Sunday, January 18, 2009


There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn't say nothing;
That side was made for you and me.

Pete Seeger just led the crowd at the 'We Are One' inaugural celebration at the Lincoln Memorial in the most beautiful version of 'This Land is Your Land' I ever hope to see. Flanked by Bruce Springsteen and his grandson Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, he followed Obama, the prime spot on the program. And he used several of the less-frequently-sung lyrics, including my favorite verse above. [video Update/Irony Alert: 2:30 pm, 19 Jan - HBO yanked the video for copyright violation. Update 2: 10:15 am, 20 Jan - Another one is up, for who knows how long. Happy inaugural day!]

Same old flannel shirt, knit cap, and blue jeans -- no dress-up concessions to the teevee production (whose message to performers and crowd alike was clearly "wear black"). No nod to the President-Elect; Pete was speaking directly to the people.

It's not substance, I know. It's not as if we just passed single-payer health care, or are likely to. But it was an acknowledgement, no, a celebration of dirty effing left-wing hippies that sent out a mighty and much-needed encouraging message of inclusion. Thanks, Bruce.

The event's other high spots: The opener, with Bruce in black and a gospel choir in red singing 'The Rising'. Powerfully simple. Garth Brooks doing a fine version of 'Shout!' with the same Washington Youth Choir, a surprising and smart choice on many levels. The shot of the vast crowd jumping and jiving was unexpectedly moving. And Stevie Wonder's 'Higher Ground', which had the first family up, stepping and clapping with the precision of a backup band. Much respect. Most of the rest was Hollywood schmalz, but who's counting?

HBO's putting it on again tonight at 7:00 and 11:30 pm, open to all with digital cable or satellite TV. (Or wait for the DVD -- but viewer discretion is advised: the bloom may be off the rose by then. ;>)
Image: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images



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