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A time to be born and a time to die
January 27, 2014 11:57 PM   Subscribe

Pete Seeger, singer, musician, songwriter, political activist for more than 7 decades died, age 94. As a song writer, he is best known as the author or co-author of Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, If I Had a Hammer, and Turn, Turn, Turn!

The Story Behind "Forever Young" by Pete Seeger

A Pete Seeger appreciation page

Pete Seeger on "The Johnny Cash Show" complete and uncut

Turn Turn Turn! lyrics

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time for every purpose, under Heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time for every purpose, under Heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time for every purpose, under Heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time for every purpose, under Heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late
posted by nickyskye (314 comments total) 81 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by bwerdmuller at 11:58 PM on January 27


I learned this week that he coined the terms "hammer-on" and "pull-off". What were those even called before?

Like Fred Rogers, Pete Seeger was a true national treasure.

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posted by hades at 11:59 PM on January 27 [29 favorites]


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posted by Pope Guilty at 12:00 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


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posted by MrBadExample at 12:00 AM on January 28


Which side are you on?
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posted by Arbac at 12:00 AM on January 28 [7 favorites]


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posted by Iridic at 12:01 AM on January 28


He was, sadly, blacklisted for being a communist, and recognized as a living legend by the Library of Congress. An anti-war singer, a champion of workers rights, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and a children's entertainer; an undeniable part of America's cultural history. I enjoyed this full-length concert with his half-sister, Peggy.

RIP Pete Seeger; you will be missed.
posted by bwerdmuller at 12:01 AM on January 28 [17 favorites]


Mr. SEEGER: I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this. I would be very glad to tell you my life if you want to hear of it.
[...]
I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, or yours, Mr. Willis, or yours, Mr. Scherer, that I am any less of an American than anybody else. I love my country very deeply, sir.

Chairman WALTER: Why don’t you make a little contribution toward preserving its institutions?

Mr. SEEGER: I feel that my whole life is a contribution. That is why I would like to tell you about it.

Chairman WALTER: I don’t want to hear about it.
posted by hades at 12:03 AM on January 28 [170 favorites]


I remember the last time I actually heard him on the radio. I was in Croatia. It was 3:00 AM and the bure was blowing in the window.

I heard a song of his competing with the nightingale.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:05 AM on January 28 [14 favorites]


My mom sung me Where Have All The Flowers Gone as a lullaby every night when I was little. It was the song I always asked for (not being old enough to understand the anti-war lyrics at the time). But even at my childhood level this one hit more more than anything else. He was a good man if he didn't do anything else than write that song.
posted by fishmasta at 12:06 AM on January 28 [9 favorites]


Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest - Featuring June Carter and Drunk Johnny Cash
posted by sarastro at 12:07 AM on January 28 [8 favorites]


He has reach far outside the US' borders. Here is 40,000 Norwegians singing the Norwegian translation of My Rainbow Race outside in the rain to spite the mass murderer of July 22nd and show solidarity with the victims.

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posted by Harald74 at 12:08 AM on January 28 [23 favorites]


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posted by dougzilla at 12:08 AM on January 28


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posted by Joey Michaels at 12:09 AM on January 28


I grew up listening to Pete Seeger. Abi-yoyo!
posted by goofyfoot at 12:10 AM on January 28 [6 favorites]


His music is part of my heart, part of who I am. Good journey, Mr. Seeger, and thank you for saying what I wanted to say and didn't know how.
posted by aryma at 12:10 AM on January 28 [6 favorites]


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posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:10 AM on January 28


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posted by colie at 12:11 AM on January 28


Deep in my heart, I still believe we shall overcome someday.

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posted by RogerB at 12:18 AM on January 28 [15 favorites]


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posted by buzzman at 12:25 AM on January 28


RogerB is pointing out his role in popularizing We Shall Overcome as a civil rights anthem. ("The most important verse is the one they wrote down in Montgomery, Alabama...")

The trouble with playing his music in memory of him is that it makes it hard to mourn. The music of his that I know best is not well suited to a time for weeping. It's too good for the soul.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:25 AM on January 28 [13 favorites]


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posted by weston at 12:25 AM on January 28


I think that Pete Seeger must have been the first music I heard, or at least how my parents sung to me at bedtime, and during car rides, and work like that, was infused with the spirit of him. He continued and maintained a kind of democratic populism that reinforced and reconsidered what folk music could be. I am glad that he lived to sing at Obama's inauguration, and I am glad that his politics shifted, moved and opened. I respect his pacifism, his environmentalism, how he taught, his commitment against racism, homophobia, and misogyny and how he admitted when he was wrong. I keep thinking about how quiet and earnest he was; and how he taught without being didactic. The 1960 Bowdoin Hall Concert Live recording is on Rdio, you should listen to that. (Thinking about the legacy of folk, and as much as I love Springsteen, he is not as populist as Seeger was, and people like Clifton Hicks and Frank Fairlane, while brilliant, have a recursive retreat to tradition--to keep tradition alive in your hand, that is the skill of a master). I still listen to Seeger, often. I will miss him.
posted by PinkMoose at 12:27 AM on January 28 [10 favorites]


I know he was at least a little involved, so I tried to find a video of him playing during the Occupy protests a couple of years back. Every video of Seeger and Occupy I found in a few minutes of searching seems to focus on hundreds of joyous, hopeful people singing his songs and the songs he loved together without really spotlighting Pete Seeger. Somehow that seems even more appropriate.
posted by sandswipe at 12:27 AM on January 28 [10 favorites]


I know it's trivial compared to all his other accomplishments, but I still have a soft spot for his song as used in the ending of Last Night [spoiler]. I listened to that album so much with my lovable lefty parents.

May we all one day live in the world he envisioned.
posted by benzenedream at 12:27 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


Well fuck. He had a good long run. I hope he had a hammer in his hand.
posted by The Potate at 12:28 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


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posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 12:29 AM on January 28


He lived such a vigorous and purposeful life, right up to the end. According to his grandson, "he was chopping wood ten days ago."

Thanks, Mr. Seeger, for the music, the inspiration, and the example. Safe travels.
posted by mosk at 12:29 AM on January 28 [7 favorites]


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posted by gideonswann at 12:33 AM on January 28


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posted by sagwalla at 12:35 AM on January 28


Apart from his musical legacy, Seeger has to be remembered as one of the great champions of the movement against the Vietnam war. "Where have all the flowers gone?" is a reference to the young men being drafted into the Army. He wrote that in 1964 long before the Tet Offensive and LBJ amped things up by putting half a million soldiers in the Republic of South Vietnam.
posted by three blind mice at 12:36 AM on January 28 [5 favorites]


This Land is Your Land - Doing what he did best: leading people in song, reminding us that this is our country too dammit, and having a wonderful time doing it.

Farewell, Mr. Seeger.
posted by topophilia at 12:37 AM on January 28 [8 favorites]


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posted by acb at 12:40 AM on January 28


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posted by viramamunivar at 12:41 AM on January 28


I still have a soft spot for his song as used in the ending of Last Night

benzenedream, that song is Guantanamera! Guantanamera! Which seemed like the least appropriate song imaginable to sing at a funeral but then I found the English translation of the lyrics:

I am a truthful man from the land of the palm trees.
And before dying, I want to share these poems of my soul.
My poems are soft green. My poems are also flaming crimson.
My poems are like a wounded fawn seeking refuge in the forest.
With the poor people of this earth I want to share my fate.
The streams of the mountains please me more than the sea.

posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:42 AM on January 28 [12 favorites]


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posted by lapolla at 12:45 AM on January 28


Oh this makes me sad. He was a moral and artistic giant. We were lucky to have him so long.
posted by RussHy at 12:56 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


Worth mentioning here that Bruce Springsteen's Seegar Sessions tribute album is magnificent. For anyone (like me) who's not keen on the E Street Band's bombast, this band is SO much better.
posted by Paul Slade at 1:00 AM on January 28 [9 favorites]


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posted by penguin pie at 1:16 AM on January 28


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Also, if you haven't heard that Springsteen album, you should.
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posted by Fuzzypumper at 1:31 AM on January 28


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posted by Spatch at 1:32 AM on January 28


Toshi died six months ago. They were married for seventy years. Maybe his job here was done and it was time to go. He will be well remembered. We should all be so brave.
posted by Anitanola at 1:34 AM on January 28 [25 favorites]


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posted by quazichimp at 1:39 AM on January 28


It makes me so happy to see other people here who count Pete Seeger among their first musical memories. My mom saw that I got to know his material early, both solo stuff and his work with The Weavers. We had an old taped-off-PBS copy of the Weavers' 1980 reunion that I watched a lot, and I remember confusing the hell out of a babysitter by knowing so many of the words to Get Up and Go.

