Last night I had trouble sleeping, and found myself tossing and turning in the wee hours. When I got up to get a drink of water hoping to settle myself down, my night owl spouse solemnly greeted me with sad and wistful news. One of our musical heroes, Mr. Pete Seeger, had just passed away at the ripe old age of 94.
It’s almost impossible for me to imagine a person who lived life as joyously, as productively, as meaningfully as Mr. Seeger. Chronicler and performer of folk music, advocate for social and environmental justice, celebrant of ordinary life’s victories and sorrows, political activist who stood up to the nasty oppression of McCarthyism — Pete Seeger was these things and many more during his lifetime, during which he never wavered from his ethical convictions and love of music.
For me, he’s best known in our household as “Pete” — as when I say to my two girls, “Hey, let’s listen to some Pete.” We put on a record or CD of his recordings for children, for which he is justly famous; and we sing, dance, and let the song stories he so effortlessly and skillfully wove fill the room. It’s as if he’s sitting there, on one of our old chairs, playing his banjo and singing to us. We love to imagine Pete dropping in at one of our schools here in Joliet and playing some songs for the kids and teachers — something he did hundreds of times at schools all across America during the course of his long and colorful life.
Pete, I never had the great fortune of meeting you; but I’m so glad you gave your music to the world. Thank you! You will be missed but never forgotten.
Jon Pareles, “Pete Seeger, Songwriter and Champion of Folk Music, Dies at 94” (NY Times 28 Jan 2014)