"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Monday, 3 February 2014

Pete Seeger: Gone to Greater Glory. May 3, 1919 – January 27, 2014

Pete Seeger died last week but I couldn't get to my blog to write my tribute until now. Many far better and far more eloquent writers have written thousands of wonderful words about one of my heroes, but I still want to add my tribute and play you some of his songs.

Pete has been a great influence on my for over 50 years now. His music, his life, his political activism, especially his peace campaigning - the whole man. Other Half and I have been off on our travels for the past week and spending hours in the car managed to pick up quite a few tributes and programmes on Pete on the car radio. Last night coming home and listing to yet another tribute we were trying to decide if we were to just choose one song he sang to sum up our feelings which one it would be. Of course an utter impossibility but bear with me as I describe a few and why they illustrate his life and my feelings.

I thought of the first song of his I heard which pierced my evolving teenage activist awareness: 'Little Boxes'. In this song he expressed exactly what I felt I didn't want to be - conformist in a society that seemed to want to pigeon hole its citizens into 'people like us'. Looking back over 50 years I wonder how much I have kept true to this ideal and deviated from the norm.... Some I hope!

Of course the iconic anthem 'We Shall Overcome' sung by so many - Other Half and I and our family included - at so many demos and marches over the years doesn't need an introduction. Pete reworded an old spiritual and this link is not the best rendition musically but historically and emotionally it cannot be bettered - a civil rights concert in the US in 1963. Thank you Pete for all you did.

The picture above shows the first album cover which Other Half and I bought and played to death in the first home we shared [incidentally the small record player developed a fault which periodically tripped the main fuse off and plunged us into darkness but we sang on regardless... ] Although this album [and 'LP'] disappeared over the years as LPs got outdated and through housemoves, many of the songs on it were replaced on new purchases of CDs and MP3s and even DVD*s. 

I had two favourites on this album,  'Abiyoyo' 


and the German protest song 'Peat Bog Soldiers' [In German and English] 

Other Half in our discussions nominated a song from the album - by Bob Dylan -'Masters of War' as one of his favourites. [Another thing about Pete, he was never precious or vain, singing others' songs as willingly as his own and always pleased to share when others' sang his songs] Sadly, I couldn't find a youtube or audio link to this so instead I am putting in a link to another anti war song, originally written by Pete during the Vietnam war but here adapted for the Iraq conflict and Pete is joined by Billy Bragg, Steve Earle and Ani DiFranco   

{*I bought the DVD 'The Internationale' which tells the story of how the internationale workers anthem and how Pete persuaded Billy Bragg to rewrite it in a more modern version 


[Original version in French with English commentary by Pete] Billy Bragg version of 'The Internationale', with his comments of how he wrote it at Pete's request:


Moving on, I love this link which shows Pete singing 'Amazing Grace' with Arlo Guthrie 

And here is Pete singing one of Arlo's father's - Woody Guthrie - songs: 'This Land is Your Land' 

  at his 90th birthday celebration

My final song for you all is a personal one with deep memories, again written by Bob Dylan but Pete's choice to perform on the 'Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan, Honouring 50 Years of Amnesty International' CD

Pete's biography can be found on many sites across the net but this is a rather good oneAnd the same with obituaries but here's one from the Guardian.

Sleep gently, Pete and thank you for everything.

1 comment:

  1. I am going to try to hook you into an amazing piece done on Pete in 2007, called "American Masters'" from PBS (public broadcasting services); see if this works:
    http://www.2kmusic.com/en/webvideo/peteseeger/Czk2hj4VISg/pete-seeger-the-power-of-song-2007-by-pbs-american-masters-full-version I would also highly suggest running virus protection PRIOR to watching, if it comes up buggy, I will try to see if it is available on HULU. This video is really well written, with PETE in it, with all his friends and Toshi, prior to her death.

    Pete was for many of us, the "sane voice in the Wilderness". He was authentic in all that he did, often diametrically opposed to what other's saw, concluded and thought what could be done: case in point, the Hudson River clean up.

    As he most eloquently pointed out, "I've made mistakes." I in this interview (not the American Master's, but a general interview shortly before his death), he alluded to the fact that he should have made more time for his children, did more to support Toshi, and I also kind of got the hint, he was also referring to the "Dylan incident" at Newport, where Pete was so furious that Dylan's guitar set was booming the audience, he almost took an axe to the amp.

    Anyway, we live, we learn, we grow. At least (to use the words in "Inherent the Wind" movie, directed by Stanley Kramer: Sarah: " If he's been wrong, at least he stood for something! What do you stand for? " As we all know, Lizibeth, you stand for your causes and willing to be 'counted' for them, and thank you! Mary Miller