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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger: 1919 – 2014 (UPDATED)

Pete Seeger's Last Ride
"This Land Is Your Land"
John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Pete Seeger, Dave Matthews, Neil Young

Farm Aid 2013 - Saratoga Springs, New York
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Photo by Paul Natkin/Photo Reserve, Inc. via
(Click photo to enlarge)

Pete Seeger has joined the great gig in the sky.

Pete Seeger's last public performance was at Farm Aid 2013 in Saratoga Springs, New York with John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, and Neil Young singing "This Land Is Your Land".

A truly priceless moment if there ever was one.

To say that Pete Seeger was a folk legend would be a vast understatement.

We'll try and update later today as tributes arrive trying to put in perspective something can't really be done.

From Neil Young's offical Facebook page:
Thank you Pete my friend, for all you have done for us. We sing in your voice about the things that matter, the story of the people and their struggle, with a laugh and a cry.
U.S. President Barack Obama released a statement Tuesday morning:
"Once called 'America's tuning fork,' Pete Seeger believed deeply in the power of song.

But more importantly, he believed in the power of community -- to stand up for what's right, speak out against what's wrong, and move this country closer to the America he knew we could be. Over the years, Pete used his voice -- and his hammer -- to strike blows for worker's rights and civil rights; world peace and environmental conservation.

And he always invited us to sing along. For reminding us where we come from and showing us where we need to go, we will always be grateful to Pete Seeger. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayer to Pete's family and all those who loved him."

Arlo Guthrie wrote on Facebook :

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.”

In 2009, Springsteen performed at New York’s Madison Square Garden in celebration of Seeger’s 90th birthday, and said:
“At some point Pete Seeger decided he’d be a walking, singing reminder of all of America’s history. He’d be a living archive of America’s music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along, to push American events towards more humane and justified ends. He would have the audacity and the courage to sing in the voice of the people, and despite Pete’s somewhat benign, grandfatherly appearance, he is a creature of a stubborn, defiant, and nasty optimism. Inside him he carries a steely toughness that belies that grandfatherly facade and it won’t let him take a step back from the things he believes in. At 90, he remains a stealth dagger through the heart of our country’s illusions about itself.”
In Pete Seeger's testimony before The House Un-American Activities Committee, on August 18, 1955, his answer to the question of whether he sung to Communists:
“ I decline to discuss, under compulsion, where I have sung, and who has sung my songs, and who else has sung with me, and the people I have known. I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American. I will tell you about my songs, but I am not interested in telling you who wrote them, and I will tell you about my songs, and I am not interested in who listened to them.”
Pete walked like a giant because he was a giant -- yet he was the most humble and gracious giant to ever walk the face of music.

Pete, we all walk these lands for you ... and us.

Pete Seeger - 1995


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At 1/28/2014 09:29:00 AM, Anonymous Paul Salden said...


Was very fortunate to have been at Farm Aid and be a part of a great experience. If we could all live a full life like that man did.

Paul in Essex, Ontario

At 1/28/2014 09:33:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Pete, I know you were here a long time but you still left too soon.

At 1/28/2014 09:35:00 AM, Anonymous Doc said...

Thrasher, that last comment was from Doc not anon if you could change it. Thanks

At 1/28/2014 12:10:00 PM, Anonymous Mother Nature on the Run said...

Living in simplicity, sharing in friendship with all living things, and having faith in the good of all humanity is why he made a true believer out of me. We "shall" overcome, Pete!

At 1/28/2014 01:26:00 PM, Anonymous Mother Nature on the Run said...

He was a real-life super-hero, Thrasher. And "sometimes I despair the world will never see another man like him."

At 1/28/2014 02:10:00 PM, Anonymous susan miller said...

