Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger, 1919-2014



Pete Seeger, who died yesterday at 94, was an inspiration to the generation of folksingers who were popular during my high school and college years. While I was in college, I got his album How Can I Keep From Singing, and was particularly fond of the title song, as well as his musical setting of Idris Davies' poem "The Bells of Rhymney," and the Spanish Civil War song Viva la Quince Brigada. I also love his "Garden Song" (video above).

My erstwhile Lion's Head companion David Amram, who was a close friend of Pete's, has written a beautiful eulogy, part of which I've quoted below:

I first heard Pete 65 years ago when my mother took me to a Henry Wallace rally in 1948 when I was about to turn 18.
All the hundreds of times I have played with him over the years since then have always been a joy as well as an honor,
Ever since he chose his path, he has stayed on it and walked the walk he talked and inspired generations to raise our voices in song, to always think of others, to respect ourselves and all who cross our paths and to share whatever blessings we have with others.
He shared his incredible gifts as an artist with anybody and everybody and set an example to all musicians of what our job is all about...to make a contribution while we are here, to honor young people and to show love and exercise responsibility to our blessed planet earth.
On the subject of "responsibility to our blessed planet earth," Pete championed the restoration and preservation of his beloved Hudson River, and toured along it in the sloop Clearwater, which I photographed when it visited Brooklyn Bridge Park.

I'll close this with the words of another Lion's Head alum, Mary Breasted Smyth: "Tonight we will look up at the stars and imagine Orion is holding a banjo."