Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger, American folk singer

Pete Seeger, American folk singer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I woke this morning to the very sad news that my lifelong hero, Pete Seeger, had died at age 94.  Others will write more complete obituaries, but I wanted to write about my lifelong relationship with Pete.

It started with my very first album as a small child.  It’s the one depicted below with Pete singing one of my favorite childhood songs.

So my relationship with Pete started before I could even read.  His songs were the soundtrack to my early childhood.

When I was a little older, I found my parents’ copy of The Weavers album from their Carnegie Hall concert and listened to it over and over.  Here’s one of my favorites from when I was probably eight or nine years old:

As an adolescent, Pete was there to be my conscience.  First, during the Civil Rights movement, we all sang “We Shall Overcome” at camp in 1963.

And, of course, “If I Had a Hammer:”

And then in 1965 I got to see Pete in Concert at Carnegie Hall as part of an anti-war concert.

Sing In For Peace 1965

Sing In For Peace 1965

It was my first Carnegie Hall concert, my first anti-war concert (I was 13), and an unforgettable experience seeing not only Pete Seeger but all the other great folk singers of the day.  I am so grateful that my parents took me with them to experience this.  I will never forget it.  I saw Pete in concert a number of times after that, usually with Arlo Guthrie, but that first time was so magical.

Pete wrote and sang many anti-war songs, but my favorite will always and forever be this one:

I sang this all through my teenage years and after.  I sang it to my children when they were little, trying to instill in them Pete’s message—that war is cruel and pointless and that only love and peace will sustain and save us.

I could post many more, but these are the ones that resonate for me today and every day.

Thank you, Pete Seeger, for always doing the right thing and for being the conscience for all of us.

Pete Seeger, Pamela Means, Magpie; Clearwater ...

Pete Seeger, Pamela Means, Magpie; Clearwater Festival 2008; Croton on Hudson NY; June 22, 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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13 thoughts on “Pete Seeger

  1. Pingback: Jumble Spoiler – 01/28/14 | Unclerave's Wordy Weblog

    • Not to my knowledge or memory. Ask Ira—he remembers everything. But I think I would remember this. There was another folksinger from Woodstock who came and sang–perhaps that is who you are thinking of?


  2. Pingback: God Bless You Pete Seeger | Music of Our Heart

  3. “Thank you, Pete Seeger, for always doing the right thing and for being the conscience for all of us.”

    That’s where I have to check out, Amy.

    “Have you ever heard a recording of Pete Seeger singing one of his anti-war hymns from the period, 1939 to 1941, when the Soviet Union was allied with Nazi Germany? Pete Seeger in those performances sings in a lovely naïve tone, as always. His charming banter is childlike in its simplicity—his denunciations of the capitalist imperialists who might like to see America go to war foolishly against the Nazis.

    It is true that, in later years, the mad-dog ultra-right-wingers and the McCarthyite demagogues tormented Seeger endlessly for those foolish performances, and they succeeded in ruining his musician’s career, for a while—which could lead you to raise a fist and insist that something in his Soviet-line period must have been commendable, in spite of everything. But this would be a mistake. Pete Seeger’s anti-war performances from those years are revolting. He and his musical colleagues sang anti-war songs in 1939-41 because, in the Soviet Union, Stalin had decided that an alliance with the Nazis was a good idea; and the order to support Stalin had gone out to every Communist Party in the world; and Pete Seeger was, in those days, a good Communist. And so, he picked up his banjo and leaned into the microphone, and his vocal warblings and his banjo plunks were exactly what Stalin wanted to hear from Pete Seeger.”



    • Thanks, John, for reading. I guess even Pete Seeger had errors of judgment, and certainly there were things he did in the 1940s that were mistaken. There were lots of people, including many Jews, who sympathized with the Soviet Union in those days who later realized the error of their ways. I would never defend someone for supporting Nazi Germany, but I also know that we all make mistakes.

      Perhaps I should amend my statement to he always tried to do the right thing. I have a really hard time believing that Seeger would have supported what Hitler was doing to the Jews and others. I’d have to read more about this before making any judgment.


    • From the same article you quoted, John:

      “[Seeger] supported Polish Solidarity. This was, on his part, the evidence that he had come to his senses, and his ideals were authentic. I listened to him say his few words, and I was moved. If he had a hammer, he seemed to be saying, he would hammer away at whoever was oppressing the ordinary mass of humanity, even if the oppressors called themselves (however falsely) left-wing. This was excellent. It is my last memory of him. The memory is beautiful. It leads me to say: Long live the magnificent heritage of Pete Seeger! And if his heritage is not entirely magnificent, all the better, say I. His failings will remind us that everyone has failings, and let us tread carefully, and let us support the cause of equality and justice, even so. With a hammer!”


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