There’s so much to express about one of my heroes, Pete Seeger, who passed away, apparently peacefully, in New York at the age of 94. Despite his advance age, this still came as a shock, since he’d been out and about not long ago and scheduled for events not far from my home—he lived just up the river from me, that river being the Hudson. Of course, I once boarded his famous sloop, the Clearwater.
Just last week I was trying to find a way to contact him. The film I co-produced about the political influence of Beethoven’s Ninth, Following the Ninth, is screening on February 27 up in Rhinebeck, very near his home in Beacon. In the film, Billy Bragg sings his new right-on lyrics to the “Ode to Joy,” something Pete had done long ago, and I wondered if I might coax Pete into the cold for a few minutes to sing a few bars after the screening. Here’s Pete singing it long ago:
Now here he talks about his old friend Woody Guthrie, as he promoted his songs and legend, then largely forgotten.
And to complete this circle, here’s Pete just two years ago at the end of his march for Occupy Wall Street, which ended in Columbus Circle with a kind of birthday party for Pete, video shot by pal and noted filmmaker Sandi Bachom.
But let’s not forget about the controversy (I was old enough to experience it) when Pete got banned from the popular Hootenanny network TV show for his politics in the early 1960s. A few years later he was allowed on shows like The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour to perform his “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” with LBJ as the “big fool” urging us to “push on” in Vietnam.
More Pete videos (with Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, Sam Cooke and more) at my Pressing Issues blog all day.
Read Next: John Nichols remembers Pete Seeger.