Pete Seeger was born on May 3, 1919. He turns 94 today.
Pete is an alumnus of the Louis August Jonas Foundation‘s Camp Rising Sun, a little nugget that appealed to me when I signed up as a counselor at the Rhinebeck campus in 19#&. Pete and Arlo Guthrie teamed up for a series of concerts at East Coast venues that summer, including Wolftrap, Saratoga, Tanglewood and others. Pete lives just down the river from Rhinebeck, near Beacon — but driving home from one of those venues was just a bit too far. Pete stopped off at his childhood haunts and spent a day with us.
I hoped to invite him to Salt Lake City. Pete said he might make such a trip, but it was unlikely — and impressed me with his reasoning and dedication to principle. He explained that he was sticking closer to home as he approached 65, because there was work to do there. He said he’d attended a local school board or PTA meeting to voice an opinion on some issue in Beacon. One of the local newspapers complained he was “an outside agitator.” That stung, he said — he’d been a resident in the town for more than 30 years.
Instead of complaining, though, he started thinking. He said he’s traveled the world and worked for causes for other people in other towns; and he said he realized that one’s life’s work might be dedicated to making life better where one lives. So he’d decided to campaign to clean up his local river, the Hudson . . . you’ve heard of the Sloop Clearwater?
Pete’s dedication to making things better, with local action where one may make a huge difference, stuck with me, and it should stick with all of us.
Last month I was doodling around Twitter, and discovered Pete had signed up for a Twitter account — years ago. He tweets regularly.
He’s an encouragement to all of us. He boasts that there is no group he has ever refused to sing for, and in his typical humility, he claims that he can get any group to join, so they do all the heavy lifting. During the pre-inaugural festivities for President Obama’s first inauguration I was happy to see Bruce Springsteen singing some of Pete’s work — highly appropriate for any president’s inauguration — and I thought it would be more fitting only if Pete was singing himself. Then Springsteen brought Pete out on stage to close out.
Pete keeps up a schedule of concerts, most for causes. He sails with the Clearwater, campaigning for clean water on the Hudson River (much accomplished) and community efforts to change things for the better. As you will see below, he pulls his own when raising the sails. He cuts his own wood to heat the house he built.
Considering his age, 94, we might wonder why he keeps going, doing so much all the time.
Why does he keep on going? He might be telling us, from this 2012 recording.
Cover of Pete Seeger’s single release (same photo on an album). The banjo features Pete’s traditional “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender,” a twist on a sticker famously seen on his old friend Woody Guthrie’s guitar. Wikipedia image
- “Celebrating Pete Seeger, America’s troubador, on his 94th birthday,” Beyond Chron, May 2, 2013; Pete’s got a new book out, a collection of much of his writing, Pete Seeger in his own words
- Pre-advance tickets end today for the Croton-on-Hudson Clearwater Festival (with a wonderful lineup), June 15 and 16, 2013 (you can still buy tickets, but they’ll be a bit more expensive) – from Watch Croton (on second thought, it’s a truly stellar lineup: Tom Chapin, David Bromberg, Judy Collins, Mavis Staples and a dozen others, plus Pete on the 16th)
- Pete Seeger on Thistle & Shamrock (bethmagill.wordpress.com)
- NY school names theater after Pete, Toshi Seeger (newsday.com)
- Folk Singer Pete Seeger Hosts Brodsky Fundraising Event (whytmedia.typepad.com)
- School theater named after Pete Seeger (cristianomlima. wordpress.com)
- Pete Seeger Sings for New Bruderhof (virtual-strategy.com)
- Expectations – Literacy and Music Monday (reimagineimago. wordpress.com)
- Bruce Springsteen & Pete Seeger To Be Inducted Into Academy Of Arts & Sciences (contactmusic.com)
- Pete Seeger to Strum for Fractivists in Milford (stateimpact.npr.org)
- “Ry Cooder and the Seegers,” at Old Time Party
Some material in this post is recycled from an earlier post.