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The Weavers - Wasn't That a Time!

By Marshall Fine

Much of what became the folk-music revival of the late 1950s and early 1960s--from which came Peter, Paul, and Mary, the Kingston Trio, and Bob Dylan, among others--began in the late 1940s with a group called the Weavers. Made up of Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert, Fred Hellerman, and Pete Seeger, the Weavers were part of a movement of socially conscious singers that began with Woody Guthrie (who, with Hays and Seeger, formed the Almanac Singers in the 1940s). This 1982 documentary captures a reunion performance at Carnegie Hall in the early 1980s of the now-aged Weavers, blending contemporary footage of the concert with background about the intemperate, intolerant times in which the Weavers first emerged. The film provides solid history of the McCarthy era, when the Weavers--riding high with a No. 1 hit in "Goodnight, Irene"--found themselves blacklisted as suspected Communists.

 

The older-but-wiser Weavers are a marvel: still musically adept, radiating the same kind of positive attitude and questioning sensibility that made them seem so threatening to right-wing forces in the early 1950s. Their voices fit together perfectly, as though they'd never stopped singing together. A must-see story, one that captures the sorry history of the period and the transcendent spirit that kept these musicians vital and committed in the face of brutal political pressure.

 

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FILM FACTS

Buy this VHS movie from Amazon.com! (Click here!)DVD unavailableSoundtrack unavailable at Amazon.com - try eBay (see links below)Rated PGNot on an American Film Institute 100 list

Director: Jim Brown

Stars: Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Studs Terkel, Don McLean, Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert

Released: July 13, 1982

Availability: VHS


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