Seeger Links and Inspiration

Posted January 28, 2014 @ 11:09pm | by Tripp

How is it that someone we have not met could have such a profound influence upon us no less? I have never met Pete Seeger, but I have always admired him. He died yesterday, January 27th, 2014. Superstitiously, I cannot help but notice that he died on my birthday. A friend pointed that fact out to me saying, "Somehow I missed it, but I am struck by the fact that you celebrate a new year as Peter Seeger celebrates his last. I guess you get to channel his gifts from here on out. Good luck and God bless, Tripp!"

No pressure.

It's not the first time I have thought of the Seegers in this way. Did you know that Pete Seeger's dad was Charles Seeger, an American musicologist often lauded as one of the forerunners of Ethnomusicology here in the United States? Yep. The first day of my first class at Cal focused on the work of Charles Seeger. One of his students from his UCLA years is still on faculty at Cal, Bonnie Wade. 

Again, no pressure. 

Dom Flemmons formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops wrote this:

I heard the news that Pete Seeger is gone. Here's to you Pete! There are too many things to say but I'll just let the man's work speak for itself.

I have a banjo in my hand because of him. I heard the demo recording of "If I had A Hammer" with the original melody and it blew me away.

Changed my life! Here's to you Pete and here's to the love folk music and the people who perform it that are indebted to Pete!

It is truly the beginning of a new era with his passing. I do not say end of an era because I feel that Pete would want us to push on and keep the song going on and on!

I send my regards to his family as well. This is a mighty loss. 

And I am entirely inspired. The following picture is of Charles and his children. Pete is the little boy seated in Charles' lap. The photo is from the Fretboard Journal: "May 23, 1921. Washington, D.C. "Professor Charles Louis Seeger and family." Charles Seeger, wife Constance de Clyver Edson and their 2-year-old son Pete, of future folkie fame." Thanks to Shorpy Higginbotham for the photo.

"May 23, 1921. Washington, D.C. "Professor Charles Louis Seeger and family." Charles Seeger, wife Constance de Clyver Edson and their 2-year-old son Pete, of future folkie fame." Thanks to Shorpy Higginbotham for the photo.

 

All day I have been surfing the internet reading various obituaries and essays about Pete Seeger. I still don't quite have words for what his work means to me. Musician. Activist. Organizer. Rabble rouser. Musicologist.

My friend, banjoist Grover Williamson, reminded of this from Bruce Springsteen

“He had a real sense of the musician as historical entity — of being a link in the thread of people who sing in others’ voices and carry the tradition forward…(and a sense) that songs were tools, and, without sounding too pretentious, righteous implements when connected to historical consciousness.” 

Here is a smattering of links for you.

American Blues Scene Magazine: Pete Seeger Passes Away at 94
Associated Press: Folk singer, activist, Pete Seeger dies in NY

The banjo-picking troubadour who sang for migrant workers, college students and star-struck presidents in a career that introduced generations of Americans to their folk music heritage died Monday at the age of 94. Seeger's grandson, Kitama Cahill-Jackson, said his grandfather died peacefully in his sleep around 9:30 p.m. at New York Presbyterian Hospital, where he had been for six days. Family members were with him.

"He was chopping wood 10 days ago," Cahill-Jackson recalled.

Fretboard Journal: To Great Lengths, The far reach of Pete Seeger and his longneck five-string banjo

By the dawn of the next decade, the seeds of a looming folk boom were being planted by Seeger, Fred Hellerman, Ronnie Gilbert and fellow Almanac alum Lee Hays. They called themselves the Weavers and they made their public debut at the Village Vanguard in late ’49. By that time, Seeger’s extended-neck Vega Whyte Laydie--which he had grabbed for the princely sum of $10, at the same pawnshop where he found the Stewart--was already gone.

MOJO: Pete Seeger: Voice of America

Seeger’s gentle, avuncular tones and ever-beatific smile bespoke a genuine humanity acknowledged even by those who failed to share his political convictions. It’s doubtful that socialism in America ever had a better ad man. But anyone who believes in music’s capacity to kindle something noble in humans is among today’s bereaved.

Field Trip South: Remembering Pete Seeger
Slate: When Pete Seeger Faced Down the House Un-American Activities Committee

I decline to discuss, under compulsion, where I have sung, and who has sung my songs, and who else has sung with me, and the people I have known. I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American. I will tell you about my songs, but I am not interested in telling you who wrote them, and I will tell you about my songs, and I am not interested in who listened to them.

Huffington Post: Rest In Peace: Pete Seeger's Spirituality In 11 Powerful Quotes

I feel most spiritual when I’m out in the woods. I feel part of nature. Or looking up at the stars. [I used to say] I was an atheist. Now I say, it’s all according to your definition of God. According to my definition of God, I’m not an atheist. Because I think God is everything. Whenever I open my eyes I’m looking at God. Whenever I’m listening to something I’m listening to God.

There's much, much more to say about Seeger and his influence on music in the United States and beyond. I will be mulling over his life and his music for years to come. That said, have fun with his work. Listen. Enjoy. Dom is right, "It is truly the beginning of a new era with his passing. I do not say end of an era because I feel that Pete would want us to push on and keep the song going on and on!"

 

 
Blog Home
 
Filed Under: mandodoxy |   | Permalink
 
 
 
Comments powered by Disqus
 
 
 
 
XML Sitemap