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Brooklyn Street Art

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Thank You Pete Seeger, Stay Forever Young

Posted on January 29, 2014

Peter “Pete” Seeger (May 3, 1919 – January 27, 2014)

In the midst of all the warm tributes coming from news outlets since Mr. Pete Seeger passed away two days ago, you may have missed the stridency and conviction that he infused his art with and the courageous, sometimes unpopular stances he took with his art to expand the rights of people of every stripe during his long life.

Maybe the cuddly coverage was missing the bite of his badass attitude toward injustice because some of those same institutions had been culpable at one time of the very things he took us all to task for – racism, classism, sexism, creeping fascism, intolerance, economic injustice, ravaging the earth, waging unjustified war. It doesn’t typically fit the narrative of a fuzzy posthumous tribute to a man of 94, but Folk Music speaks frankly on the side of the folk, and he asked famously, “Which side are you on?” Though he was lover, Seeger also was also definitely a fighter.

Brooklyn-Street-Art-740-Pete-Seeger-Aug-2009-copyright-Steven_P-Harrington

One beautiful August afternoon with Mr. Seeger and friends under a canopy of Beacon trees. (photo © Steven P. Harrington)

Mr. Seeger was punk rock before guitars were even electrified, and he used his talents to make a difference, even when things looked dark, or were threatening.  He jumped freights as a young man and rode from town to town with his banjo and guys like Woody Guthrie because he loved his folk music, he loved the country, and because he believed strongly in social justice and wanted to tell the stories of everyday working neighbors so they could find their voice and use it.

 

He was not a pushover, didn’t rest easily on his laurels, although no one would have thought less of him if he had. He certainly wasn’t looking for doe-eyed reverence from a compliant establishment – In his 80s and 90s he was protesting the Iraq and Afganistan Wars, marching with Occupy Wall Street, fighting successfully to get the Hudson River dredged of toxic chemicals dumped there from industry.

 

It was the fight inside of him, a hope inside of him, his wife of 70 years beside him, and the family of people around him that kept him going. He relished hearing your voice as much as his own and even though his voice couldn’t actually hold a note and he mainly spoke his lyrics in the last few years, he found a way to rally people and to encourage us and engage us in a way that will keep him in our minds and hearts forever young.

“Participation! It’s what all my work has been about.” – Pete Seeger

 

10 Great Songs from Pete Seeger via Martin Chilton at The Telegraph

 

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