"I get up each morning and dust off my wits
Open the paper and read the obits
If I'm not there I know I'm not dead
So I eat a good breakfast and go back to bed"

Sorry to see you there Pete. You will be missed.

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posted by ActionPopulated at 1:44 AM on January 28 [9 favorites]


Little Boxes
posted by quazichimp at 1:45 AM on January 28 [5 favorites]


A profoundly decent human being, the likes of which are far too rare these dark days.

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posted by dbiedny at 1:46 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


The Weavers albums were played often in my house as a kid, and I was lucky to go to a few live performances too.

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posted by Gotanda at 1:46 AM on January 28


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posted by jwhite1979 at 1:54 AM on January 28


"Songs won't save the planet," Seeger told his biographer David Dunlap, author of How Can I Keep From Singing? "But, then, neither will books or speeches...Songs are sneaky things. They can slip across borders. Proliferate in prisons." He liked to quote Plato: "Rulers should be careful about what songs are allowed to be sung."

and this:

That night, Springsteen introduced Seeger saying, "He's gonna look a lot like your granddad that wears flannel shirts and funny hats. He's gonna look like your granddad if your granddad can kick your ass. At 90, he remains a stealth dagger through the heart of our country's illusions about itself."


from the USA Today obit.
posted by chavenet at 1:55 AM on January 28 [10 favorites]


So long, Pete Seeger. You packed a lot into your long life, not the least of which was introducing more people to the various folk traditions of America, for example, the mouth bow, as played by Buffy Sainte-Marie.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:55 AM on January 28 [4 favorites]


. A great man.
posted by Vibrissae at 2:10 AM on January 28


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posted by you must supply a verb at 2:22 AM on January 28



posted by Gelatin at 2:22 AM on January 28


If I should die before I wake
All my bone and sinew take
Put me in the compost pile
To decompose me for a while
Worms, water, sun will have their way
Returning me to common clay
All that I am shall feed the trees
and little fishies in the seas
When radishes and corn you munch
You may be having me for lunch
And then excrete me with a grin,
Chortling 'There goes Lee again'.


(In Dead Earnest, written by Lee Hays, performed by Pete on Precious Friend.)
posted by you must supply a verb at 2:29 AM on January 28 [8 favorites]


. Darn. Knew it was going to happen but it still hurts. Got to see him perform once with Arlo about thirty years ago during the low days of the Reagan years. What a force.
posted by octothorpe at 2:36 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


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posted by HandfulOfDust at 2:37 AM on January 28


Saw him live in SF a few years ago. Not sure what I was expecting, but was amazed to see him at age 90 dancing while playing banjo and singing on stage. "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" was one of the first songs I learned from my lefty commie music teacher (Mrs. Martin, I still remember and love you) in harshest Nevada in the late 60's and shaped my opinions ever since. The way the song circled back and repeated blew my little eight year old mind. Pete, thanks for keeping me forever young.

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posted by telstar at 2:43 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


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And from the above mentioned Springsteen sessions:
Old Dan Tucker
Pay me my Money Down.
posted by rongorongo at 2:53 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


40,000 Norwegians singing the Norwegian translation of My Rainbow Race outside in the rain to spite the mass murderer of July 22nd and show solidarity with the victims.

Came here to post that. Best thing is that it wasn't just a spontaneous outpouring of solidarity in the face of terrorism, but actually a giant middle finger to the terrorist scum himself, as Anders Breivik hated that particular song and all it stood for, a genuine multicultural society. Pissed off a lot of his fellow travellers as well.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:55 AM on January 28 [4 favorites]


Well, I've got a hammer
And I've got a bell
And I've got a song to sing
All over this land...
It's the hammer of justice
It's the bell of freedom
It's a song about love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land!

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posted by graymouser at 3:03 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


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posted by p3t3 at 3:08 AM on January 28


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posted by From Bklyn at 3:14 AM on January 28


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posted by Coaticass at 3:19 AM on January 28


Thank you, Pete Seeger. Thank you.

Steve Earle, Steve's Hammer (For Pete)

Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sesions Band, "We Shall Overcome"

Springsteen:
So four years ago, I found myself in an unusual situation. It was a cold winter day, and I was standing alongside of Pete Seeger, and it was 25 degrees. Pete had come to Washington. Pete carries a banjo everywhere he goes – the subway, the bus – and comes out in his shirt. I said, "Man, Pete, put on a jacket, man, it's freezing out here." He's ninety years old, a living embodiment of Woody's legacy. And there were several hundred thousand of our fellow citizens in front of us. We had the Lincoln Memorial behind us and a newly–elected president to our right. And we were going to sing, "This Land is Your Land" in front of all these Americans. And Pete insisted, "We have to sing all the verses. We have to sing all the verses, man. You can't leave any of them out." I said, I don't know, Pete, there's only – we had, like, a crowd of six year old school kids behind us. He says, "No, we're all gonna sing all the verses – all the verses. And, so we got to it... So, on that day, Pete and myself, and generations of young and old Americans – all colors, religious beliefs – I realized that sometimes things that come from the outside, they make their way in, to become a part of the beating heart of the nation. And on that day, when we sung that song, Americans – young and old, black and white, of all religious and political beliefs – were united, for a brief moment, by Woody's poetry.
Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen, This Land is Your Land

All the verses. All the verses. And for a brief moment, we were united. Thank you, Pete Seeger.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:21 AM on January 28 [35 favorites]


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posted by parki at 3:35 AM on January 28


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posted by fungible at 3:38 AM on January 28


I kind of thought Pete Seeger would live forever, which is ridiculous but also not exaggeration. A pretty significant part of 20c American music was shaped by Pete and the rest of his family.
posted by lownote at 3:45 AM on January 28 [5 favorites]


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posted by ob1quixote at 3:51 AM on January 28


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posted by condour75 at 3:58 AM on January 28


I can't really imagine a world without Pete Seeger. But maybe because he was so influential, we'll never really have a world without Pete.
posted by maurice at 3:59 AM on January 28 [5 favorites]


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posted by oneironaut at 4:02 AM on January 28


"They're building some buildings and new Lincoln Centers
It's a living hell for the low income renters
They're crammed into rooms with the rat and the fly
Where the faucets don't work and you live there or die"
posted by Xurando at 4:03 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


Just sad about this... what a wonderful human being he was.

I was honored to hear Pete sing a couple of years ago.
I wish him peace

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posted by HuronBob at 4:10 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


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posted by sammyo at 4:17 AM on January 28


This makes me sad.
posted by parmanparman at 4:21 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


I have tickets to see Arlo at the Ark in a couple of months. He's lost his wife, it's the centennial of his father's birth... and now he's lost Pete.... A rough year
posted by HuronBob at 4:23 AM on January 28 [4 favorites]


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posted by rahnefan at 4:23 AM on January 28


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posted by Obscure Reference at 4:26 AM on January 28


Forever Young
posted by HuronBob at 4:29 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


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posted by El Brendano at 4:30 AM on January 28


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posted by PippinJack at 4:30 AM on January 28


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posted by Elly Vortex at 4:33 AM on January 28


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posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:34 AM on January 28


My parents were old folkies, and Pete Seeger is literally the first music I remember hearing.


Here's Pete on the Johnny Cash Show


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posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:36 AM on January 28


Turn Turn Turn is truth truth truth. Godspeed, Pete, onward and inward.
posted by rmmcclay at 4:37 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


Pete Seeger had a very large influence on the person that I grew up to be. I listened to Pete my entire life. We had a stack of his LP's, and they were the soundtrack of reading, drawing and painting in my childhood. The children's songs taught me to follow the golden rule, to take interest in and respect cultures that were different from my own, and the beauty of everyday things. The adult songs taught me about the futility of war, the wrongs of social injustice .

I think about Pete a lot. 94 is a good run, but I kind of thought that he would live forever. He will live forever in a way-- those of us whom he helped to shape, we will in turn direct our children to those same values that he led us to believe in.

I lost one of my personal heroes today and it's still sinking in. He gave so much to me, and probably to many other people, and I always fantasized that some day I would get to thank him. He made the people he reached kinder, and that's profound.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:38 AM on January 28 [26 favorites]


What an outstanding person.
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posted by gauche at 4:49 AM on January 28


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posted by askmehow at 4:50 AM on January 28


Here is Pete performing Abiyoyo on "Reading Rainbow." If you have young children, please share this with them.

Here is his version of Guantanamera that I grew up with. It's beautiful in its calm.

Here's Pete discussing what happened at the Peekskill Riots. (Woody Guthrie wrote a song about the riot that Billy Bragg and Wilco performed, which is also a good listen.)

