Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Happy Birthday Pete Seeger - 90 Years Young!



On May 4, 2009 Pete Seeger marked off his 90th year. There is a fantastic in depth article in the link above from Democracy Now. As a big fan of Arlo Guthrie I couldn't help run across Pete. But truth be known before Arlo and I linked up there was Pete on the Smothers Brother Show. I'm just old enough to have witnessed that show as it ran on CBS but too young to remember anything other than what it looked like this older guy and his banjo. And the vibe was definitely not Hee Haw. Something else was going on and you could tell - even for a kid.

Realizing later in life that the Weavers and Pete had been blacklisted well I was just stunned that the Country could be so paranoid and stupid. It made absolutely no sense. Hindsight is twenty twenty and I fear the same verdict will be leveled by the next generation on George Bush's policies and the whole Republican era of decriminalizing fraud.

Before I digress an album that I really enjoyed and played often on the radio show was Precious Friend - Arlo and Pete Together. It has some of the funniest Arlo bits on it and some very haunting and beautiful moments. When Pete gets half the audience to sing and it's just the ladies - well lets just say if you ever wondered why we love women so much guys just listen to that moment - beauty in a word ethereal and very, very moving.

Some quotes from the Amy Goodman interview I'll paste below but do take the time and visit the link in the title and below especially if you are a musician, activist or just hunger for righteousness.

Paul
Author - Journey Home
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Legendary folk singer, banjo player, storyteller, and political and environmental activist Pete Seeger turned ninety on Sunday. More than 18,000 people packed New York’s Madison Square Garden Sunday celebrate the man, the music and the movement. The all-star lineup included Bruce Springsteen, Joan Baez, Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, Ani DiFranco, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Billy Bragg, Ruby Dee, Steve Earle, Arlo Guthrie, Guy Davis, Dar Williams, Michael Franti, Bela Fleck, Tim Robbins, Dave Matthews, Rufus Wainwright, John Mellencamp, Ben Harper, and Ritchie Havens.

HERE ARE SOME CHOICE QUOTES FROM BACKSTAGE:

"Now, despite Pete’s somewhat benign grandfatherly appearance, you know, he is a creature of a stubborn, defiant and nasty optimism. He carries—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." - Bruce Springsteen

"But if the human race can keep the scientists from inventing two more foolish weapons, I think we’ve got time to solve our problems. The only question is science—scientists have a religion. They think that an infinite increase in empirical information is a good thing. Can they prove it? Of course not. It’s a religious belief. That’s science for you." - Pete Seeger

"The other thing that [Pete]Seeger taught me was the idea of a working singer, that you did not have to be a star. You had to know you were a singer. You had to know what your music was. And you had to be willing to do it for the rest of your life, as long as you had voice. And people would keep up with you. They would catch up with you if you did not go away." - Bernice Johnson Reagon

"My first memory is not actually hearing Pete Seeger. It’s seeing his banjo and seeing the words written on it, because I was a fan of Woody Guthrie and his “This machine kills fascists.” And Pete had, you know, sort of a subtle twist on it, with “This machine surrounds hatred and forces it to remember,” and then —“surrender.” ...I knew that there was a thoughtful man behind that banjo." - Tom Morello

"I honestly believe that the future is going to be millions of little things saving us. I imagine a big seesaw, and at one end of this seesaw is on the ground with a basket half-full of big rocks in it. The other end of the seesaw is up in the air. It’s got a basket one-quarter full of sand. And some of us got teaspoons, and we’re trying to fill up sand. A lot of people are laughing at us, and they say, “Ah, people like you have been trying to do that for thousands of years, and it’s leaking out as fast as you’re putting it in.” But we’re saying, “We’re getting more people with teaspoons all the time.” And we think, “One of these years, you’ll see that whole seesaw go zooop in the other direction.” And people will say, “Gee, how did it happen so suddenly?” Us and all our little teaspoons..." - Pete Seeger

"And, you know, I’ve been with him at, you know, big benefits and hootenannies, where it’s all disorganized and chaotic, and everybody starts griping at everybody else and forgets why we’re there. And then Pete walks in, and everybody remembers again, you know? So, you know, I just—I’m really glad that we get to gather together while he’s still with us and pour some of that love back into him that he’s been pouring into the world all this time." - Ani DiFranco

"I do remember a friend of mine working at a camp for disabled kids. And I was just out of college, and I was, you know, trying to figure out what my contribution to society would be. And he [Pete]showed up and was—he sang “She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain.”

And nobody really knew he was coming. It was a camp for disabled kids. You know, there was nothing—it was just he was there to sing music that would include people. And kids in wheelchairs were singing; kids were singing in sign language; kids with disabilities, with very limited abilities to, you know, participate, were participating.

All the counselors were in tears. I was in tears, because he was just—and I just thought, you know, that spirit of inclusiveness, that spirit of unity. Of all these different abilities, these kids who have this, you know, desire to express and be a part of it, he’s completely succeeded. You know? And everyone was going, Whoo-hoo!

That’s when I realized what his power was and that the power is—what Spalding Gray called ...“horizontal.” You know, it wasn’t vertical, from on top of a mountain speaking down. It was radiating outwards. And that’s when I realized that that’s the kind of power, that if I ever had it, that’s the way I would do it. - Dar Williams

Pete Seeger Article - Thank You Amy Goodman

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