I was saddened to hear of Pete’s passing today at the age of 94, but grateful, not only for having seen Pete perform, but for his service to the community that enriched so many lives, and particularly for his contribution to help clean up the Hudson river.
While still living in New York, I had a few opportunities to attend Pete’s concerts playing and singing alongside Arlo Guthrie. Through songs and stories, their performances were always spirited with a love of music and their sharing that love with us. The more Pete could get the audience to participate, the more excited he would get. It would have been a challenge even for the most hardened among us to not feel some enthusiasm witnessing his raw, energetic presence.
Through and beyond the music, Pete had a vision of peace and opportunity for all. Making good use of the time in which he was banned from commercial television, he shared his love of music with school children, encouraging them to sing along. Even after financial success, he kept to a simple life living on a 17 acre farm in upstate New York. Up until the last few days of his life, friends say he still chopped his own wood as he had done most of his adult life.
Here is an excerpt of what I wrote about Pete back in the summer:
Recently, watching a documentary, titled Pete Seeger: The Power of Song (2007), I was struck by the life of this man; one of music, authenticity, energy, controversy, along with contributions to the community that I was unaware of. I have always been a fan of his live performances with Arlo Guthrie, and am thankful to have seen them perform together a few times in 70’s, and the 80’s in small venues on Long Island where I lived at the time. Through interviews, the movie showed Pete’s efforts towards making a more peaceful world both in the way he lived his life and in local causes he embraced.
One of Pete’s legacies was his initiation of a successful community based effort to clean up the Hudson river in NY by raising awareness of the issue and funding for a non-profit organization dedicated to cleaning up the river and advocating for corporate responsibility for damages done and better stewardship in the future.
There are many others, alive and dead, famous or not, that have dedicated their lives to working for peace. I applaud Pete for working at the local level to make a difference to the local and not so local community.
A petition for a Nobel Prize for Pete Seeger: