Studs Terkel Reads Poem ‘Blessed be the Nation’

Studs Terkel would have turned 100 years old today. A leg­endary broad­cast­er and the author of ground-break­ing oral his­to­ries of the Amer­i­can expe­ri­ence in the 20th century–including his Pulitzer Prize-win­ning exam­i­na­tion of World War II, The Good War–Terkel was a beloved cul­tur­al fig­ure in his native Chica­go up until his death in Octo­ber, 2008. The head­line of his New York Times obit­u­ary called him “Lis­ten­er to Amer­i­cans.” It was an apt phrase. “The thing I’m able to do, I guess, is break down walls,” Terkel once said. “If they think you’re lis­ten­ing, they’ll talk. It’s more of a con­ver­sa­tion than an inter­view.” With Studs, they talked.

To cel­e­brate his 100th birth­day we bring you a lit­tle clip from the “Eight Forty-Eight” show on Chica­go pub­lic radio sta­tion WBEZ, with a lis­ten­er call­ing in from his car to play a read­ing by Terkel of a poem writ­ten by Pete Seeger and Jim Mus­sel­man called “Blessed be the Nation.” It’s from the 1998 trib­ute album Where Have All the Flow­ers Gone: The Songs of Pete Seeger. The brief clip reveals some­thing of Terkel’s val­ues, and of the esteem in which he is still held in the Windy City and beyond.

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