Sometimes overlooked in his catalogue is American Industrial Ballads, which is a chronological set of historic labor songs and essential listening for people interested in the history of the labor movement.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:50 AM on January 28 [10 favorites]


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posted by Cash4Lead at 4:55 AM on January 28




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posted by tzikeh at 4:57 AM on January 28


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The music of Pete Seeger was such a presence in my house growing up, and the world is poorer for his loss. Godspeed, Uncle Pete.

Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen perform at Obama's first inauguration, 2009.
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:58 AM on January 28 [4 favorites]


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posted by oceanjesse at 4:59 AM on January 28


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From a friend's Facebook status: "Saw Suzanne Vega in Princeton with Seeger listed as the opening act. At showtime, Vega, comes out and says, "Pete Seeger shouldn't *open* for anyone," proceeded to do her set, then let Seeger headline. They did a few duets at the end. The whole thing was a complete surprise to Pete, because he never expected anything like that, ever."

He will be missed.
posted by booksherpa at 5:04 AM on January 28 [18 favorites]


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posted by Melismata at 5:06 AM on January 28


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posted by Ironmouth at 5:07 AM on January 28




A time to be born, a time to die

My father was a priest (and incidentally a folk music fan). He passed away this past year after a car accident. I went to the rustic mountain cabin that he used to retreat to when he needed a break from his pastoral duties to clean out his things I found that he had left his bible on the table, open.

Open to Ecclesiastes.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:11 AM on January 28 [17 favorites]


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posted by The Nutmeg of Consolation at 5:15 AM on January 28


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briank has just showed me the song I want played at my funeral.
posted by DigDoug at 5:17 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


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posted by Renoroc at 5:21 AM on January 28


Wow. I feel like part of my childhood, part of what gave me the spiritual and human and political outlook I have today is gone. I grew up listening to Pete Seeger, and of course it wasn't until later that I fully appreciated the meaning and context in so many of the songs I listened to as a child. But by then the seed had already been planted. If only more people had listened to Pete, I feel like the world would be a better place today.
posted by slkinsey at 5:22 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


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posted by postcommunism at 5:22 AM on January 28


An American hero.

And boy could that man yodel.


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posted by gwint at 5:28 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


He was a kind and gentle man, solid in his beliefs, and welcoming of anyone.

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posted by blob at 5:31 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


A life fully lived.

Thank you, and godspeed, sir. Say hi to Woody for us.
posted by Capt. Renault at 5:31 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


I am linking to this thread from all of the other places I would generally post about this, because all of you are giving Pete the kind of memorial he deserves--rich, and diverse, and built by many hands. Thank you.
posted by tzikeh at 5:34 AM on January 28 [7 favorites]


Forever in your debt.

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posted by apartment dweller at 5:36 AM on January 28


This was one of the first records I ever owned.

Rest in peace, Mr. Seeger.
posted by box at 5:37 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


The local children's radio show always ends with "Be Kind to your Parents". On the surface it's a silly song, but I'm never annoyed to have it burrowed in my ears.

So long, Pete, been good to know ya.

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posted by notsnot at 5:39 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


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posted by kjh at 5:46 AM on January 28




Never woken up in a morning without Pete Seeger around. His songs, though, will be around for all mornings to come.

If you need me, I'll be in the basement, quietly goofing off on a long-neck banjo like Pete's.
posted by scruss at 5:46 AM on January 28 [4 favorites]


What did you learn in school today?

I saw Pete play at the School of America protest in 1999 (maybe 2000) and it was amazing. All sing-a-longs!

So it goes.
posted by schyler523 at 5:47 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


Oh goodness. He was one of the last of the truly greats. We will always have his voice and input, but never again anything new.

Thank you, Pete, for everything. (And that truly is one hell of a lot that you did.)

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posted by hippybear at 5:48 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


Such a voice, a force, a loss.
posted by percolatrix at 5:49 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


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posted by aught at 5:53 AM on January 28


It's a shame that the American Masters episode Pete Seeger: The Power Of Song and the Great Performances Pete Seeger's 90th Birthday Celebration from Madison Square Garden aren't online for easy viewing. Those would both be things I would be watching today, to remember and to celebrate. The man's life was so large, and touched so many across so many years, it's difficult to fathom.
posted by hippybear at 5:54 AM on January 28 [4 favorites]


Yes, another part of my childhood gone. Such a life!

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posted by rtha at 5:57 AM on January 28


Pete's loss brings tears to my eyes but his life brings joy to my heart and a song to my lips.

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posted by Man with Lantern at 5:57 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


Re: Obama's inauguration: "He was so happy that day," Springsteen said later. "It was like, 'Pete, you outlasted the bastards, man.' It was so nice."

Re: marching with Occupy protesters: When a policeman approached, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger said at the time he feared his grandfather would be hassled.

"He reached out and shook my hand and said, 'Thank you, thank you, this is beautiful,'" Rodriguez-Seeger said. "That really did it for me. The cops recognized what we were about. They wanted to help our march. They actually wanted to protect our march because they saw something beautiful. It's very hard to be anti-something beautiful."


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posted by petebest at 6:02 AM on January 28 [6 favorites]


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posted by contrarian at 6:02 AM on January 28


It's not uncommon for people to say something like "He made the world a better place," when someone they look up to is gone, but I think Pete Seeger is one of the few who took making the world a better place to be his job. And he never stopped working.

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posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:05 AM on January 28 [4 favorites]


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posted by Annika Cicada at 6:09 AM on January 28


One of my most prized possessions is my mother's dogeared copy of Rise Up Singing, a massive compilation of folk songs, for which Seeger wrote the introduction and did much of the editing. If you are interested in learning more about the canon of American folk songs, I can't think of a better place to start.

What a man and what a life.
posted by mostly vowels at 6:10 AM on January 28 [7 favorites]


Apart from his musical legacy, Seeger has to be remembered as one of the great champions of the movement against the Vietnam war.

Indeed he was: "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" on the Smothers Brothers show in 1968, and the story of how it got on the air.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:10 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


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posted by Axle at 6:15 AM on January 28


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posted by lalochezia at 6:20 AM on January 28


My first introduction to Pete Seeger was via his children's albums. To this day, "Abi YoYo" is one of my go-to things to experience when I'm in a super bad mood. "Little Boxes" sowed the seeds of questioning conformity in my tiny little mind; I think it was also the thing that introduced my small self to the concept of malaise.

It's hard to be sad, because 94 years of being a positive force in the world is a hell of a thing. As many have said above, the guy actually made the world a better place, which is something I'm ashamed to say I'm not doing as much of as I'd like.
posted by Shepherd at 6:20 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


I didn't have a lot of musical influences when I was young, but fortunately I lived along the Hudson River so eventually I started learning about Pete and his music in my late teens, so in that sense he was a big influence on me as I "grew up". It was great to see him at the Clearwater river festivals, but I was also lucky enough to see him at smaller local events.

The book Where Have All the Flowers Gone: A Singalong Memoir is a fantastic rambling autobiography mixed together with doodles, songs and sheet music. Although I don't play any banjo/guitar I've read this book many times over.

Clearwater.org has a lot of other Seeger material and will no doubt have some touching tributes (but the site is overloaded as of this writing).
posted by mikepop at 6:23 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


Pete Seeger was the first musician I ever saw in concert. His voice was like nobody else's in the world. And his heart.
posted by edheil at 6:25 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


:(

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posted by zarq at 6:27 AM on January 28


:(...
posted by pmbuko at 6:29 AM on January 28


What a great heart he had.
posted by maggiemaggie at 6:30 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


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posted by Ickster at 6:31 AM on January 28


I don't like thinking of a world without Pete in it.
posted by cookie-k at 6:35 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


My childhood was heavily weighted in the Jewish social justice movement. I knew Pete Seeger songs long before I knew pop music.

Olav haShalom Pete.
posted by Sophie1 at 6:36 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


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posted by Sphinx at 6:37 AM on January 28


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posted by newdaddy at 6:37 AM on January 28


He was such a warm presence in so many ways, and yet such an utterly unapologetic stubborn bad-ass, I just don't know what to say. I was a huge, huge, huge fan.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:41 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


His music was not so much an influence on me, as the air I breathed.
posted by willF at 6:43 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


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posted by frodisaur at 6:47 AM on January 28


His music was part of my life from when I was a very small child -- my family sang his songs and played his records all through my childhood. I have nothing but warm feelings for him and his legacy.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:49 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


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posted by Annabelle74 at 6:50 AM on January 28


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posted by ndfine at 6:52 AM on January 28


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(We could use a million more just like him.)
posted by saulgoodman at 6:54 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


My first memory is of seeing Pete Seeger perform. I was two or three, my mom had taken me to see him at Wolf Trap, and I have snippet of a memory of him singing "It's a small world after all" -- just that one line.

I once told a friend that and it turned out that his first memory is also seeing Pete Seeger perform. I kept meaning to write to Seeger and tell him that. And now there are more in this thread!
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:56 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


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posted by dismas at 6:57 AM on January 28


Well may the world go,
The world go, the world go,
Well may the world go,
When I’m far away.

