Friday, January 31, 2014

Remembering Pete Seeger


-Pete Seeger

Renée LaTulippe visited Limerick Alley earlier this week with a lively ditty about an indignant Mr. Potato Head.  It was tons of fun, so thought I might follow up today with a poem of my own that features a favorite children's toy.  Well... that didn't happen.

http://www.juliehedlund.com/registration-for-2014/My excuse is that I've been focused on completing my January manuscript for 12x12.  Have you heard about Julie Hedlund's challenge to write 12 picture book drafts in 12 months?  This is only my first year, but already I'm discovering it to be a fabulous source of support and motivation; and with three different membership levels, it really does provide something for everyone.  Click on the banner for membership and registration information. 

So no, I did not write a poem for today's post.  Instead I am featuring legendary folk singer and songwriter, Pete Seeger (1919-2014).

Pete Seeger Appreciation Page

Regarding the power of music to change the world:
"Words are good, and words help us become the leading species on earth to the point where we are now ready to wipe ourselves off the earth. But I think that all the arts are needed, and sports too, and cooking, food, and all these different ways of communication. Smiles, looking into eyes directly, all these different means of communication are needed to save this world. But certainly a great melody . . ."
 -Pete Seeger (from a 2006 Beliefnet interview)

When I heard that Pete Seeger died this past Monday, my feelings of loss were quickly overcome by feelings of gratitude-- that he was able to enjoy so many years and impact so many lives in a positive way is a gift beyond measure.

"I feel that my whole life is a contribution" 
                              -Pete Seeger

I thought about my own memories of seeing him at The Great Hudson River Revival in the mid-1980s.  The festival was founded in 1966 by Toshi Seeger and her husband, Pete, to clean up the polluted river and raise funds to build the sloop Clearwater, now recognized as America's Environmental Flagship.  A floating classroom that conducts science-based environmental education, Clearwater is also a world-renowned example of grassroots achievement.

"The world will be solved by millions of small things." 
                               -Pete Seeger 

The festival was not far from where I lived and, back then, not nearly the 15,000+ fan event it has become-- now the country's largest annual environmental celebration and the longest-running festival of its kind.  I remember it as a far more intimate gathering on a beautiful sunny day, in the shade of happy trees that longed to be hugged-- let's call it a post-hippy lovefest.  I also remember Pete.  I remember his soft eyes (a father and grandfather figure to so many), his unbridled optimism, and his rugged determination... and his banjo.  I remember his beloved banjo.

Pete Seeger Quotes, Huffington Post
-Pete Seeger

Most people can probably sing along to Pete Seeger's most popular hits, "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," "If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)" and "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)."  Here is one of my favorites, followed by a recording of Pete singing it.

Oh, Had I A Golden Thread


Oh, had I a golden thread
And needle so fine
I’ve weave a magic strand
Of rainbow design
Of rainbow design.

In it I’d weave the bravery
Of women giving birth,
In it I would weave the innocence
Of children over all the earth,
Children of all earth.

Far over the waters
I’d reach my magic band
Through foreign cities,
To every single land,
To every land.

Show my brothers and sisters
My rainbow design,
Bind up this sorry world
With hand and heart and mind,
Hand and heart and mind.

Far over the waters
I’d reach my magic band
To every human being
So they would understand,
So they’d understand.

Words and music by Pete Seeger (1958)
(c) 1959 by Stormking Music Inc.




This is how I remember Pete Seeger...



And this is how Arlo Guthrie (on his Facebook Page) remembers Pete Seeger...
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."

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is being hosted by Tricia, at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

23 comments:

  1. What a lovely tribute to a beautiful man! And thank you for your shout-out about 12 x 12. Congrats on getting your January ms done!

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  2. Wonderful tribute, Michelle. Arlo is right -- Pete will never be gone.

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  3. Growing up in the Hudson Valley I always felt like Pete was one of our neighbors. I remember very clearly one day as a 3 or 4 year old racing upstairs to tell my mom that Pete Seeger was on Sesame Street. I did it with the same pride I might have if it were my uncle. He was that kind of person, I think, down-to-earth enough that anyone could claim him as family.
    Thanks for the Arlo Guthrie piece, too, Michelle. What a lovely tribute to a lovely man!

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    1. Hey Sarah, nice to see you in these here parts. :) What a great story about your "Uncle Pete"-- I can so see you doing that!

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  4. Yes, Arlo is right - he has passed away, but he is still with us. Thank you for this moving tribute, Michelle. Clearwater will not be the same in June - but his spirit will be everywhere.

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  5. Beautiful tribute, Michelle. I'm glad you got to see Pete Seeger. (And you grew up near the Hudson River! That was my college stomping grounds.)
    Here's my Pete story:
    When I was in girl scout camp in the Berkshires of Massachusetts (1965 or 1966) Pete Seeger came and played for us! He was pals with the director of the older kids camp. We (the girls in the younger camp) hiked down the road to where the older girls stayed--that's the most vivid part of the memory, unfortunately, because it was a long way for my 9 or 10 year old feet. I came home from girl scout camp singing Pete Seeger songs, and my older sister wanted to know how I knew them. At first she didn't believe that he had actually played for us, and then she was jealous. That's how I knew I had heard/seen something special.

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing this story, Buffy. What a thrill! Bet the walk home didn't seem nearly as long with all that singing to lift you up. :)

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  6. It's wonderful to hear everyone's stories this week-has been a pleasure, & now your lovely post, Michelle. Thank you! We (my family) saw Pete Seeger at a small venue in Denver in the 80's more than once. It was a wonderful thing for our kids to see the "real deal"! They knew many of his songs, but to see him was so special. Thank you for sharing the message from Arlo Guthrie-special that too!

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    1. Pete most definitely had a effervescent presence! Arlo too. I was lucky enough to see him a few years later in college.

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  7. Excellent tribute. When Seeger passed away, I recalled Springsteen's Seeger Sessions which are among my favorite recording.
    This morning, I was testing a speaker in class, and I put the video of "If I Had a Hammer" on the Smartboard. As the 11th graders came in, they started to sing along...and that is a powerful legacy.

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing your classroom experience! Isn't that wonderful... good to hear that Pete's songs are living on from generation to generation.

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  8. Just lovely, Michelle. Thank you so much for sharing this moving tribute.

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  9. I will remember this when I feel like I can't do enough, "The world will be solved by millions of small things."

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    1. Sometimes I also have to remind myself that the little stuff counts.

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  10. What a lovely sharing of your fond memories, Michelle! The pairing of his talent and generosity of spirit is something I wish we'd see more of in our day!

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    1. Yes, I agree. I think it's out there, just not nearly as visible. Thanks, Keri.

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  11. I wish I had a Pete Seeger story :-) Thanks for sharing Arlo's tribute. What a great way to think about Pete's passing. I followed the link to the Appreciation Page and enjoyed seeing the list of his songs. I had forgotten reading Abiyoyo to my kids.

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    1. Ah, but I know you have many equally wonderful stories, Tabatha. (I seem to recall a special letter from President Jimmy Carter for one!)

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  12. Lovely tribute. An amazing man.

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