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We Shall Overcome!

Jon Sievert

By Patricia Jean Browne

Protest music has been a powerful cry for justice throughout history, uniting people to share a spirit of dissent against personal or institutional injustices. Musicologist Jon Sievert explores a history of American protest music at this week’s PEN talk, Tuesday, March 3, in Bellas Artes auditorium at 6pm.

PEN series talk
“Sing Out! Music and Protest in the Streets!”
Tue, Mar 3, 6pm
Bellas Artes auditorium
Hernández Macías 75
152 0614 or
100 pesos

Every major movement in American history has been accompanied by its own collection of protest songs, from slave emancipation to women’s suffrage, anti-war, the labor movement, civil rights, the feminist movement, the environmental movement, the Occupy movement, etc. The power of singing together creates a sense of community that helps groups organize to affect change. Sievert traces the music’s history through its artists, lyrics, and music, illustrated with some of his personal favorite recordings from Billie Holiday to Woody Guthrie to Bob Dylan to Rage Against the Machine.

A northwestern Ohio native, Jon Sievert briefly worked as a staff photographer for the Toledo Blade newspaper after earning a degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University in 1965.

Following two years in the Army and two more as an advertising manager in Worcester, Massachusetts, he fled the snow to San Francisco in 1969.

A camera and darkroom supplies salesman by day, he began taking his camera to concerts and selling the photos to magazines and local music newspapers. His 1972 cover story and photographs of John Cipollina (of Quicksilver Messenger Service) for Guitar Player began a 25-year relationship with that magazine and its sister publications, Keyboard and Frets. During his tenure as a writer, editor, and staff photographer, he interviewed and photographed hundreds of world-class musicians, among them Les Paul, Doc Watson, Jerry Garcia, Chet Atkins, Roy Clark, Merle Haggard, and Jerry Lee Lewis. His photos have appeared on more than 100 magazine covers, dozens of album/CD packages, and in countless books and publications worldwide, including Rolling Stone, Musician, People, Acoustic Guitar, The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Guitar World, Vanity Fair, Newsweek, and Fachblatt. He now lives in San Miguel with his wife and their two canine companions.

Sievert’s talk closes the 2015 PEN series, sponsored for more than 30 years by San Miguel PEN. Tickets are available at La Tienda in La Biblioteca on Insurgentes or at the door for 100 pesos, which includes a free glass of wine with dinner at Vivali’s across the street at Hernández Macías 66. Proceeds from the series support PEN’s work promoting freedom of expression around the world. For more information, call 152 0614 or email


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