It’s a rare thing when I’m moved to actual tears when a public figure dies, but I have to admit the tears are flowing now. The world has lost yet another amazing man.
Pete Seeger was one of those unique people who lived his convictions every minute of every day. He spoke out against war and racism, stood for civil and worker’s rights, and was a champion for the environment. He was blacklisted and arrested and repudiated, but he never gave up.
He believed that messages could be passed through music. To that end he gave us such songs as “We Shall Overcome”, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”, “If I Had a Hammer”, and “Turn! Turn! Turn!”
We have lost much.
I’m sure one of the people grieving the most today is folk singer Arlo Guthrie. Here’s what he posted on his facebook page:
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.”
Goodbye, Pete Seeger, you wonderful human being. If anyone deserves to rest in peace, you do. You fought for that right your entire life.
I will leave you with one of my favorite Pete Seeger songs, which couldn’t be more apropos at this moment.