Well may the skiers turn,
The swimmers churn, the lovers burn
Peace, may the generals learn
When I’m far away.
posted by bdc34 at 6:57 AM on January 28 [12 favorites]


Pete Seeger, truly, taught me the power of speaking my truth calmly, candidly, without hate or apology. He's finally moved on at the ripe old age of 94, and I still feel punched in the gut. R.I.P., brother Pete.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:57 AM on January 28 [5 favorites]


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posted by seyirci at 6:59 AM on January 28


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posted by R. Schlock at 7:04 AM on January 28


A musical giant and just an all around good person. His songs are some of the earliest I remember singing. It's silly, but I did not really anticipate him passing away. RIP Pete; you'll be missed.

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posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:05 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


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posted by LN at 7:07 AM on January 28


Went to the Clearwater Festival a couple of years ago, enduring the heat and the crowds, just to see Pete perform at sunset. He looked old, and he sounded old, but when he called out the verses to Turn, Turn, Turn, and had the crowd singing as one back to him, echoing out over the river, it was a special kind of beautiful.
posted by swift at 7:08 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


The music and lessons of my childhood.

My mother tells me that when I was two, I figured out how to use the tape player, and I would play Pete Seeger tapes over and over. She said I had every single word memorized. My family loved his music and his gentleness.
posted by Cygnet at 7:11 AM on January 28 [4 favorites]


RIP.
posted by threeants at 7:18 AM on January 28


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posted by ogooglebar at 7:19 AM on January 28


For all of the important things he stood for, hearing this news as I woke up this morning just made me want to call my dad. The more I think about that, the neater I think it is.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:19 AM on January 28 [5 favorites]


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posted by longdaysjourney at 7:20 AM on January 28


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posted by stoneweaver at 7:27 AM on January 28


My favorite Pete Seeger CD is also close to the only Christmas CD I own.

My favorite CD that Pete Seeger plays on is Weavers at Carnegie Hall which is still in print.

I find it very odd that a google search for (Pete, Seeger, FBI, file) fetches nothing interesting. Seems like he would have been near the top of the list of people Hoover considered terrifying.
posted by bukvich at 7:30 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


We listened to the LP of Circles and Seasons all the time when I was little. "Garbage" was definitely a favorite, but I also remember The Garden Song (Inch by Inch, Row by Row). Like so many of the songs he sang, it's so quiet and simple... on its surface.

This morning I'm thinking a lot about folk music and the many, many performers who owe a debt to Pete Seeger in one way or another. Anyone can sing these songs -- a kid like Little Madamina, a power performer like Springsteen, a teeming crowd of tens of thousands of people. We can put our own spins on them and share them with the people around us, and then share the memories of the first time we heard them, because so many, many people have heard them too.

Just got out of a doctor's appointment to see our little almost-baby. It bounced at us on the monitor when I said hello. I thought, "It's a shame we won't be able to share this music in the way I grew up with it," and then I chastised myself. Of COURSE we can.

Of COURSE we must.
posted by Madamina at 7:31 AM on January 28 [7 favorites]


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(I blame Stephen Colbert.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:35 AM on January 28


Madamina: Now let us sing together. And to your little one (for joy on this sad day -- congratulations!).

How Can I Keep from Singing?
Pete Seeger learned a version of this song from Doris Plenn, a family friend, who had it from her North Carolina family. His version made this song fairly well known in the folk revival of the 1960s. Seeger's version omits or modifies much of the Christian wording of the original, and adds Plenn's verse above. The reference in the added verse intended by Seeger and by Plenn—both active in left-wing causes—is to 'witch hunts' of the House Un-American Activities Committee (Seeger himself was sentenced to a year in jail in 1955 as a result of his testimony before the Committee, which he did not serve due to a technicality). Most folk singers, including Enya, have followed Seeger's version.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:38 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


"Pete Seeger brought the world together with truth and beauty more than anyone else."
-- Tony Bennett
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:39 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


The thing that impressed me most about Pete was his relentless sunny optimism and positivity, a rare thing these days.

Go ahead, try and picture Pete without a beatific smile on his face. I dare you.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:40 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


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posted by likeatoaster at 7:41 AM on January 28


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posted by Shoggoth at 7:43 AM on January 28


(I blame Stephen Colbert.)

?
posted by drezdn at 7:47 AM on January 28


Colbert and Seeger were nominated in the same category for a Grammy this weekend, and Colbert won. Haven't watched last night's episode yet, but Colbert's on-air persona isn't exactly known for being humble about winning awards.

I'm sure Colbert will have kind words for him on tonight's show -- Seeger was on the show a few times.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:50 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


Go ahead, try and picture Pete without a beatific smile on his face. I dare you.

I don't think he had that smile during the '65 Newport festival!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:50 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


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posted by maryr at 7:55 AM on January 28


Stalin's Songbird
posted by BobbyVan at 7:56 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


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posted by Woodroar at 7:59 AM on January 28


Such truth, and such beauty, and they will remain, but it's still small comfort right now, against the loss of his greatest work -- his life itself.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:01 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


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Dammit.
posted by allthinky at 8:05 AM on January 28


Agh, damn.

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posted by agress at 8:06 AM on January 28


  Stalin's Songbird

Oh dear. I thought we'd be past that. Pete certainly was:
… in a 1995 interview with The New York Times Magazine, he had apologized “for following the party line so slavishly, for not seeing that Stalin was a supremely cruel misleader.”
posted by scruss at 8:07 AM on January 28 [6 favorites]


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posted by bonefish at 8:08 AM on January 28


Someone above wrote that they thought he'd live forever. So did I. So did we all.

I live in Beacon, New York -- the same town Pete and his wife Toshi called home for more years than I can count. Pete was a legend on so many levels to so many people from so many generations, but I will remember him most as that old guy in the red knit cap I'd see driving his Jeep around town, buying groceries at the Natural Market, bringing his big green recycling bins down to the curb on Route 9D (with the banks of the Hudson River right across the road), and walking around Waterfront Park with his banjo strapped to his back. He sang at every town festival, every village event. He was just... there. Always.

I had the honor of photographing him at the Clearwater Festival in 2010, and just last summer I approached him at the Beacon Strawberry Festival on the banks of the Hudson, as he sat with his wife Toshi under a tree, his banjo leaning on the trunk. I thanked him for giving so much of himself, and for all the wonderful things he's done for our city and our country. "Ah, but you don't know all the foolish things I've done," he laughed. After taking his portrait (with his permission), I asked if I might shake his hand, and he held it out. It was rough from years of playing, but warm and strong.

And so may his memory stay warm and strong with us, with the city he called home, with the river he helped save, and with the country he helped heal.

Rest in peace, Mr. Seeger, with your beloved Toshi. You've both earned it.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 8:10 AM on January 28 [43 favorites]


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posted by Herodios at 8:11 AM on January 28


This month I listened to The Storm King, with Pete telling lots of stories from his life.
My favorite CD of his music is Where Have All the Flowers Gone, with his songs done by many excellent artists. Especially powerful is Those Three Are On My Mind.
What a great man. We need more like him.
posted by MtDewd at 8:12 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


The first concert I ever remember was a Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul, and Mary. I remember it, I think, because I knew almost all the words to everything that they sang, and there I was, at maybe 5 or 6, dancing around in the grass, singing along, and all the adults were laughing...the memory stands out as a shining moment of love and happiness and sunshine and music.

I don't weep when people I don't know die, because, ya know...people die. But I'm weeping for Pete Seeger. I'm weeping for all the children of the hippies who believed that our parent's generation would be a force for good. I'm weeping for the death of idealism, for the generation who believed that government existed to help the people, for the humans who fought against the dystoptian future where hungry American children were weighed against corporate profit and found to be worth less. I weep for the America that Pete Seeger believed we should be, but never actually achieved.

Goodnight Pete. Thanks for the hope, and the dreams, and the concert that made me a Don Quixote in search of justice. I love you man. I'm sorry you're gone.
posted by dejah420 at 8:16 AM on January 28 [13 favorites]


I know he was 94 but I'm still going to cry today, okay?
posted by jokeefe at 8:21 AM on January 28 [7 favorites]


I just bought a CD of children's songs (for my granddaughters) at the Red Balloon in St. Paul. They are all performed by Pete Seger. His voice will be sorely missed in this household.







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posted by Mental Wimp at 8:21 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


flyingsquirrel, that first photo started me weeping again. Lovely. Thank *you* for capturing that moment.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:23 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


Indeed you're right, scruss.

This is a moving letter from a one-time critic of Seeger's. He ought to be remembered more fully so apologies for the earlier terse, accusatory link.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:24 AM on January 28 [5 favorites]


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posted by vibrotronica at 8:25 AM on January 28


To my old brown earth
And to my old blue sky
I'll now give these last few molecules of "I."

