Pete Seeger RIP

Dead at 94.

He sang for the labor movement in the 1940s and 1950s, for civil rights marches and anti-Vietnam War rallies in the 1960s, and for environmental and antiwar causes in the 1970s and beyond. “We Shall Overcome,” which Mr. Seeger adapted from old spirituals, became a civil rights anthem.

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39 replies
  1. 1
    Baud says:

    DFH RIP.

  2. 2
    currants says:

    @Baud: Yes. With utmost respect.

  3. 3
    Davis X. Machina says:

    A good man. Speaking the truth. Well.

    That’s what you had in Pete Seeger.

    The ideal citizen, by the standards of the people who invented the idea.

  4. 4
    Catherine D. says:

    I wondered how long he’d hang on after Toshi died.

  5. 5
    Judge Crater says:

    A true “radical” is the best sense of the word.

  6. 6
    PurpleGirl says:

    One thing I found funny in the story on New York 1 — they kept saying he was an activist. But they didn’t exactly explain what he was a activist for. Didn’t say that he was a soc-ialist, left-winger, an original DFH.

    Rethuglicans talk about someone being a “principled man”… Seeger was that man.

  7. 7
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @PurpleGirl:

    Rethuglicans talk about someone being a “principled man”…

    They talk about ‘principle’ only as a preliminary to talking about interest.

  8. 8
  9. 9
    jayjaybear says:

    Sharlet’s right, though. Cue the media cleansing of Seeger into a beloved icon whitewashed of everything that made him both beloved and an icon. Too important to sweep under the rug but too “inconvenient” to acknowledge honestly.

  10. 10
    Sherparick says:

    A wonderful man for whom I will be forever grateful. Organizing workers in the 1930s and 40s, standing up to HUAC and going to jail for it in the 1950s, pied-pieper for the Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam war movement in the 60s, leading the movement to clean the Hudson in the 70s and 80s, he was almost always right (and unlike some, was willing to admit he was wrong about at times, specifically mentioning regretting support for folks like Stalin and Mao). And always that wonderful music.

  11. 11
    Chris says:

    @PurpleGirl:

    I suppose he’ll be the next MLK… or Truman, or Teddy Roosevelt, or Abe Lincoln, or George Washington or Thomas Jefferson or Adam Smith or Jesus Christ. A generic figure for the right to praise as a Sensible, Principled, (dare we say it – Conservative) man that they can like for his iconicness while carefully ignoring everything he actually said and did.

    Don’t know much about him, but his resume reads like a summary of all the high points of liberal activism in the last century. Strong recommendation, indeed.

  12. 12
    raven says:

    He was mad when Bob wasn’t gonna work on Maggie’s Farm anymore.

  13. 13
    Paul in KY says:

    @Chris: They will really have to whitewash his life or amp up their cognitive dissonance to get away with that.

    They will probably try doing that.

  14. 14
    big ole hound says:

    His greatest accomplishment was forcing the manufacturers and cities near rivers to stop using them as toilets. Using his sloop “Clearwater ” on the Hudson as a platform and taking some to federal court, most major watershed areas in the northeast were clean by the 90s. As one who lived on the Connecticut River in the 70s and 80s, I thank him for turning a “dead” waterway into one in which my kids and I could fish and swim and watch the Bald Eagles and Osprey return. Thanks Mr Seager.

  15. 15
    Citizen_X says:

    Sail on, Mr. Seeger.

  16. 16
    Joel says:

    Seegers adaptation of “We Shall Overcome” is amazing.

  17. 17
    Chris says:

    @Paul in KY:

    More than they had to for MLK?

    They can do it.

  18. 18
    Lolis says:

    I loved him. RIP.

  19. 19
    Elizabelle says:

    A long life, and he was courageous and made his life matter.

    Hope he gets a major shoutout tonight at the SOTU.

    @Catherine D.:

    They had a good, long life together, but yeah.

    NYTimes from 2010; Pete was 90; what he did with his Sundays. (He’d also just written a song on the Gulf oil spill and released a new album). Sundays, though:

    … Mr. Seeger and his wife of 67 years, Toshi-Aline Ôhta, spend Sundays around the Dutchess County house he built by hand, unless he grabs his banjo and ventures out to the Beacon Sloop Club. He helped build that, too, by tricking people into volunteering. “I called it a pot-luck supper, and 30 people showed up,” he said. “Food is one of the great organizing tools.”

    ANSWERING MAIL The mail comes in by the bushel. That’s the principal news of my life. …

    KINDS OF MAIL People wanting autographs. I have a special form letter that starts off: “I wish I could persuade you that collecting autographs is one of the more foolish ways we can spend our precious days. There are important things needing to be done in every community.” How can people be brought together to do these important things? I’ve tried with banjos and boats.

    MORE MAIL Asking if I will come and accept an award someplace. This is a more general letter: “Dear so and so, thank you for your invitation, but….” A big word “but.” I work hard on these letters: “My lefty reputation kept me out of the spotlight, but now I’ve blown my cover. I have to say no to all sorts of good people who want me to listen to their CD, read their book….”

    ONE MORE SECRET It’s a very important thing to learn to talk to people you disagree with.

  20. 20
    vtr says:

    He deserves a tribute for his musicianship as well. A virtuoso on guitar and banjo, perfectly capable of showing off, he seldom did. I never heard him let his paying get in the way of the message of his song.

  21. 21
    Caravelle says:

    Heaven knows this was going to happen someday but I am gutted. The man was half my childhood.

    He had a life well-lived if anyone did.

    :( :( :(

  22. 22
    satby says:

    He will be missed. High point of the first Obama inauguration (beside the inauguration itself) was Pete singing.

