Pete Seeger was a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I don’t mean to say I ever met the man. Unfortunately, I never got that chance. But he was a fellow traveler on this planet since long before I was born, and, I kind of assumed, he would be there long after I was gone. He seemed immortal to me, a force for good that would always be.
Sadly, that wasn’t the case. As I’m sure you know by now, Mr. Seeger died January 27 at the age of 94. His beloved wife Toshi had already died in July 2013. The Seegers were married for seventy years. It goes that way with so many long-married couples, doesn’t it? What’s the point of hanging around when your best friend’s moved on?
Anyway, I knew I wanted to do something in honor of Pete today, but I didn’t really know where to start. There is so much I could link to. For example:
- Democracy Now‘s tribute to him
- Ani DiFranco’s and Tom Morello’s remembrances
- Slate‘s full transcript of Seeger’s testimony before HUAC
Those are all good reads and watches. His testimony especially shows you how badass Seeger really was. He’s the only person I know of who when called before the House Un-American Activities Committee plead the First Amendment. You know, the part about “the right of the people peaceably to assemble?” Yeah, he basically told Congress it was none of its fucking business who he associated with and who he sang his songs for.
But Monday Morning Music is about music, isn’t it? So let’s have some. First up, here’s one of the many labor songs Seeger sang over the years, “Which Side Are You On.” Written by Florence Reece in 1931 for the United Mine Workers in Harlan County, Kentucky.
This next one’s from 1960s. Pete wrote this protest song against the Vietnam War, but it’s still damned appropriate today. He performed “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” on the Smothers Brothers show (they took a lot of heat for having Seeger on, thanks to the network’s fear of his politics).
Here we have Seeger singing and playing “Down by the Riverside” with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee
This one is a lot of fun, Pete and Johnny Cash discussing the banjo and singing “Worried Man Blues.”
And finally, a Dylan song Pete recorded with the Rivertown Kids (a group he mentored) when he was much older, “Forever Young.”
“You’re never too old to change the world.” Bon voyage, Pete Seeger!