The rail-thin progeny of husband-and-wife musicians who divorced when he was a boy, Seeger grew up in love with American music - particularly the ballads and jigs of the Appalachians. From Harvard University (where he dropped out) to the Army (where he served in the Pacific, during World War II), and from a log cabin he and his Japanese American wife, Toshi, built on a hill overlooking the Hudson River north of New York City, this spirited troubadour has preached the gospel of folk music - and banjo-picked it, too.
Filmmaker Jim Brown's documentary is refreshingly straightforward stuff: sit-down interviews with friends, family and Seeger himself, now 88; talking-head appreciations from Bruce and Bob, from Joan Baez, from the Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines, and even former New York Gov. George Pataki; archival footage; TV appearances; newsreels, and, of course, the songs, including counterculture anthems "If I Had a Hammer," "Turn Turn Turn" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"
If Seeger has been branded a lefty and a commie over the decades (and he has, with a fat FBI file to prove it), The Power of Song shows this icon of 20th-century music to be a man of passion and principle, and a true American. An important figure, an important film.
- Steven Rea