Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Brother Pacifist Pete Seeger Dies at 94

For 60 years Pete Seeger’s music has beautified the world with dozens of songs on labour, civil rights and hope for a better world. The banjo-picking troubadour died January 27th of natural causes at the New York Presbyterian Hospital at the age of 94.

Here's an excerpt from yesterday's long obituary in The New York Times, 'Pete Seeger, Champion of Folk Music and Social Change, Dies at 94, by Jon Pareles, January 28, 2014:

Mr. Seeger was a mentor to younger folk and topical singers in the ’50s and ’60s, among them Bob Dylan, Don McLean and Bernice Johnson Reagon, who founded Sweet Honey in the Rock. Decades later, Bruce Springsteen drew from Mr. Seeger’s repertory of traditional music about a turbulent America in recording his 2006 album, “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions,” and in 2009 he performed Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” with Mr. Seeger at the Obama inaugural. At a Madison Square Garden concert celebrating Mr. Seeger’s 90th birthday, Mr. Springsteen introduced him as “a living archive of America’s music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along.”

Although he recorded dozens of albums, Mr. Seeger distrusted commercialism and was never comfortable with the idea of stardom. He invariably tried to use his celebrity to bring attention and contributions to the causes that moved him, or to the traditional songs he wanted to preserve.

Mr. Seeger saw himself as part of a continuing folk tradition, constantly recycling and revising music that had been honed by time.

During the McCarthy era Mr. Seeger’s political affiliations, including membership in the Communist Party in the 1940s, led to his being blacklisted and later indicted for contempt of Congress. The pressure broke up the Weavers, and Mr. Seeger disappeared from commercial television until the late 1960s. But he never stopped recording, performing and listening to songs from ordinary people. Through the decades, his songs have become part of America’s folklore.

“My job,” he said in 2009, “is to show folks there’s a lot of good music in this world, and if used right it may help to save the planet.”

To this long obituary I add:

He wrote or co-wrote ‘Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream’, ‘If I Had a Hammer’, ‘Tomorrow is a Highway’, ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’, ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone’, ‘We Shall Overcome’, ‘Study War No More’, and many more.

Pete Seeger lived his ideals. He saw himself as a citizen of the world and worked in and out of season to make it safer, cleaner, beautiful, and better. With his love and hope for humanity, he inspired and galvanized generations of young and old to pay attention to the important issues of society and become part of the social change.

There is much work yet to be done in our world. ‘The highway is broad and fair...and we are the workers who’ll build it there’, he wrote in one of his songs. ‘But only they who’ve learned the peaceful way of brotherhood, to greet the coming day. We hail the coming day.’

We are Pete’s brothers and sisters in spirit. Let’s remember his love of humanity, especially his ceaseless efforts to get rid of militarism and wars. Let’s write more songs about stopping wars, about keeping our environment clean, about treating each other as members of one human race. Let’s hope that everyone learns from this remarkable human being.

See my previous articles about our brother Pete:
Also see Larry's Desk, by Larry Ewashen: On February 16, 2014, at Tarrys Hall, the Canadian Doukhobor Society annual Day of Love featured remembrances of Pete Seeger throughout the program.

The Beauty of the Blacklist: In Memory of Pete Seeger, blog by Cory Robin, 29 January 2014.
— "Cited for contempt of Congress, he was indicted, convicted to a year in prison. Eventually the sentence got overturned."


  1. I met & spoke with Seeger at UBC, Dec. 11 1958, & at my request he sang ‘The Bells of Rhymney’; & heard him again at Washington Moratorium Day, Nov. 19, 1969, where he & Arlo Guthrie sang the Beatles’ mantra ‘All we are saying/is give Peace a chance’ for at least 8 minutes, while the gathering of ~ 600,000 joined in joyfully.

    Mark Mealing

  2. Ken Bilsky, Ottawa, Canada30 January 2014 at 19:54

    Yes, I love the integrity, love and creativity Pete Seeger brought to the world. Posted many articles to my Facebook page.

  3. I grew up with Pete Seeger and for me was the musical voice of the anti-war movement in the 60s and early 70s. One of a kind and important influencer of generations. Where have all the topical singers gone? I miss him already.

  4. Jean Christie, Ottawa, Ontario31 January 2014 at 11:45

    A lovely tribute – thanks Koozma. In many ways, Pete Seeger wrote the song track of my youth! It’s been great to hear those songs re-played, as the world reminisces about his extraordinary life and many contributions to a better world.
    In peace, indeed, Jean Christie

  5. Ramesh Chaitoo, Europe3 February 2014 at 20:05

    Thanks Koozma. Pete Seeger was quite a man and even greater a musician. His parting is a great loss but his spirit lives on in folk music everywhere.