And you who sing,
And you who stand nearby,
I do charge you not to cry.

Guard well our human chain,
Watch well you keep it strong,
As long as sun will shine.

And this our home,
Keep pure and sweet and green,
For now I'm yours
And you are also mine.


Thank you, Pete.
posted by Cygnet at 8:30 AM on January 28 [8 favorites]


I've already thanked Pete for everything he brought to my life and the lives of others, but I wanted to take a second to thank you all for the fantastic memorial that you have written here. I will be spending a long time watching, reading, and, of course, listening to the links and stories you have shared about this great man. He lived far more than most of us do, and I am happy to have been influenced by him.

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posted by blurker at 8:42 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


His triumphant return to television on the Smothers Brothers show was absolutely thrilling -- especially knowing that the Smothers Brothers were on trouble for having him on the first time. (I only saw this in reruns, not having been born yet.)
posted by vitabellosi at 8:43 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


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I will love this man forever, because my camp counselor played us on his pokey guitar If I Had a Hammer when I was all of 5 years old, and after I sang out the real words, he led me by my hand up to my father by his car at the end of the day and said, "She sings her heart out on this union song." Warning clear in in his voice.

And my Dad, being the good, generous, hard-working, tax-paying, Polish transplant he is, said, "Yes, because I taught her to."
posted by none of these will bring disaster at 8:43 AM on January 28 [29 favorites]


More about Seeger's renunciation of Stalin. Lyrics to The Big Joe Blues

"I'm singing about old Joe, cruel Joe,
He ruled with an iron hand
He put an end to the dreams
Of so many in every land
He had a chance to make
A brand new start for the human race
Instead he set it back /
Right in the same nasty place
I got the Big Joe Blues
(Keep your mouth shut or you will die fast)
I got the Big Joe Blues
(Do this job, no questions asked)
I got the Big Joe Blues."
posted by Ideefixe at 8:48 AM on January 28 [5 favorites]


Once called “America’s tuning fork,” Pete Seeger believed deeply in the power of song. But more importantly, he believed in the power of community – to stand up for what’s right, speak out against what’s wrong, and move this country closer to the America he knew we could be. Over the years, Pete used his voice – and his hammer – to strike blows for worker’s rights and civil rights; world peace and environmental conservation. And he always invited us to sing along. For reminding us where we come from and showing us where we need to go, we will always be grateful to Pete Seeger. - President Obama
So which song will we be closing out the State of the Union speech with tonight, then?
posted by mikepop at 8:49 AM on January 28 [8 favorites]


none of these will bring disaster: "I will love this man forever, because my camp counselor played us on his pokey guitar If I Had a Hammer when I was all of 5 years old, and after I sang out the real words, he led me by my hand up to my father by his car at the end of the day and said, "She sings her heart out on this union song." Warning clear in in his voice.

And my Dad, being the good, generous, hard-working, tax-paying, Polish transplant he is, said, "Yes, because I taught her to.""


This. THIS. I wish Pete Seeger could see this comment. This is why he kept singing with kids, right up until he left us.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 8:52 AM on January 28 [7 favorites]


I will love this man forever, because my camp counselor played us on his pokey guitar If I Had a Hammer when I was all of 5 years old, and after I sang out the real words, he led me by my hand up to my father by his car at the end of the day and said, "She sings her heart out on this union song." Warning clear in in his voice.

And my Dad, being the good, generous, hard-working, tax-paying, Polish transplant he is, said, "Yes, because I taught her to."



Best Seeger tribute ever. I love your dad. :)
posted by blurker at 8:53 AM on January 28 [6 favorites]


"Every kid who ever sat around a campfire singing an old song is indebted in some way to Pete Seeger," Arlo Guthrie once said. RIP, Pete. I bet you are where the flowers have gone now.
posted by Lynsey at 8:58 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


I'm weeping. Such a giant has passed.
posted by key_of_z at 9:05 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


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I listen to a lot of Pete Seeger with my son. I grew up in the United States, but he will be growing up somewhere else, in an entirely different culture. I feel like a little Pete Seeger every day is the least I can do to help him remember where his mama came from.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 9:06 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


This is going to sound really dumb, but I'm having this really weird experience right now where I go "How do I know this name" and then I realize that I've been hearing his music my whole life. I blame my parents. I've bought three albums while reading this thread and can't wait to pick up my little girls from school today.

RIP Pete. And thanks for all the tunes.
posted by Big_B at 9:23 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


Last Summer, I contemplated taking up the banjo. I borrowed one from a friend along with Pete Seeger's "How to Play the 5 String Banjo". I decided the banjo wasn't for me but I enjoyed reading the book all the way through.

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posted by jabo at 9:24 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


My mom loved Pete Seeger from singing his songs in the peace corps. I got to see him play about twenty years ago and he brought me to tears. Seeger had so much to teach us about the power of music and how to live life.

Pete Seeger's advocacy for Hudson River endures (videos)

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posted by Golden Eternity at 9:30 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


I gasped when I heard this on NPR this morning. I knew Seeger was very elderly. I know people don't live forever.

But this morning life seems a little harder knowing that neither Nelson Mandela nor Pete Seeger is with us.

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posted by Sara C. at 9:30 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


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posted by Andrew Galarneau at 9:43 AM on January 28


Pete Seeger was so good at popularizing songs that he's muddied the authorship of a lot of folk songs & hymns. From "Wimoweh" to "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" to "How Can I Keep From Singing" to "Little Boxes," songs that were written by other people became "traditional" or Pete's. He wasn't malicious about it, and became much better about setting the record straight in later years, but I think the most telling aspect of what controversy has been associated with his songwriting is that he really believed that all songs belong to the world. He was just trying to free them.

He was a great soul and his influence will be felt for centuries.
posted by rikschell at 9:44 AM on January 28


Since nobody's mentioned it yet, I also want to throw in a shout-out for HARP, a live Pete Seeger/Arlo Guthrie/Holly Near/Ronnie Gilbert collaboration. My mom had this on vinyl, loved the hell out of it, played it as often as she could. (She always said that if we ever got a dog she'd name it 'El Barco,' after 'Somos El Barco.) My dad, for whatever reason, couldn't stand it. I remember asking, repeatedly as a small kid, "Why doesn't dad like this music?" And my mom just kept saying, calmly, "He just doesn't really, and that's okay." Which sounds like a non-answer when you're four, but in retrospect it was a good lesson; sometimes otherwise lovely people can't stand something you love, and it doesn't mean you have to love them any less for it. Thanks Pete, for your part in that.

Dad, I see your point about all the over-the-top soapboxing now, but I still imprinted hard on the HARP version of 'O Mary Don't You Weep.' Mom got this one.
posted by ActionPopulated at 9:45 AM on January 28 [6 favorites]


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posted by philip-random at 9:48 AM on January 28


Oh man, I'm listening to all Pete Seeger today, and now "Barbara Allen" is on.

Crying could happen.

(I'm listening to his a capella version, which isn't this version, but this version is plenty good and sad.)
posted by Sara C. at 9:55 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


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posted by Unioncat at 9:58 AM on January 28


I don't think he had that smile during the '65 Newport festival!

Reference is to Bob Dylan's "going electric" performance, which is hilariously presented in the movie I'm Not There as turning machine guns on the crowd. What actually happened is also hilarious if you believe everything you hear. Which is to say, Mr. Seeger was so enraged by young Bob's volume that he grabbed an axe and tried to cut the power cables to the stage, and had to be restrained by Peter or Paul (of Peter, Paul + Mary). Which actually saved Mr. Seeger's life as cutting that cable would likely have electrocuted him.

But the wiki doesn't seem to support this ...

Poor sound quality was the reason Pete Seeger (backstage) gave for disliking the performance: he says he told the audio technicians, "Get that distortion out of his voice ... It's terrible. If I had an axe, I'd chop the microphone cable right now."[9] Seeger has also said, however, that he only wanted to cut the cables because he wanted the audience to hear Dylan's lyrics properly, because he thought they were important.[9] Rumors that Seeger actually had an axe, or that a festival board member pulled or wanted to pull out the entire electrical wiring system[7] are apocryphal
posted by philip-random at 10:01 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


What a marvelous and inspiring life he lived. We need more like him.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:04 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


That sounds so incredibly out of character for Seeger.

I suppose there's a degree of poetic justice in Pete Seeger of all people taking the villain's role in a modern myth like that. I feel like he'd appreciate the imprecision of the mob-democratic ever-shifting popular account.

