RIP PETE SEEGER
His banjo “surrounds hate and forces it to surrender” – rest in peace Pete Seeger (May 3, 1919-January 27, 2014). This man and his work hold so much meaning for me and I can’t possibly count the number of hours I’ve spent listening to his music, reading his lyrics and writing, and pondering his ideas.
We live in a time when music is largely used for entertainment. Pete Seeger loved the entertainment qualities of music and he has played some of the most playful and catchy songs I’ve ever heard, but Pete also knew that music could be used in very different ways–to organize workers, to lift fallen spirits, to overcome issues like race and intolerance, and to unite cultures and belief systems.
“For Mr. Seeger, folk music and a sense of community were inseparable, and where he saw a community, he saw the possibility of political action.
In his hearty tenor, Mr. Seeger, a beanpole of a man who most often played 12-string guitar or five-string banjo, sang topical songs and children’s songs, humorous tunes and earnest anthems, always encouraging listeners to join in. His agenda paralleled the concerns of the American left: He sang for the labor movement in the 1940s and 1950s, for civil rights marches and anti-Vietnam War rallies in the 1960s, and for environmental and antiwar causes in the 1970s and beyond. “We Shall Overcome,” which Mr. Seeger adapted from old spirituals, became a civil rights anthem.” (nytimes)
Music was a marvelous tool in the earnest hands of Pete Seeger. He lived and sung what he believed and sincerely shared with us the beauty and hope that he saw in the world. It’s apparent through his music and messages that Pete took great joy in life. He even talked about sheet music falling short of capturing a song, like a photograph of a bird in flight. “When you see the picture of a bird, you know that was how the bird looked at the time and place it was photographed. But you don’t figure that is how it looks now.”
“The key to the future of the world,” Pete said in 1994, “is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.” Storyteller, activist, brother to us all–thank you, Pete.