Pete Seeger

PeteSeeger200  

I can’t begin to get everything I love about Pete into one post or ten. He has been such a huge force in my life. Such an inspiration. Such a powerhouse of strength and clarity. From that first concert I went to around the age of ten at the Carnegie Concert Hall in Pittsburgh - where the John Bircher’s were protesting outside and I was singing, “Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley” so loud from the mezzanine that Muzz’s older brother leaned over and told me to stop singing so loud. To holding my son Jackson when he was only 2 by Pete’s feet in a blazing hot tent at the Clearwater festival and feeling that we were another two blessed links in the chain.Pete was all about the idea of “we”. When he sang “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” (which I know is a strange idea, but just read up on it’s lyricist Yip Harburg ) he changed the last words to, “you and I”. Pete said, “When little Dorothy said, 'Why can't I?’ I’d tell her, 'You know why you can't, Dorothy? Because you only ask for yourself. You’ve got to ask for everybody, because either we’re all going to make it over that rainbow, or nobody’s going to make it.’ And so, sing it, 'If plucky little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why can't you and I?'" And the whole crowd sings these slightly different words. It's beautiful. And, of course, that’s the story of Noah’s Ark and the rainbow This world will survive when we learn how to coexist. Okay, we disagree. You like to eat this way, and I like to eat that way. You like to dance that way. I like to dance this way. You think of this word meaning such and such. I use the same word, but I’m thinking of something different. But if we learn the lesson of the rainbow, we will be here a hundred years from now.”

By some miracle one day in 1997, I got an assignment from Rolling Stone to photograph Pete Seeger up at his home on the Hudson. The story never ran, but it gave me one of the greatest thrills of my career. It was a cold, sunny spring morning. When I got to his house, he came out carrying an ax and said we had to chop some wood so he could boil the sap for maple syrup. So he lined up some logs and chopped away as I took my pictures. When he was done he grabbed his banjo, sat down on the chopping stump and asked what I wanted to hear. I told him I loved so many of his songs, but one of my favorites was an obscure one on a recording no longer in print (Pete Seeger Now) from the tent city the homeless had set up in Washington, DC. It was a song called, “Letter To Eve” - these are the lyrics:

LETTER TO EVE

Oh, Eve, where is Adam, now you're kicked out of the garden? Oh, Eve, where is Adam, now you're kicked out of the garden? Been wandering from shore to shore, Now you find there's no more Oh, Pacem in Terris, Mir, Shanti, Salaam, Hey Wa.

Don't you wish love, only love, could save this world from disaster? Don't you wish love, only love, could save this world from disaster? If only love could end the confusion - Or is it just one more illusion? Oh, Pacem in Terris, Mir, Shanti, Salaam, Hey Wa.

Well if . . . you want to have great love, you got to have great anger Well if . . . you want to have great love, you got to have great anger When I see innocent folk shot down, Should I just shake my head and frown? Oh, Pacem in Terris, Mir, Shanti, Salaam, Hey Wa.

Well if . . . you want to hit the target square, you better not have blind anger Well if . . . you want to hit the target square, you better not have blind anger Or else it'll be just one more time The correction creates another crime. Oh, Pacem in Terris, Mir, Shanti, Salaam, Hey Wa.

Oh Eve, you tell Adam, next time he asks you Oh Eve, you tell Adam, next time he asks you He'll say, "Baby it's cold outside; What's the password to come inside?" You say, Oh, Pacem in Terris, Mir, Shanti, Salaam, Hey Wa.

Oh, Eve, go tell Adam, we got build a new garden Oh, Eve, go tell Adam, we got build a new garden We got to get workin' on the building Of a decent for all o' God's children. Oh, Pacem in Terris, Mir, Shanti, Salaam, Hey Wa.

If music . . . could only bring peace, I'd only be a musician If music . . . could only bring peace, I'd only be a musician If songs could more than dull the pain, If melodies could break these chains Oh, Pacem in Terris, Mir, Shanti, Salaam, Hey Wa.

Oh, Pacem in Terris, Mir, Shanti, Salaam, Hey Wa! Oh, Pacem in Terris, Mir, Shanti, Salaam, Hey Wa! Four thousand languages in this world, Means the same thing to evrry boy and girl Oh, Pacem in Terris, Mir, Shanti, Salaam, Hey Wa! Oh, Pacem in Terris, Mir, Shanti, Salaam, Hey Wa!

Pete was all about planting seeds. Seeds of justice. Seeds of hope. Seeds of the power of song.

Pete said, “ In this wonderful parable in the New Testament: the sower scatters seeds. Some seeds fall in the pathway and get stamped on, and they don’t grow. Some fall on the rocks, and they don’t grow. But some seeds fall on fallow ground, and they grow and multiply a thousand fold. Who knows where some good little thing that you’ve done may bring results years later that you never dreamed of.”

I am on my way right now to the Dad 2.0 conference in New Orleans to speak on Friday. I will begin my talk speaking about Pete and how we, as parents are all farmers planting the seeds of our children's futures.

I will make my New Year’s resolution - which I made weeks before the news of Pete’s passing even stronger. My resolution is to sing even louder. With less inhibitions. With alittle less humility.

And to get planting…..’

I am linking a not very well shot clip of Bruce Springsteen in South Africa two nights ago singing, “We Shall Overcome.” Pete lives on. Bruce told Pete several years ago, “You outlasted the bastards, man!” And he did.

The picture is from my shoot with Pete from February, 1990 at his home in Beacon, NY.