But did he actually do that? Because Pete Seeger doesn't seem like the sort of person who'd be willing to die in order to silence music. Even if it was music he didn't like.
posted by Sara C. at 10:06 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]



posted by The Michael The at 10:07 AM on January 28


Stalin's Songbird
posted by BobbyVan at 7:56 AM on January 28 [+] [!]


Mmm, a superficial article written by a guy from the Cato institute. As if all the things Pete Seeger has done for America can be dismissed by the word "Stalinist". As if that's all he ever was, or will be. What a bunch of nonsense.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:09 AM on January 28 [8 favorites]


He wasn't malicious about it, and became much better about setting the record straight in later years

Maybe. But I have his recording from Carnegie Hall in 1963, where he does a whole bunch of new songs by other people -- specifically young songwriters -- which he sets aside an entire block of the show for, and who are identified every time in every introduction. He does some Bob Dylan -- only a year after Dylan changed his name -- some Tom Paxton, and some other stuff. He sings "Little Boxes," for instance, and he explains exactly who Malvina Reynolds is and how prolific she is. (He also sings, and credits, Reynolds' "Mrs. Clara Sullivan's Letter.")

I think there were certainly issues of who gets to sing what when authorship is already muddied, no question, but I don't think he ever declined to credit songwriters when he knew who they were. And if anybody thought he wrote "Little Boxes," it wasn't because he was hesitant to say otherwise.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 10:14 AM on January 28 [8 favorites]


Pete sings "I'm Gonna Be An Engineer" in 1970. Written by his sister Peggy.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:20 AM on January 28 [6 favorites]


[Insert 8:48 a.m.| Among his prime attributes were these: boundless energy and unwavering optimism that the future holds great promise. One of the most surprising, and wonderful, things I ever heard Pete say came when I videotaped a conversation at his house in which Andrew Blechman of Orion Magazine asked this:

What gives you hope when you think of the future, when you think of the next 30 years?

His immediate reply? "The Internet."


From here.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:25 AM on January 28 [4 favorites]


Pete Seeger is probably the first singer I knew of by name. The first spools on our reel-to-reel player, the songs that my father would have us kids listen to. One of the few American singers that my mother recognized by name and voice. The youth of his voice, even well into old age, the fact that he remained an activist right to the end. A man to admire.

I can still remember my delight with Beans in Your Ears. And last year, when I introduced my son to him, I was overjoyed that he chortled with the same delight over Beans in Your Ears.

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posted by bardophile at 10:27 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


Pete Seeger had a very large influence on the person that I grew up to be. I listened to Pete my entire life. We had a stack of his LP's, and they were the soundtrack of reading, drawing and painting in my childhood. The children's songs taught me to follow the golden rule, to take interest in and respect cultures that were different from my own, and the beauty of everyday things. The adult songs taught me about the futility of war, the wrongs of social injustice .

This is word for word what I would have written myself just adding a love of nature, plants, birds, animals and everything that you get that comes with the world that you should take care of. I made a playlist of some of the kid songs I grew up listening to and singing with my guitar-playing dad. Here's a half hour of being in love with the world.
posted by jessamyn at 10:29 AM on January 28 [15 favorites]


Shorpy has a pretty cool picture of Pete at 2 yrs old, on the lap of his dad while his dad plays.
posted by Bovine Love at 10:32 AM on January 28 [8 favorites]


Here's a half hour of being in love with the world.

I've been looking for a good playlist to listen while sitting at work today, completely distracted by the outpouring of love here and on Facebook. This is perfect. Thank you.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 10:33 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


In re the '65 Newport Folk Festival: if I remember correctly, Pete says in his The Incomplete Folksinger that he was ... disappointed, maybe? at Bob for bringing the electric guitar, and maybe tried to pull the plug.

Understand, though, that Pete has always wanted music to be for everyone, not just a matter of a performer and audience. So, the more amplified it is, the harder it is to "see the gleam in the singer's eye", as I recall it. He was always, perhaps naively, against "stardom" in music -- and thus he always got the audience singing and engaged.

So, part of his objection to electric guitar in '65 was about democracy. He also says, IIRC, that the sound quality on Dylan's machine was awful, but as the tech improved, so did the ability of the instrument to sing...

No, but really. What is one supposed to do in a world without Pete?
posted by allthinky at 10:56 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


I've been listening to playlists, and I wanted to drop this here. I think this was the first feminist anthem I ever heard...perhaps one of the only ones. It was filmed late 60s, early 70s, and it's astonishing to watch the women in the audience, as he sings his sister Peggy's song: I'm going to be an engineer.
posted by dejah420 at 11:00 AM on January 28 [8 favorites]


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posted by laurel at 11:03 AM on January 28


Even the banjo - the happiest instrument in the world - cried a little today. My parents played Pete Seeger records often when I was growing up. I knew a good number of his songs before I knew who was and what he stood for. He'll be missed but I'm glad his songs, and his message, remain.
posted by Rashomon at 11:04 AM on January 28 [3 favorites]


Oh, Pete. I'm another child of folkies who got exposed to Pete (etc etc etc) at a very early age. And when I was maybe 13 and learning to play guitar my mom have me a copy of Rise Up Singing, and it was pivotal. I still refer to it regularly, even though it is much the worse for wear. At 41 so am I, probably.

We have never had enough benevolent superheroes, and today we have one less.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:15 AM on January 28 [2 favorites]


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I was raised on Weavers records (old 10"ers with funny cut and paste cover layouts), learned to play guitar from Oak Publications' The Folksinger's Guitar Guide, learned to play banjo (badly) from his banjo book, and learned to love my fellow humans from his songs. I am a microcosm of his cultural influence.
posted by tspae at 11:35 AM on January 28 [5 favorites]


I was kind of meh on Seeger until I saw his '63 concert in Australia where he worked the sing-along into a relatively passive crowd, just forced it up on 'em. Gave 'em the high part, the low part, the middle part. Sing the part that's yours! Made everybody sing. Sadly, the internets seems to have eaten it because, damn, that was some punk rock stagework. Glad you were with us, Pete.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:01 PM on January 28 [2 favorites]


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posted by Phssthpok at 12:15 PM on January 28


A few commenters above have mentioned his willingness (or lack thereof) to credit the writers of songs he sung. I hope this quote from 1993 (especially the final sentence) settles the issue:
You’d be surprised, music can make you feel like you’re not quite so helpless any more. Learning about our brothers and sisters, wherever they are young or old, white or black or brown, means we find we’re not quite so helpless. They feel this way too. I even made up a verse for Joni Mitchell’s song “Both Sides Now.” I can’t sing anymore, my voice is gone, but you remember she had a beautiful song. She has a verse about clouds, about Junes and moons and ferris wheels the dizzy dancing way you feel when you fall in love. It ends with a kind of sad verse, “Now some people think I’ve. . . they shake their heads and say I’ve changed, Well, something’s lost and something’s gained in living every day.” Well me, I wanted to sing her song but I’m, as you see, gray bearded, bald headed. So I wrote a verse, which any older person could sing, “Daughter, daughter, don’t you know. You’re not the first to feel just so. But let me say before I go, it’s worth it anyway. Some day we may all be surprised, we’ll awake and open up our eyes. And then we all will realize the whole world feels this way. We’ve all been living upside down, and turned around with love unfound until we turn and face the sun. Yes, all of us everyone.” I really do believe that learning the songs of other people and other places can make us feel more powerful.
You can hear them singing together here.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 12:15 PM on January 28 [13 favorites]


Aww, yet another guy I hoped would never die — at worst, I thought he might continue to appear wherever Pete Seeger was needed, bringing a trenchant folk song to motivate, to entertain, to cajole, to recommit.

Maybe him and Woody can fight capitalist crime?
posted by klangklangston at 12:57 PM on January 28 [5 favorites]


Dear Universe one of your finest sons, has come home. Embrace him for half an eternity with fragrant waves of righteous bliss, prove to him all his hopes were right on.
posted by Oyéah at 1:04 PM on January 28 [5 favorites]


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posted by Paris Elk at 1:18 PM on January 28


"I like to say I’m more conservative than Goldwater. He just wanted to turn the clock back to when there was no income tax. I want to turn the clock back to when people lived in small villages and took care of each other."
posted by Sequence at 1:19 PM on January 28 [7 favorites]


His egalatarianism always struck a note with me, so to speak. Compared to the way people talk about other liking someone as being a part of select club the spirit of Pete was that everyone was in the club. Everyone had a voice in Pete's world - there was no (leather) jacket required, no uniform, no pretense, no false sincerity, no competition about who started a band after seeing him. He lived with a dignity that many wouldn't dare approach and his memory lives on with every song he passed on.
posted by TomSophieIvy at 1:24 PM on January 28 [4 favorites]


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posted by BYiro at 1:24 PM on January 28


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posted by homunculus at 1:54 PM on January 28


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posted by Miko at 1:54 PM on January 28


I grew up with his music; my mother listened to Seeger, the Weavers etc. constantly in the 50's and 60's when she wasn't listening to classical/opera.

