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.