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Vale Pete Seeger

January 30, 2014
Pete Seeger, 2007 (Photo: Anthony Pepitone, using CC-BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia)

Pete Seeger, 2007 (Photo: Anthony Pepitone, using CC-BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia)

If music is powerful, and words are powerful, what power can words set to music have? Pete Seeger knew, but I don’t need to tell anyone that do I? What a legacy he has left us from his 94 years on this earth!

I’m an Australian of course, but Seeger, who first came to me through Peter, Paul and Mary singing “If I had a hammer”,  introduced me to folk music, or, more specifically, to folk music as protest. Later, I got to hear Peter himself – not live, unfortunately – and others like Joan Baez, Judy Collins who sang Seeger’s songs, and were inspired by him.

Anyhow, in memory of Seeger, I thought I’d share my favourite memories:

  • singing “If I had a hammer”, “This land is your land”, and “Where have all the flowers gone”, with such feeling, in my youth;
  • choosing Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 as the bible reading at our wedding because I loved the song “Turn! Turn! Turn!“;
  • falling in love with The Weavers whose heyday was a little before my time when I saw the 1982 documentary The Weavers: Wasn’t That a Time (and then buying the CD);
  • being surprised every time I discover that yet another song I love was either written by Seeger (including those named here) or popularised by him (such as Malvina Reynolds’ “Little boxes” and the traditional hymn “We shall overcome”).

The LA Times obituary quotes Bruce Springsteen as saying that Seeger was:

a living archive of America’s music and conscience, a testament to the power of song and culture to nudge history along, to push American events towards a more humane and justified end.

Seeger himself is quoted as saying “My religion is that the world will not survive without dialogue”. I’m no Seeger expert, but everything I’ve ever heard about the man has either inspired me or made me feel good.  So, vale to Pete. His influence may have been greatest in the USA, but it sure was nice knowing he was around, singing his heart out and doing his best to make the world a better place to live in. Thank goodness we still have the songs.

29 Comments leave one →
  1. Brian Joseph permalink
    January 30, 2014 01:05

    Great list of memories. I too have great admiration for Seeger and his music. Indeed his songs will be with us forever.

    • January 30, 2014 08:40

      Thanks Brian … some people never really die do they? (Even though we wish they themselves could stay around).

  2. January 30, 2014 02:15

    It is a sad passing, but as you say, we will always have his songs.

  3. January 30, 2014 04:25

    He was more of my time than of yours, which shows only how his music crossed generations. And I mean MUSIC!

    • January 30, 2014 08:42

      Yes, I think you’re right MR, though in the end he crossed many times I think because the songs are timeless.

      • January 30, 2014 08:57

        Quite right! As will be some of Dylan’s, and Guthrie’s (even one or two or Arlo’s!). 😀

        • January 30, 2014 09:07

          Yes, they too … I gather Pete was about to receive an award in Woody Guthrie’s name … A new award I think?

        • January 30, 2014 09:15

          Didn’t see that, Sue – must confess to ignorance.

  4. January 30, 2014 04:52

    Thank you for your remarks. I haven’t even tried to sort out my memories of him and his music. It is simply woven into the background of how I became who I am. I just feel lucky–or blessed–that he lived and shared as he did.

    • January 30, 2014 07:40

      Same. Too much part of my life. RIP Pete

    • January 30, 2014 08:46

      Thanks Marilyn. I wondered about writing this because it felt a bit simplistic to do so, but for myself at least I want to just document the moment. I feel the same as you – “woven into the background of how I became who I am”. I wish I’d said that so clearly. My values and ideals.

  5. January 30, 2014 12:16


    Thanks so much for this tribute to Pete Seeger. Pardon my ignorance, I didn’t know he wrote almost all of my favourite songs! I was drawn to Peter Paul and Mary when just a child still in HK then, but my older bro and cousins were devoted fans of the trio. So there I was, singing all those lyrics without really understanding all but knowing in my heart they were important words, and powerful, moving words. I still have a few of PP&M’s LP’s. Again, as I said to my son (whom I’ve influenced in loving songs much older than his 20 something years), they don’t write songs and music like these anymore.

    • January 30, 2014 12:58

      I wonder what the new songs are – what’s woven into the background of gens x and y?

    • January 30, 2014 14:29

      Our son loves music of our era, Arti, like the Beatles, Motown etc, but he has introduced me to some interesting music – more soulful relationship stuff though than protest or social change/issues. Mostly anyhow. (He’s about to turn 30).

      • January 30, 2014 19:45

        When he was growing up, I made conscious effort to intro. him to music of my generation like Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, PPM, etc. of course The Beatles. He has wide musical tastes, many on his playlist I haven’t heard of and can’t say I enjoy. But I’m glad he’d had 12+ years of classical piano training up till he entered college, which is a good basis for music appreciation I think.

        • January 30, 2014 22:04

          Yes, sounds like us Arti. Our kids did piano, and then our daughter also did clarinet while our son took up guitar which he still plays for his own pleasure now which is very pleasing. (And just like my Dad introduced me to his favourites like Judy Garland, Bing Crosby and AL Jolson!!), not to mention musical theatre of the 1950s and 60s.

  6. January 30, 2014 14:04

    Loved this blog and shared it in Facebook. Thanks, Sue.

    • January 30, 2014 14:31

      Oh wow, thanks Sara … I nearly didn’t post it but thought what the heck. I love the songs and admire the man.

  7. January 31, 2014 12:27

    My personal Pete Seeger Story …Zulu Delta

  8. January 31, 2014 21:55

    Pardon my ignorance also – I didn’t realise he was the man behind these great words. What a rich, generous life!

    • January 31, 2014 22:08

      Well, Catherine, I’m really glad to get his name out there as the writer of those great songs! So often, I think, songwriters aren’t well enough known, are they?

  9. acommonreaderuk permalink
    February 3, 2014 06:31

    My experience matches yours exactly – coming to PS via PP&M. He had a huge influence on the London folk scene in the 60s (in which I was very involved) and he will be much missed for his example of personal integrity and his beguiling music

    • February 3, 2014 08:28

      That’s it Tom … The integrity is what shines through isn’t it. No pretensions to him it seemed.

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