vashon Island, for 20 years a fixture of the Chicago music scene that Goodman anchored and fostered
* Dan Maher of Pullman, with more than three decades at the helm of the syndicated Inland Folk radio show and bringing his encyclopedic and eclectic knowledge of music to bear in truly riveting and powerhouse stage performances
* Perry Barber of New York City, who performed and befriended Goodman in the 1970s and provided invaluable contributions for Eals’ Goodman biography, also performing on behalf of the book in Manhattan, Berkeley, and twice in the Seattle area. She also is a traveling professional baseball umpire, one of only a handful of women who have worked major-league games (in spring training only, because women umpires still are not allowed to work the regular season).
Admiral Theater manager Dinah Brein says, “We are excited to bring this event to the stage. We are still dealing with the same injustices, foibles, and lies being foisted upon us as a nation by pundits and politicians. Women and minorities are in danger of having to roll back their fundamental rights that were so hard-fought decades ago. Seeger, Goodman, and songwriter-performers back in the ’50s-’70s were the real ‘speakers of the house’ when it came to expressing the people’s views. These two performers took risks with their own livelihoods to sing about important themes and in Seeger’s case, spent actual jail time and was red-listed in order to speak his truth. Today’s music idols seem to be more interested in flashy costumes, choreography and selling their perfume lines than educating or enlightening an audience. Where are the Seeger’s and Goodman’s of today?”
The evening will also feature videos from political satirist Roy Zimmerman, like this one.
Tickets are $12 for each show, $20 for both, available via this page at Brown Paper Tickets. If you want a Facebook event page to remind you – here’s the one for the Seeger tribute; here’s the one for the Goodman tribute.
(Story adapted from material provided by Dinah Brein and Clay Eals, along with video recorded by WSB editor Tracy Record.)