American national treasure, folk music legend, and my personal hero, Pete Seeger passed away on January 27 at the age of 94. I first heard his music on my parents' 78 rpm record (the kind that shattered into pieces if you dropped it). It was The Weavers singing "Tzena, Tzena" on one side, and "Goodnight, Irene" on the other.
Pete Seeger was so many things to so many people, I have trouble finding the words to do him justice.
He was a songwriter who gave us such classic folk songs as "Turn,Turn,Turn", "Where Have All The Flowers gone?", "If I Had a Hammer" and he adapted and popularized the old gospel song "We Shall Overcome", which became the unofficial anthem of the civil rights movement.
He was an activist, working tirelessly for worker's rights, world peace, civil rights and environmental conservation. Living along the polluted and dying Hudson River, Pete and his wife Toshi got people together to build the Clearwater sloop, and began sailing up and down the river, giving concerts and talking about the environment. Pete Seeger was named a "Clean Water Hero" in 2002 for his prominent efforts in the passage of the Clean Water Act. The Clearwater is still sailing today, and also hosts The Great Hudson River Revival (aka the Clearwater Festival), a music and environmental summer festival.
He was a performer of children's songs and a great storyteller:
He was, in many ways, the father of the American folk music revival, an inspiration to Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, The Byrds, Peter,Paul and Mary, The Kingston Trio, Bruce Springsteen, Emmylou Harris, and so many others.
And he was a banjo player extraordinaire.
"For all of his social activism, Seeger said more than once that if he had done nothing more than write his slim book How To Play the 5-String Banjo, his life's work would have been compete." -- Tao Rodriguez Seeger
Goodnight, Pete. We will miss you.
Pete Seeger, dvd
We Shall Overcome, the Seeger Sessions, Bruce Springsteen