Having been born in a coal and steel company town but destiny delivered, as an adult, to reside, during extended intervals, in the East and West Coast cities of Los Angeles and New York City, and, at present, the continent of Europe, I have come to conclude, people born into situations providing economic advantage, both liberals and conservatives alike, experience difficulty, more often than not, envisaging the lives of those born into a labouring class existence. Worse, a wilful obtuseness, in combination with a supercilious posture is, all too often, evinced, by reflex, towards those scorned as “hillbillies,” “trailer trash,” and “genetic retreads.”
Pete Seeger, as almost every reader of these pages will know, passed away at the age of 94 on Jan. 27, 2014. Pete was a great folksinger, explorer of US music, and song writer. In his younger days he was also a great banjo picker, and learned how to play the 12-string guitar (a difficult instrument in its own right) from the legendary Afro-American blues singer Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly. He worked with one of the founding US folklorists, Alan Lomax, as well as his with his father, Charles Seeger and his step-mother, Ruth Crawford Seeger (mother of Pete’s step-sister, the folk singer Peggy Seeger). And of course he was a close colleague of the iconic Woody Guthrie.
After 94 years, on January 27, 2014, the world lost Pete Seeger. The world is the lesser for that loss. The accolades for this giant of folk songs and herald of all causes just, are pouring in from around the world. He is celebrated for regularly showing up at mass protests, for singing songs so transcendent (This Land is Your Land; We Shall Overcome; Where Have All the Flowers Gone) they are sung in many foreign languages all over the earth and for his mentoring and motivating of millions of people and children.
Pete Seeger overcame most of his doubters and adversaries. On his famous five string banjo, he inscribed the slogan, “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.”
Sent to DS by the author, thanks Stephen.
Pete Seeger sang across the land, wrote number one hits, was hit by blacklists, enlisted southern black voters, wrote anthems that span generations & define eras, and even influenced some of the greatest orators of the 20th Century. Pete turns 90 today.
Throughout the following piece, we’ll see proof that the influence of Pete Seeger, on his 90th birthday, spans generations. People from across the globe share testimonies, songs, and poems sent specifically for this article. Six Musicians offer renditions of Seeger material (their bio’s and links are posted below), as well tributes and comments from political party leaders, schoolteachers, poets, and citizens. Enjoy!
The songs Pete Seeger wrote or popularized through recordings will outlive him, but Seeger has outlived the injustice and hardship, to shine the light of social justice on the human condition. On turning 90 this May 3rd he proves that, as Martin Luther King Jr said, “the arc of history is a long one but bends toward justice”.