“Cognitive Dissonance”

I grew up listening to the activist folk singer Pete Seeger. One of my favorite albums in high school was from a 1963 concert in Carnegie Hall called We Shall Overcome. From it I learned many of the songs that were sung during the voter registration drives and arrests in the South during a civil rights movement. I also saw him in person several times, always in low key settings such as high school auditoriums. Tickets were inexpensive and the concerts were warm, inspiring and well attended.

Later Seeger devoted himself to efforts to make the Hudson River in New York State clean enough to swim in. When joined by hundreds of others, Seeger succeeded in his efforts to clean up “my dirty stream.” A lifelong union advocate Seeger always aligned himself with the working person, lived simply and stayed humble.

Imagine my shock when an ad for the Volvo automobile popped up on my tablet with a very familiar voice in the background singing “It’s hard times in the mill my love, hard times in the mill.” It sounded like Seeger, but that was impossible thought my naive brain. That was an labor organizing song about dreadful work conditions in New England textile mills. This was an ad for the upscale Volvo.

But unbelievably, that was Seeger(who died in 2008 and couldn’t object)singing that song paired with the apparently staggeringly difficult work of learning that an upscale Swedish couple was having twins. Needless to say, my brain has still not been able to adjust to something so past irony that it needs a new word. “Travesty” and “blasphemy” come to mind.

31 thoughts on ““Cognitive Dissonance”

    1. I had the very reaction as I heard Pet’s song in the Volvo Commercial !! It was wonderful hearing his voice but I did and do feel ,” What-the——“ Actually shocking. I am still curious as to how it happened? Maybe the estate made some big bucks?? Maybe the song is in the public domaine?? I personally think Pete would have a strong opinion and I am sorry he can not speak for himself??

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I always loved ‘Little Boxes’ I thought it summed up aspirational, suburban life.
    Now I live in one, though it is not made of ‘ticky-tacky’, fortunately.
    He saw it all coming, that;’s for sure.
    Best wishes, Pete.


  2. ‘They’ll’ do anything for money. I’m surprised his estate allowed its use…..but then maybe others have the rights to the music. And again money talks.
    As well as being a great singer of great songs Pete Seeger also wrote lots of them.


  3. I know exactly what you mean. The car commercial songs have little to do with the car. It’s especially offensive when we know the song well and realize the writer would have never agreed. I loved Pete Seeger and saw him live, too.


  4. This is a perfect example of the right-wing co-option of radical ideas and thinking. I know there are many more examples. I just can’t think of them now as my mind is taken over by the hopes and fears of the evolving 2020 election results.

    But Pete Seeger was a true original. He was a real presence her ein the Mid-Hudson Valley – often seen protesting on Route 9. in Poughkeepsie. And it was so great to see him play at Obama’s 2008 inaugural.


  5. Okay, you have hit on one of my 21st-century pet peeves: pharmaceutical companies who use popular melodies from the 20th-century and change the lyrics to the names of their drugs! I CAN’T STAND THAT!!


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