pete seeger



wandering again through the energies of the dead… and through music, and integrity…

the second thing I heard on public radio this morning when I turned it on at 5:00 a.m. was that pete seeger died last night. so I now spend the day listening to WAMC in albany, as they are remembering him all day long. he was a great friend and benefactor to the station.

when I was a teenager with undiagnosed asperger’s syndrome in the 60’s and 70’s of the previous century, my world was rather small. much smaller than those of my friends and acquaintances. I listened mostly to pop music on the radio. I don’t know that I’d ever even heard pete seeger’s name when he was so popular with the anti-viet nam movement. I certainly heard some of his songs, but since they were performed by other people, it would be many years before I would know that he’d recorded them first. I became aware of performers mostly only through other people. one friend gave me a judy collins album, another friend one by tom rush. and so I was introduced to various folk performers only when some friend gave me an album. no one ever gave me a pete seeger. it was the same for bob dylan. I knew almost nothing about him during the time of his most press-worthy fame, because no one gave me one of his albums.

when I became a public radio listener, I was nearly fifty years old, and suddenly there were folk music shows on the radio. on public radio folk music had never vanished from many stations, had been played steadily through the decades. only then, only when my fiftieth birthday was breathing down my neck, did I begin learning about so many people who’d been in the vanguard of both folk music and social protest when I was in high school and college, when I should have been listening to them every day.

it’s only in middle age, only since 1999, that I have learned a great deal about pete seeger, bob dylan, joan baez, judy collins, and many others. learned to appreciate their musical work to a far greater degree, and their social justice positions as well.

peter seeger gave his entire long life to family, creativity, social fairness and responsibility. he was dragged before mccarthy’s commie-haters. he organized, with others, the building of the sloop clearwater and the cleaning up of the hudson river. and on and on. you don’t need me to tell you about him. you can find his story in many places on the internet. you can find his story on four or five CD’s at WAMC radio, for a donation of $100 (800-323-9262). and no, I don’t work for the station.

I’m listening. to his voice. singing and speaking. he was an exceptional person. exceptional on the positive side of the scale. we have so many on this planet who are exceptional to the negative, that when a pete seeger dies, or a ghandi, or a cleveland amory, or any one of scores of others, we all lose. it’s a deficit for the world. we need to hope each time that one such person dies, one or two or three others will rise up in their places, to carry on in our world being exceptional in creativity, in humanity, in dedication to decency, in integrity and incorruptibility. where is the little child, or children, today, who will grow up to fill some of the empty spaces pete seeger left when he died last night.



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