One of my heroes, Pete Seeger, died yesterday. A man who influenced generations with his music, his humanity, and his courage, Seeger's anti-war, pro-labor activism propelled him along a career that continued well until his nineties. "We Shall Overcome" and "Turn, Turn, Turn" were probably his best-known songs. His recordings of Malvina Reynolds' "Little Boxes" and (with The Weavers) of Leadbelly's "Irene, Goodnight" were among his biggest commercial hits. Seeger's anti-Vietnam War "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" was famously the center of the well-known Smothers Brothers-CBS fued. Much of Pete Seeger's efforts in his later years were directed to cleaning New York's Hudson River.
Pete Seeger was an ambassador for music. Music, he felt, was something that could draw people together and could bridge the gaps of misunderstanding and fear. He was ever the teacher, bringing his music to every place possible. He loved performing for and with children.
One of my own favorite memories is of climbing five flights of staging on a drizzly night during the bicentennial celebration in Concord, Massachusetts, to photograph Seeger performing to an enthralled crowd. (At the same time, Kitty was with about a dozen people sheltering in a tent while Phil Ochs regaled them with stories and songs.)
Anyway, I thought I'd pull together some clips of Pete Seeger in tribute. Here's a young Seeger in a video about banjos:
And Pete, with his wife Toshi, in a video about oil drums:
Coming from a musical family, he sometimes joined his brother Mike and sister Peggy in song:
His public television show, The Rainbow Quest, was a must-see for many of my generation. In this episode, his guests are the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem (Makem was another of my personal heroes) and a young Tom Paxton (another personal hero -- do you detect a trend here?).
Seeger promoted folk music of all types. Here, in another episode of The Rainbow Quest, he greets the Mamou Cajun Band and also performs several children's songs.
Rest in peace, Pete. You had a well-lived life.