So when Seeger came to my tiny Quaker college in 1971 I was like, "Oh, that's my mom's music." But there wasn't much else to to on campus, so I went. Man, what an event. He had all of singing together and loving each other and the world...yeah, I'm crying thinking of how beautiful it was and how he kept on doing what he had been doing all those years for just as many more years to come.
posted by kozad at 1:59 PM on January 28 [4 favorites]


I was a film/TV major at uni. In one of my TV classes we studied censorship in American TV and Case Study #1 was Pete Seeger's performance of Waist Deep in the Big Muddy on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, a CBS show that was on the air a few years before I was born. Only after that did I really learn who he was and I feel fortunate that I've been able to live in a world that can produce people like him, and who can encourage us to Surround Hate and Force It to Surrender.

What a brave man.

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posted by droplet at 2:34 PM on January 28 [3 favorites]


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posted by Francis7 at 3:13 PM on January 28


So social networking to my alumni network let me know that on this date in 1978, Seeger played on campus to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Carl Sandburg's birth.

If it's all the same with everybody, I'm just going to pretend I was there even though I'd just turned 3, okay?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:22 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


Had the honor of meeting him twice. A fine person. Remember the lyrics to "Joe Hill"?

"I never died, said he."

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posted by zaelic at 3:37 PM on January 28 [8 favorites]


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posted by tuesdayschild at 3:45 PM on January 28






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posted by smudgedlens at 4:10 PM on January 28


What an exquisite outpouring of love in this thread, rich with all kinds of links, stories, remembrances. I've spent my day learning a lot more about Pete Seeger, a good part of the time teary. It's heartening to me how much his music meant to so many MeFites.

Condolences to his children, Mika, Tinya and Daniel, to his grandchildren, neighbors and what I imagine are his countless friends.

It delighted me to learn that Pete Seeger felt his hope and optimism renewed by the internet, what he called "the information revolution". His activism was pertinent and fierce into his 90's. How awesome he lived to see that Obama could become president and after several decades of narcissistic apathy in the 1980's and 1990's, he lived to see and participate in the Occupy movement, as well as all the recent protesting around the planet in keeping with the very things he'd sung about all his life.

My dad played guitar and harmonica and I grew up listening to his singing folk songs, experiencing his love of the activist-folkie mindset. He was deeply influenced by Woodie Guthrie and Joan Baez. On the old hi-fi record player we kids routinely listened to South African folk singers, Mirais and Miranda, Kingston Trio or Little Boxes. When I went to guitar lessons, age 11, in 1964, my beautifully folkie teacher, Mary Miner, taught me all the Pete Seeger classics. It was a powerful and subtle way of learning about the world as a kid, about injustice, about people deluding themselves, like in the song Where Have All the Flowers Gone, about how meaningful community can be, about social abuse, racism, tragedy and triumph, about fighting back peacefully (Down By the Riverside) and not buckling under abusers of all kinds, about having core values of loving kindness, honesty.

I've told this story on the blue before but am putting it here on this occasion. One day in April 1967, my first boyfriend, who listened to Leadbelly and Dylan, invited me to join him on something called a peace march, down Fifth Avenue. I was just 13. As we walked, it started to drizzle and some people sitting in a covered trailer that was slowly chugging along with those of us walking, invited me to sit out of the rain. I was hoisted onto the back of this wheeled trailer and sitting right there, next to me with his banjo was Pete Seeger. An indelible and breathtaking moment. We all headed down to the United Nations, singing We Shall Overcome, to hear Martin Luther King Jr. speak against the war in Vietnam. It was immediate on seeing Pete Seeger that he was gentle, warmly friendly, clear-eyed, unpretentious, full of joie de vivre.

Arlo Guthrie posted this beautiful thought on his FaceBook page today.

I usually do a little meditation and prayer every night before I go to sleep - Just part of the routine. Last night, I decided to go visit Pete Seeger for a while, just to spend a little time together, it was around 9 PM. So I was sitting in my home in Florida, having a lovely chat with Pete, who was in a hospital in New York City. That's the great thing about thoughts and prayers- You can go or be anywhere.

I simply wanted him to know that I loved him dearly, like a father in some ways, a mentor in others and just as a dear friend a lot of the time. I'd grown up that way - loving the Seegers - Pete & Toshi and all their family.

I let him know I was having trouble writing his obituary (as I'd been asked) but it seemed just so silly and I couldn't think of anything that didn't sound trite or plain stupid. "They'll say something appropriate in the news," we agreed. We laughed, we talked, and I took my leave about 9:30 last night.

"Arlo" he said, sounding just like the man I've known all of my life, "I guess I'll see ya later." I've always loved the rising and falling inflections in his voice. "Pete," I said. "I guess we will."

I turned off the light and closed my eyes and fell asleep until very early this morning, about 3 AM when the texts and phone calls started coming in from friends telling me Pete had passed away.

"Well, of course he passed away!" I'm telling everyone this morning. "But that doesn't mean he's gone."


Wishing him a joyous resonance in the universe.
posted by nickyskye at 4:19 PM on January 28 [24 favorites]


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posted by MelanieL at 4:28 PM on January 28




I've been close to tears on and off all day, though 94 is an amazing age. I'm just so grateful to him for being a beacon in my life-- of grace, of goodness, even nobility. RIP Pete, and bless.

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posted by jokeefe at 4:36 PM on January 28 [6 favorites]


Many years ago when my son was two or three, Pete Seeger played a children's concert at the Vancouver Folk Festival. Sitting in the sun that day where many, many families, the parents my age or thereabouts, all of us filled with joy to be singing those wonderful songs again. I'm not sure that my son paid too much attention-- he was playing with the bottle of sunscreen, I remember-- but I'm glad he heard that voice and could see the man singing. Pete told a story, using a maraca to demonstrate: how it was filled with seeds, and when he shook it the seeds made noise at different times. Some were early, some were late: but together they got the job done.

Afterwards I went up to him and tried to tell him what his songs meant to me, and he smiled, which was lovely. Somewhere I have a Folk Festival program with his signature on it. He was a light to the world, as they say.
posted by jokeefe at 4:49 PM on January 28 [5 favorites]


Quoted for truth, from Mefi's own Linda Holmes:
Pete Seeger understood something fundamental about humans and music, which is that many people can't sing on key, but all crowds can. Even without rehearsal, public choirs can be stunning to listen to and thrilling to be part of. And he believed that everyone should do it, that people should retain the ability to get in a room and sing, because it was good for you, and because it taught people to pitch in and be brave.

I am totally musically untalented myself but am extraordinarily moved by the group experience of music; it was a great part of Pete Seeger's genius that he knew the importance of this and was able to transform crowds into choirs--making us brave.
posted by emilypdx at 4:54 PM on January 28 [14 favorites]


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posted by dreaming in stereo at 5:21 PM on January 28


Correction: Folk singer Pete Seeger
Los Angeles Times | January 28, 2014 | 2:36 PM


A breaking news alert on Pete Seeger's death said he wrote "Blowin’ in the Wind." That song was written by Bob Dylan.


(I'll bet that Mr. Seeger is having a good laugh about this, wherever he is right now.)
posted by Danf at 5:38 PM on January 28 [4 favorites]


Dear Pete, thank you for being a fine human being, being humble, writing and singing songs that moved us, always teaching, always singing. We'll miss you.

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posted by theora55 at 5:53 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


I don't think Pete Seeger could actually speak Hebrew, but he doesn't do a bad job on this: Tzena, Tzena, Tzena.

This was the first Israeli song to become popular in the USA, and The Weavers' version reached #2 on the Billboard magazine charts. You can read more about it in Tablet and Wikipedia. For comparison, here's the Smothers Brothers' version. If you're interested in recording litigation, you can read about the ownership fight in which Cromwell Music "showed an unhealthy degree of chutzpah" here or here.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:13 PM on January 28 [3 favorites]


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posted by wrapper at 8:25 PM on January 28


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posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 10:24 PM on January 28


Just learned today, reading one of his obituaries, that he was a Harvard drop-out in the 1930's.
He was in the same class as JFK!
posted by vacapinta at 1:36 AM on January 29 [4 favorites]


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posted by bjgeiger at 2:45 AM on January 29


A lovely, link-rich bio from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:21 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Pete fostered other musician's development and careers...many, many other musicians. His was a generous heart. We wouldn't have "Little Boxes" without his nurturing of Malvina Reynolds, for example. And he wrote a book on how to play banjo that has been used by just about everyone learning to play. An amazingly generous guy who walked his talk.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:40 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]




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posted by angelchrys at 2:58 PM on January 29


The American Folklife Center is being a bit disingenuous when they write
although they got their start as both pro-labor and anti-war activists, the Almanac singers realized the importance of defeating Hitler, and Seeger wrote a song about that, entitled “Dear Mr. President”[...]
What actually happened was that Pete Seeger followed the Young Communist League line, which was ultimately directed by the Soviet Union. The YCL was anti-Fascist before WW2, but became anti-anti-Nazi when Hitler and Stalin signed a treaty, and anti-interventionist when the scope of the war widened. All this changed when Hitler broke the pact and attacked the Soviet Union: at that point the YCL was directed to start promoting a patriotic effort against the Nazis. This is why the quote says that the singers "got their start as pro-labor and anti-war activists". That was no longer true once the YCL received new orders: they opposed workers' strikes and even supported the prosecution of SWP members under the Smith Act! At that point Pete Seeger hurriedly recalled his anti-war music and released the following shameful ditty:
Now, Mr. President,
We haven't always agreed in the past, I know,
But that ain't at all important now.
What is important is what we got to do,
We got to lick Mr. Hitler, and until we do,
Other things can wait.
The things that could wait were workers' and civil rights: this was the time when Bayard Rustin left the CPUSA.

