28 January 2014

Oh, Pete

Last spring, I found out that Pete Seeger was playing a benefit concert at a Unitarian Church not too far away from where we live. Pete! In spitting distance! So we went, and took the girl, because we thought it was important for her to grow up knowing she'd been in the same room with him, and we swooned a little when he ambled onto that stage, banjo slung upside down on his back.

We sing "his" songs all the time. Loudly, in the car, Here's To Cheshire, Here's To Cheese. Quietly, at bedtime. Raucously, reverently. And even when it's not Pete singing, it's people informed by him - Arlo Guthrie, Bruce Springsteen, Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Pete was a part of my childhood. There was a concert series every summer in the town next to ours, and there were always good people playing: Oscar Brand, Odetta, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie. Pete's environmentalism, his anti-war activism, his general lefty-commie-pinko sentiments course through my veins. Somewhere in a drawer, I've got a button, "Clean Up Big Muddy", a souvenir call-to-arms from the early days of Pete's campaign to clean up the Hudson River.

Arlo Guthrie does a side-splitting version of The Garden Song, Inch by inch, row by row // Gonna make this garden grow, in which he talks about how Pete sings "in front of the song", giving you the line just before you need it, teaching people to sing. Pete does just that, here in We Shall Overcome.

Because I am an optimist, I do believe that one day, we shall overcome, and that this machine will surround hate and force it to surrender. Rest in peace, Pete. And thank you.


Heide Estes said...

Lovely encomium. Thank you.

S said...

Pete. Sigh.

YourFireAnt said...

Thanks for writing this. My screen's gone all blurry now, or I'd write more.


Jocelyn said...



heidi said...

R.I.P. Pete. Saw Dar Williams at Landmark last Saturday.... we all spoke of you.