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.