Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Song of the Week (or Lifetime): Pete Seeger

I am well acquainted with the circle of life, but when I heard that Pete Seeger died, my first thought was, how can that be? He was one of those that you just knew was going to live forever. 

Like many of my generation I was introduced to Seeger's work from listening to the oldies stations from the back seat of my parent's car or playing around with their record collections. He wrote the Byrd's tune, "Turn, Turn, Turn" and "If I Had a Hammer," popularized by Peter, Paul and Mary and many elementary school music teachers. 

His life and music is hard to summarize because in many ways it is so much bigger than any amount of words, because in many more ways he was American Music.  He not only led the revival of folk music, but tirelessly worked for it's survival. Seeger rambled around the country in boxcars with Woody Guthrie.  He championed the banjo, his instrument of choice, and even invented his own, the Long Neck or Seeger Banjo. During the McCarthy witch hunts, Seeger was blacklisted, but kept singing his songs.  He sang the songs of the people among the people, faithfully leading sing-a-longs, believing that people joining their voices together is a mighty powerful thing. He protested hate, injustice, corruption and he supported and lifted up the oppressed, and gave hope to the hopeless.

And around that famous banjo of his,  he wrote: THIS MACHINE SURROUNDS HATE AND FORCES IT TO SURRENDER.

I bet there is one heck of a hootenanny (a word popularized by Seeger) going on up in the heavens right about now. 

Words of wisdom from the man himself:

"If you sing for children, you can't really say there's no hope."

“Participation - that's what's gonna save the human race.” 

“Once upon a time, wasn’t singing a part of everyday life as much as talking, physical exercise, and religion? Our distant ancestors, wherever they were in this world, sang while pounding grain, paddling canoes, or walking long journeys. Can we begin to make our lives once more all of a piece? Finding the right songs and singing them over and over is a way to start. And when one person taps out a beat, while another leads into the melody, or when three people discover a harmony they never knew existed, or a crowd joins in on a chorus as though to raise the ceiling a few feet higher, then they also know there is hope for the world.” 

 “Well, normally I’m against big things. I think the world is going to be saved by millions of small things. Too many things can go wrong when they get big.”

“I call them all love songs. . . They tell of love of man and woman, and parents and children, love of country, freedom, beauty, mankind, the world, love of searching for truth and other unknowns. But, of course, love alone is not enough.”

We all go to different churches or no churches, we have different favorite foods, different ways of making love, different ways of doing all sorts of things, but there we’re all singing together. Gives you hope.”

“A good song reminds us what we’re fighting for.”

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