Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Remembering Pete

The headline hit me like a body blow: Pete Seeger is dead.

Sure, he was 94 years old, which must seem like a thousand to a young person but doesn't to me. And yes, he lived as good a life as a person can live, filling the world with the flowers of song and singing. But the world seems a smaller and sadder place to me this morning.

As the news media are reporting, he wrote or co-wrote "If I Had a Hammer," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," "Turn, Turn, Turn," and "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine." And hundreds more. He was the one who brought the old African-American song "We Shall Overcome" into the Movement. In fact, the song originally was "We Will Overcome," and he changed it to "shall" because, he said, "It opens the mouth up better." But it is an entirely different song with "shall," and of course Pete knew it.

Public figures die every day. Some have done wonderful things with their lives. But Pete Seeger was a once-in-a-generation figure whose happy warrior persona made him so hard to dislike and so easy to love. I happen to have agreed with his politics, but it's irrelevant to me as to his worth as a musician.

I want to shout his name to glory. I want to be thrilled that I lived at the same time as the great man. But if I'm honest, I just feel miserable at losing him. To everything there is a season. I'm so glad I was able to hear his songs and sing along as tens of millions of others did.

He was the folk in folk music. We will never see his kind again.

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