At yesterday’s inaugural celebrity jamboree at the Lincoln Memorial, will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas (and of the execrable “Dipdive” videos) performed his hit song “Where is the Love?” Over at the Weekly Standard, John McCormack notes that will.i.am bowlderized the verse of the song where he compares the CIA to the KKK. Thank God for small favors.
What few people seemed to have picked up on, however, was that when Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger — the lefty folksinger icon who just recently got around to apologizing for his support of Joseph Stalin — led a massive singalong of “This Land is Your Land,” it included the oft-omitted “controversial” verse:
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.
Now, I have nothing against the beloved song or Woody Guthrie — indeed Wilco and Billy Bragg’s interpretation of Guthrie’s unfinished material is among my faves. If poltical agreement were a precondition for artistic enjoyment, I’d have to chuck my record collection out the window.
However, I will note that the only way you would have heard that verse is if you have HBO. Despite being hosted at a beloved national landmark on the national mall, the Obama inaugural committee struck an exclusive $2.5 million deal giving viewing rights to the pay cable network. Now HBO did broadcast for free this weekend, but significant numbers of Americans don’t have cable. “In the Washington area, between 60 and 75 percent of cable subscribers will be able to see the concert on cable systems owned by Comcast and Cox Communications,” according to the Post. Further, HBO has already asserted their property rights by demanding clips of Seeger and Spingsteen singing the song be pulled from several places on YouTube.
So it’s good to know that Seeger, still spry at 89, is as obdurately unaware of his own hypocrisy as ever.