He was born the same year as my father. I always remembered that. I met him briefly in person two or three times. I wrote a song many years ago called "All My Working Life" dedicated to all musician activists. I got to perform it in front of him at PMN in the mid-80's and he came backstage to say " I really liked your song." I'll always remember that. He was encouraging to me and to countless others musicians and songwriters.
Pete Seeger was fierce. To quote Bruce Springsteen, he was the grandfather who could kick your ass. But if you were intimidated in his presence, he wasn't really comfortable with that. He preferred for you to just be yourself and don't worry that you were in the presence of Woody Guthrie's most reliable traveling companion, the founder of modern folk music with his group The Weavers, the leader of the environmental movement to clean up the Hudson River, the stubborn symbol of resistance to the warped US House Un-American Activities Committee, civil rights repression and the Vietnam War AND the composer of some of popular music's most beautiful melodies. There is no best song if one is to choose between "If I Had A Hammer", "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine", "If I Had a Golden Thread" or "Turn, Turn, Turn" (and I know I am forgetting at least one other beautiful song). You can only choose favorites.
My favorite is "Turn, Turn, Turn" and I heard it first on the radio as performed by the Byrds. A few years later in the late 70's, I heard Pete's banjo version at a Clearwater benefit concert in Perth Amboy. You could play Turn, Turn, Turn on a toy piano and it would be moving. Verses from the Bible-where did Pete come up with that idea? Every once in a while, especially as the song became popular, I would hear those verses in church readings. Usually without Pete's coda "A time for peace, I swear it's not too late." Timeless advice in those lyrics. Slow down, we move too fast to paraphrase Paul Simon. There is a time and a place for everything and let's not forget about making peace with others.
We have seen the passing of many extraordinary lives in the past few months. We were going to lose Pete sooner or later but he gave us 94 years. Thank you, Pete Seeger for absolutely everything.