Saturday, February 1, 2014

Goodbye to a Good Man

I was saddened by the recent death of Pete Seeger. He lived a long and eventful life, though, and no man can ask for more. He was 94 at his death.

Seeger was an activist who stood firmly on his convictions. He played an influential role in the Civil Rights Movement as well as opposing the Viet Nam War. In his later years, he provided leadership in the effort to clean up the heavily polluted Hudson River. Although many are not aware that he served his country in World War II, many more are aware that he was blacklisted during the Red Scare years of the 1950s and early 1960s.

But for me, my memories of Pete Seeger are all about the music, and I think he would like that. I've always liked folk music. I love ballads and songs that tell stories, and much folk music does exactly that. But folk music often expresses the feelings, emotions, and concerns of common folk, so it often has a real message to share, and that elevates it to a higher plane.

Among my favorite folks singers have been The Kingston Trio, The Brothers Four, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Gordon Lightfoot, Joan Baez, and the Seekers. I also enjoy more recent artists who have added a bit of rock to their folk influences, such as Crosby, Stills, and Nash, the Byrds, and the Buffalo Springfield. 

Seeger was noted not only for writing many original songs, but he also revived many old and forgotten songs, often with new arrangements or new verses and other changes. Among the many songs he authored are Turn, Turn, Turn which the Byrds made famous in the mid 1960s, and two of my personal favorites, If I Had a Hammer  and Where Have All the Flowers Gone? During the Civil Rights Movement, he revived We Shall Overcome, and this song became a uniting force in that movement.

Many artists have been inspired and influenced by Seeger, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Roger McGuinn (the Byrds), Peter, Paul, and Mary, and countless others.

He married Toshi-Aline Ota in 1943. She preceded him in death, passing away in July 2013. I think that sort of commitment says something about a person. Mr. Seeger leaves behind quite a legacy.

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