  23. 23
    Anya says:

    RIP, Pete! Another great who strived to make the world a better place dies. I hope we have your replacement.

  24. 24
    Caravelle says:

    @satby: Do you know if he ever sang an updated “If you miss me on the back of the bus” for the occasion ?

  25. 25
    Patricia Kayden says:

    Another great man gone. RIP Pete.

  26. 26
    kideni says:

    Arlo Guthrie’s Facebook post today was beautiful:

    Pete Seeger:

    I usually do a little meditation and prayer every night before I go to sleep – Just part of the routine. Last night, I decided to go visit Pete Seeger for a while, just to spend a little time together, it was around 9 PM. So I was sitting in my home in Florida, having a lovely chat with Pete, who was in a hospital in New York City. That’s the great thing about thoughts and prayers- You can go or be anywhere.

    I simply wanted him to know that I loved him dearly, like a father in some ways, a mentor in others and just as a dear friend a lot of the time. I’d grown up that way – loving the Seegers – Pete & Toshi and all their family.

    I let him know I was having trouble writing his obituary (as I’d been asked) but it seemed just so silly and I couldn’t think of anything that didn’t sound trite or plain stupid. “They’ll say something appropriate in the news,” we agreed. We laughed, we talked, and I took my leave about 9:30 last night.

    “Arlo” he said, sounding just like the man I’ve known all of my life, “I guess I’ll see ya later.” I’ve always loved the rising and falling inflections in his voice. “Pete,” I said. “I guess we will.”

    I turned off the light and closed my eyes and fell asleep until very early this morning, about 3 AM when the texts and phone calls started coming in from friends telling me Pete had passed away.

    “Well, of course he passed away!” I’m telling everyone this morning. “But that doesn’t mean he’s gone.”

    If anyone is in or near Madison, Wisc., today and has some free time, come to the Capitol between noon and one or between around 5:15 and 6. We’ll be doing a proper Pete Seeger sing along.

  27. 27
    Bill Arnold says:

    Listened to a long (hour+?) interview with him (from the 90s?) on the AMC(Northeast Public Radio) NPR this AM. Interesting guy.
    I have a memory of him sharing a fresh fig with me (a little boy) and others at Croton Point (Hudson river) in the late 1960s. This must have been one of the early Clearwater fundraisers. He was that kind of guy, helping people experience new things and ideas. (My geek payback is showing people Saturn and/or Jupiter+moons and/or the Orion Nebula and/or crescent Venus for the first time with their own eyes.) The river cleanup activism was a big deal; small boating on the Hudson river in the 70s, rules were no swallowing water and a shower afterwards else you might get a rash. It’s cleaner now, swim-able most of the time.

  28. 28
    Paul in KY says:

    With apologies to Mr. Guthrie and Mr. Seeger, another stanza:

    Oh did you hear that ole Pete Seeger died?
    Sung the hard truths to us, Lord how he tried.
    His journey is ended, his soul is mended,
    This land was made for Pete and me.

  29. 29
    dp says:

    @Caravelle: Well put, and summarizes my thoughts as well.

  30. 30
    themis says:

    @kideni: If it weren’t cold enough to freeze my car, I’d be there. But if you hear a prayer from a cold heartless atheist, that’s me doing my best Arlo. This is the end of an era – it shouldn’t be, but it is.

  31. 31
    Dream On says:

    It is a very gratifying justice that Pete Seeger’s long life of integrity and decency outlived and discredited right-wing ’50s blacklisting.

    Longevity grants opportunities; Seeger could make a personal choice 50 years down the line on whether he should bother to make that little journey to piss on Joe McCarthy’s grave.

  32. 32
    Someguy says:

    Not many Trotskyites around these parts, I see.

  33. 33
    Gustopher says:

    You know, just like MLK, JFK and every other lefty hero other than FDR, if Seeger were alive today, he would be a Republican.

  34. 34
    Linnaeus says:

    I’ve been sharing this song of his (or, rather, one he sang) because the harmonies are really beautiful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHIy1UvYqpw

  35. 35
    Caravelle says:

    @Gustopher: Impressive how fast that transition happens isn’t it ?

  36. 36
    JR says:

    I saw and heard Pete several times, often close up.

    A neighbor picker opened for him years ago…

    Sad to lose the monster influences of our age! I saw and heard him at Newport once, and a long year or so later at the Moratorium demonstration in DC in 1969. I was a stage hand there, helped set up speaker towers and such, and got passes to go anywhere to do the work, which included down in front.

    The courage to make a long and storied life of fighting those in power for truth and justice for the underdog, for clean water and air, for working people… What a hero we lose today!!

  37. 37
    Chet says:

    @Chris:

    I suppose he’ll be the next MLK… or Truman, or Teddy Roosevelt, or Abe Lincoln, or George Washington or Thomas Jefferson or Adam Smith or Jesus Christ. A generic figure for the right to praise as a Sensible, Principled, (dare we say it – Conservative) man that they can like for his iconicness while carefully ignoring everything he actually said and did.

    Well, I dunno. You’d be surprised (or maybe not) how many notionally “mainstream” righties, even now, condemn Lincoln as a tyrant and MLK as a commie.

  38. 38
    billB says:

    Watch Pete and Bruce sing in front of Lincoln at the Inaugural with the great youth choir, and think how good Obama could have been for America. Instead of how he spent our money for his buds, the banksters. Pete had to leave now, he could not take any more heart break. I do not blame him for giving up hope.

  39. 39
    Paul in KY says:

    Slight mod to stanza:

    Oh did you hear that ole Pete Seeger died?
    Sung the hard truths to us, Lord how he tried.
    His journey has halted, his soul exalted,
    This land was made for Pete and thee.

    Copyright Paul in KY 2014, all rights reserved.

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