Pete Seeger (May 3, 1919 – January 27, 2014). Folk singer and songwriter.
Many great musicians have died since last Halloween: producers Cheb i Sabbah, Rodman/Lux, Frankie Knuckles, DJ E-Z Rock and Mark Bell, composers John Tavener, Robert Ashley and Lee Hyla, guitarists Jim Hall, Bob Casale, Paco de Lucía and Johnny Winter, drummers Chico Hamilton, Scott Asheton, Tommy Ramone, and Idris Muhammed, jazz musicians Yusuf Lateef, Roy Campbell Jr and Horace Silver, vocalist Phil Everly, Cream bassist Jack Bruce, GWAR frontman Dave Brockie, and the great bassist of liberation, Charlie Haden.
This pumpkin surrounds hate and forces it to surrender, because the subject of this year’s Memorial Jack-o-lantern is folk singer and songwriter Pete Seeger. He died on January 27 at age 94.
A Harvard dropout, Seeger dedicated his life to music and activism. He helped popularize “Goodnight, Irene” and “We Shall Overcome,” and adapted a passage of Ecclesiastes into “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (popularized by the Byrds).
He sang for the labor, civil rights, and environmental movements, and loved to perform for children in schools. When called in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, Seeger stood up to Senator McCarthy and faced jail time. Years later he was given a lifetime achievement Grammy Award and the National Medal of Arts, America’s highest arts honor.
He championed the clean-up of the Hudson River with the 106-foot-long sailboat, Clearwater. In recent years residents of Beacon, NY said they would still see Pete standing out by the roadside with signs of peace and protest.
I was talking with a friend recently about how we don’t often listen to Pete Seeger’s recordings. But as his son Dan Seeger said, Pete “doesn’t want to hear himself sing, he wants to hear the people sing.”
Thanks for the music Pete, and may it continue to weave our voices together.
Pete Seeger in 2010.