I'm not saying that Seeger was a bad guy. He was 21! He was surrounded by people who were following a similar path. But please, don't make it sound as though he was some deep political thinker who "realized the importance of defeating Hitler". Because if he was acting out of conviction it means he was a cynic who would lie and dissemble and sacrifice the lives of Jewish Europeans and American soldiers in order to protect the Soviet Union.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:21 PM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Joe in Australia, I don't think until the end of and after WWII that most regular people had any ideaof Hitler's holocaust because that information was not made public. News of "the Final Solution" didn't reach the US government until 1942.

And I do think Pete Seeger was a deep political thinker as well as an activist with conviction. When he wrote the words you quoted it was 1940.
posted by nickyskye at 6:56 PM on January 29


Do not turn this into a discussion of the Holocaust.
posted by jessamyn at 7:01 PM on January 29 [7 favorites]


My dad just sent me a story about how he stopped a man from crossing the street while directing traffic during a protest march in 1969. This is the conversation they had:

"Is that a guitar you've got there?"
"No, I've got the banjo this time."
"Have you been playing for long?"
"Yes, I've been playing for a while now."

And then my dad gave the guy permission to cross, and then my dad's friend ran up and said "Oh my god! What were you saying to Pete Seeger??"
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:46 PM on January 29 [8 favorites]


Nickyskye, everybody knew the Nazis were dispossessing and persecuting Jews, but my point is that the YCL changed its anti-Fascist stance before 1938 to an anti-anti-Nazi one when the USSR made a pact with Nazi Germany, to a pro-US intervention policy when Hitler broke the deal with Stalin. This was all very public and the CPUSA lost many members, who couldn't stomach the political somersaults they were expected to turn. The last change in policy, supporting American involvement, required that that CPUSA members actually oppose workers' strikes and demonstrations for civil rights (the US Army was and remained segregated). So if Pete Seeger was a deep political thinker, what do you think his thoughts were? Because honestly, he followed the CPUSA line the whole time, even when it was contrary to the ideals he had advocated a year earlier.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:47 PM on January 29


If Pete Seeger's obituary thread seriously seems to you like the right place to create an imbroglio about the CPUSA's party line on the Hitler-Stalin pact, I don't know what to suggest except that you really might want to reevaluate how you came to that conclusion.
posted by RogerB at 7:55 PM on January 29 [14 favorites]


Seriously. Take this to MeMail effective now.
posted by jessamyn at 8:05 PM on January 29 [2 favorites]


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posted by Majorita at 8:10 PM on January 29


Because Pete Seeger was a political activist, I think it is important to examine his history of activism and that he would have liked that. From what I've read online just now he was humble and transparent about his mistakes in life and never set himself up as perfect.

I like what this article says.
posted by nickyskye at 11:31 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, I don't think it's fair to personally tar Pete Seeger with the shifting political stances held by a group he was a part of, 70+ years ago.

I'm pretty sure everyone still alive who was old enough to have political opinions prior to WW2 has something to be apologetic about. The political spectrum was aligned in a totally different way, and we did not know things then that we know now.

I mean, I was 100% in favor of the Intifada and freedom fighters and things that are definitely considered terrorism prior to 9/11. If, 80 years from now, I die and was considered a significant person for vaguely politics-adjacent reasons, it would be kind of shitty to be like BUT SHE REALLY LOVED MAJOR KIRA ON STAR TREK, as if that meant something important about who I am as a person.

The guy was 94 when he died. He had countless political changes of heart, as does probably everyone who lives to be that old. This is a thing that a lot of people about-faced on between the late 30s and ~1945.
posted by Sara C. at 11:42 AM on January 30 [5 favorites]


It's a shame that the American Communist Party was full of such philosophical devotion to fucking up that they did more harm than good in most of the causes they touched. They were nominally on the right side of a lot of issues, but often for the wrong reasons and almost always with idiotic tactics that alienated, undermined or negated the broad range of support they could have garnered for legitimate, worthy political projects.

Sorry, pretty much every time I read about that period of the early 20th century, I get a bug up my ass about the fucking Communists and their bullshit — most recently, I was reading a book about the early labor movement in Los Angeles, and how the ideological intransigence of the Communists, combined with their penchant for front organizations, basically held back labor progress by a good 20 to 30 years there. Fucking infiltrating numbskulls. This isn't to excuse the reactionary assholes like HUAC, but by God, the Communists went out of their way to make things worse for themselves.
posted by klangklangston at 12:22 PM on January 30 [4 favorites]


The Sound of the Small C, Alexander Billet, Jacobin, 30 January 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 12:29 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]




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posted by Freen at 1:13 AM on January 31


How the South shaped Pete Seeger, from the Institute for Southern Studies

It's a great piece with tons of informative links to folks like Aunt Molly Jackson and Lee Hayes. It also notes Seeger's work (which, oddly, isn't mentioned at all in the LOC's American Folklife bio) for the incredibly brave and pioneering 1948 presidential campaign of Henry Wallace, which directly addressed segregation as it toured the South:

Several near riots and a stabbing marked Wallace's first full day of campaigning in North Carolina, and captured national headlines. Pete Seeger, the young balladeer of the Progressive Party campaign, recalled that Wallace's advisors were anxious to cancel the rest of the tour. But Wallace refused to concede to terror and lawlessness. They continued on, deeper into Dixie.

That tour, with Seeger present, was something of a watershed moment in US civil rights politics; the link includes a gripping account of Birmingham's Bull Connor dealing with Henry Wallace's supporters 15 years before the famous fire hoses and attack dogs of 1963:

A hostile mob of several thousand greeted Wallace's motorcade armed with pipes and baseball bats. Connor used a rope to segregate supporters waiting for Wallace on the courthouse lawn. A campaign worker read a brief statement, noting Wallace would maintain his policy of not addressing segregated audiences. Police, armed with tear gas, stood by as a jeering crowd surrounded Wallace's car, and began to rock it, hollering "kill Wallace." The police finally cleared a path for the motorcade. Palmer Weber, who had instructed everyone to keep their windows closed and not leave the cars, said they could have been killed in Alabama. Those reporters who had viewed the Wallace campaign in the South as a cynical effort to stir up trouble in the South in order to gain votes in the North began to see it differently. "They were terrorized," Weber recalled. "They knew they had been on the edge of hell..."

How important was that tour?

...The New York Post reported that Wallace "shattered a wide variety of political precedents during his tour." He faithfully boycotted Southern restaurants and hotels, sleeping alternately in pullman cars and private homes. He addressed the first unsegregated public meeting in Memphis since Reconstruction. He was the first presidential candidate to address unsegregated meetings in the South. President Truman cancelled his tentative plans to tour the region that fall, and no future presidential candidate would ever address a segregated audience in the South again...

The primary significance of Wallace's Southern campaign was twofold. In the shadow of the Cold War, he attempted to educate America about the real and present danger to its democratic system, which was home grown. And, more importantly, he participated in the movement already underway to smash Jim Crow and democratize Southern politics. Palmer Weber reported to Thurgood Marshall, "the various Negro communities were electrified and tremendously heartened to see one white man with guts willing to take it standing up....By and large I find the Negro leadership fighting for the ballot as never before. The only limitation is full-time workers." Wallace and his supporters engaged and endorsed those Southerners who would carry the struggle forward--at the ballot box, in the courts, and in the streets.


And Pete Seeger was there.

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posted by mediareport at 9:42 PM on January 31 [8 favorites]


NPR features Sing Out: A Concert Celebration Of Pete Seeger (from 2005)
posted by hippybear at 12:47 PM on February 1 [3 favorites]


A nice piece on MoJo.
posted by HuronBob at 8:29 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]




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