This news saddens me very much. I had the honor of receiving a return note. from Pete Seeger a few years ago. I had periodically posted it on my face book wall. This man was not only a legend.. but a true man who was a fighter for a cause. A leader not a follower. A true believer if only we and this world would join as one things could change for the better, When i first saw a post I could not believe this so I searched for it and it came out as another "hoax".. But now I see it was not.;[. As a child when I heard "I I had a hammer" I would take my toy hammer and hit things, not realizing the full impact that this man would have on me in later years.There will never ever be another Pete Seeger ever!..Now is is with his wife and I know he is making a difference in the heavens above. I so much wish this was not, the news of Pete Seeger.. Rest in Peace. Pete.<3

At 1/28/2014 11:20:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

I have to admit I was always a little ambivalent about Pete due to his early involvement with the Communist party, and therefore for a long time never embraced him wholeheartedly. Trouble is, I always loved his voice and could never really find fault with virtually any of his activism. Still, though he eventually disavowed his support of Soviet style communism (and Stalin in particular), according to attributed quotes he remained a communist in principle. I've always subscribed to the admonition "If you're not a communist at the age of twenty, you have no heart. If you're still one at thirty, you have no brain", but with guys like Seeger you just get the sense he was such a gentle soul who never lost his heart, or his idealism. Hard to be critical of a guy like that, much as it is hard to be critical of Neil, even when it seems the wheels are about to fall off.

This is the thing that the critics never get (including me many times). They only see the political stance in stark contrast to their own, never the heart behind the stance. It's oh-so-easy to dismiss the idealist as naive, hypocritical, impractical, when the truth is that they just want the world to be a better place. It would seem this is an apt description of any true artist, that and the audacity to share their hopes and dreams with the world at large, no matter the "slings and arrows of fortune".

Pete certainly took his lumps, but seemingly never shied away from the unvarnished truth of his convictions, and just look at what he left behind.

I could never summarize his life accurately, but I think it's well worth taking a look at just to see how wide a swath he cut through the history of the twentieth century in all it’s ugliness, and yes, all its glory.

Two of Pete’s songs are etched in my memory, and I think of them every time I think of him. The first is a cover that displays his edgy side- Little Boxes (a rejection of conformity), the second his poignant side- Kisses Sweeter Than Wine. I tried to find the version of Kisses I like the most (couldn’t), performed with a live choral group, a sort of call and response. I place it right along side such greatness as Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, transcendent and sublime, a paean to his belief that music is best when it’s shared communally.

RIP, Pete.

A Friend Of Yours

At 1/28/2014 11:52:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...

Thanks for posting this Thrasher! Really, really moving ... its mind blowing to see some of the elder statesmen of rock/folk/country music up there, including Neil and Willie, watching Pete up there with so much reverence and awe ... clearly Pete lived all the way to the end ... what an amazing last performance

At 1/29/2014 09:04:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Seeger will be turning in his grave over the decision of Young to play in Israel.

At 1/29/2014 09:56:00 AM, Anonymous Dreamin' Man said...

Don’t mourn, organize!

That's what Pete would've wanted.

ps - great thoughts by Arlo.

At 1/29/2014 10:13:00 AM, Blogger Kendra said...

“I understand why someone would want to boycott a place financially, but I don’t understand why you would boycott dialogue. The world will not be here in 50 years unless we learn how to communicate with each other nonviolently.” ~ Pete Seeger (Mar. 2010)

At 1/30/2014 07:33:00 AM, Blogger SONY said...

Watching Pete Seeger at the Farm Aid show was a tremendous treat. He was a giant of a man with courage, integrity, intellect and a feel for his fellow man.

Our legends, heros and icons are passing away in front of our eyes. Best extend a hand and a heart to your brother, sister and neighbor while we can.

Gonna go play If I had a hammer on my guitar for a while, get back to when I first started playing and remember the strong convictions of a wonderful banjo man who taught us so much.

At 1/30/2014 08:40:00 AM, Blogger Thrasher Wheat said...

@SONY - good words and reminder.

It's never too late ... and never too soon.

At 1/30/2014 11:16:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...

nice article about Pete, Neil and Farm Aid:

Pete Seeger, Neil Young and the Importance of Letting Go:

At 1/31/2014 08:41:00 PM, Blogger SONY said...

Pete Seeger: The Power of Song

VH1 Classic Channel
Friday 1/31
9:00 PM - 11:00 PM

..if you can get it....

At 11/19/2014 11:51:00 AM, Blogger Warren B. said...

Great piece! btw, Pete's last public performance was actually at Carnegie Hall on Nov. 29, at Arlo Guthrie's annual post-Thanksgiving concert. A very somber event, as both men had just lost their wives.


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