My earliest impressions of Pete Seeger are of a wild man with a banjo, his head thrown back as he sang to the heavens. The force of his joy and passion was how he got the audience to sing along, shouting out words before he sang them. He carried me along with him, wherever he was going with the music. If this was folk music, then I was all in.
Pete Seeger was one of my first heroes, and time has not diminished the respect I have for the man. Ironically, I first became aware of Pete Seeger and his music while he was officially blacklisted from the entertainment industry. I didn’t understand it until later, when the Freedom Marches and the Vietnam war protests heated up, and I and my generation realized that our true heroes were the ones who resisted. I didn’t understand that he and the Weavers had been on the brink of widespread popularity, when they were destroyed by the political ill winds of the time.
The songs that he wrote and sang became popular anyway. They seeped through the wall that turned out to be not so solid after all. Later I became aware of his children’s music, and his world music. Both genres owe him a tremendous debt. Later still I learned of his beautiful and poignant songs about the world’s condition, almost as if he were outside the world, looking in, with disbelief and yet compassion and hope.
I love that you are still chopping wood at 94, Pete! You have shown me a way to be in the world that I could not have imagined without you. We are throwing you a birthday party this year, across the continent, and you may not ever be aware of us, but know that we are aware of you, and we love you.
Homage to Pete Seeger
Sunday, April 28, 6 pm, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Ukiah, CA
Sunday, May 5, 6 pm, Willits Center for the Arts, Willits, CA
A Choral Tribute by the Emandal Chorale and the Inland Valley Women’s Chorus