Bruce Springsteen turned to the work of Pete Seeger – the folk musician and activist who died yesterday aged 95 – to re-energise himself. As Richard Willams has put it in The Guardian today:
When Springsteen recognised the need to drag himself out of a becalmed period at the start of the new millennium, it was to Seeger’s music that he turned for inspiration. The Seeger Sessions, with their joyful sing-along versions of We Shall Overcome and Jacob’s Ladder, would be the catalyst for his artistic regeneration.
It was the perfect of example of Seeger’s belief in the folk process, the invisible but enduring mechanism by which source material survives being handed on and transformed at the hands of successive eras. Speaking to Alec Wilkinson of the New Yorker, Springsteen remarked that Seeger ‘had a real sense of the musician as historical entity – of being a link in the thread of people who sing in others’ voices and carry the tradition forward … and a sense that songs were tools, and, without sounding too pretentious, righteous implements when connected to historical consciousness’.
As with songs so too with the stories Rosemary Sutcliff re-told (such as Tristan and Iseult) or re-imagined (her many works of historical fiction). Re-working Springsteen, we might perhaps say that Rosemary Sutcliff had a real sense of being a link in the thread of people who tell stories and carry tradition forward, and a sense that stories were tools, cultural and social implements when connected to historical consciousness?