PETE SEEGER, AMERICAN. DIES AT 94.
And we’ll miss him. Seeger was more American than most, because he kept an unfaltering love for this country, our culture, history, people, and best of all the poetry in our songs.
And he loved the whole world.
When I was 9 years old and we lived out in the scrubs of Missouri, my mother took me to an old off the beaten path church one night to hear Pete Seeger sing. The little ramshackle white clabbord Baptist place was jam-packed, the stage was teeny and badly lit. He’d just come back from some island place and showed up there, just outside St Louis, with a small band of wide-eyed Caribes standing in the America of Huckleberry Finn to make music in this foreign land with Seeger — hot with the discovery of steel drums from cut off barrel tops, held waist-high with broad canvas straps around the shoulders, and dented just so. When he bonged on the lumps with a cotton topped stick he made music. It was astonishing. It was beautiful.
Six years later I saw his brother and their band perform in La Jolla, barefoot blue grass fiddlers.
Pete Seeger’s voice was often strong, always emotional, ever sweet. I grew up singing along with him and enchanted by his stories set to music. “If I Had A Hammer”, “Turn Turn Turn”, “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night”…..the kind of old-fashioned liberalism shared with Woody Guthrie that revered the working man and woman, gave attaboys to perseverance and independence and good character of people everywhere, and knew America was a shining light of possibility for all the world. Thank you, Pete Seeger. You still lift my spirit mightily, though just now I will weep at your passing.