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LAST 10 MINUTES print heading

LAST 10 MINUTES

Pete Seeger

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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.

 

01.29.14 Posted in Everything Is Connected, Something I Heard, Something I love

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Peter Pan

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This morning I put on the Peter Pan original Broadway cast album for the first time since I was a child.   Mary Martin’s 1954 version , for Asher who was eating breakfast with me.  He started singing it back to me right away, like he already knew all the words. I had forgotten how big a part of my childhood that album was. Could barely hold back tears listening to him crow.

What I wrote above is what I posted on Facebook.    The truth was I was sobbing uncontrollably.   How can those songs be so deep inside that when they surface so many years later, and your son is singing them back to you, it is like a well burst inside?

 

 

 

 

 

10.03.13 Posted in Personal Work, Something I Heard, Something I Thought

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“King! I have a joke for you”

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I photographed BB King a couple of weeks ago in Baltimore.  At the end of the shooting, he called me over, and as I kneeled next to his chair, he said, “That was the most enjoyable photo shoot I have ever done.”    He then said, “When you go home kiss Jackson for me.”

I had talked about my boys alot during the shooting, and told BB that he could kiss Jackson (my 5 year old) himself when he played Red Rocks in two weeks.

This past week, Stephie and I took Jackson and his grandmother Janet to Red Rocks.  First up was a visit in the fancy touring bus.    Jackson went right back to BB holding court in the back and gave him five.   “BB”, Jackson asked.   “Call him Mr. King” Stephie corrected.   “We are musicians” BB said, “there are no formalities.”    Then Jackson stood right in front of BB and said, “KING!  I have some jokes for you.”   Jackson then told the one about what do you call a woman in the middle of a tennis court?   Annette!   A couple of knock knock jokes.   We were all hysterical.   When I tried to politely slip out, BB asked us to stay longer.    He then whispered to me, “Do you see the way Jackson is standing there, poised and talking to me directly?    My mother died when I was 9 ½ and I never learned that.”

We then headed over to the stage.   This was Jackson’s first real concert.   We walked  up the ramps through the great backstage at Red Rocks where everyone from the Beatles to Sinatra to our friend Mac Miller walked the halls.   Got into our seats up front.  I had a pass to shoot after they cleared the other photographers out, and thought Jackson might  like being so close, so he joined me.   BB’s second song, “You Are My Sunshine” seemed like a very strange choice, but was so much fun since Jackson knew the lyrics.   On “The Thrill is Gone”, BB spotted Jackson in the audience.  From the stage he said, “There is my friend Jackson, we hung together before the show.”  He then reached in his pocket and tossed a pendant from the stage through the air, which Jackson caught (thanks to alot of Little League practice this summer).

Later, after the set, Jackson was showing his pendant to everyone and said, “I will never forget this night.”
If I was ever nervous for him starting kindergarten, it was all gone.   He will be fine.

08.23.13 Posted in Everything Is Connected, Photos, Something I Heard, Something I Saw, Something I Took

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Live Lobster

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In the mountains this summer, at a dinner called “Dinnerpoloza” organized by marketing wiz Claudia Batten, we sit down and throw the dice.    Looking under the table Claudia sports tight red stretch pants (definitely not Boulder standard issue spandex), black shoes with red soles and a very sparkly shirt. Claudia explodes with ideas and fun and that down-under accent that makes all of the rest of us sound so normal.

She is with the great sculptor Mark Castator who picks the wine and passes his newest sculpture installations around on his phone. We talk Game of Thrones, tumblr hashtags, and a 14′ table in the works.

We are joined by John Bradley and Missy Schwartz new to Boulder via SF and Wired Mag. We go around the table pulling the best ideas from behind our ears, then sharing. Hidden gems. No NDA’s.   Talk like everything we are drinking is not making us gay. Stephie was being friends with Mr Hendrik’s and some cucumber that was as summer as you can get. Uh oh….I am actually not feeling so clear, do I fake it or submit to the buzz? The talk circles around 3 married couples who are really happy together. Like a big skinny dip. In Boulder on this night, at this table, we are feeling very alive and gay and straight.

It all evolves ( and there is no D at the beginning of evolve) into Honey Boo Boo who taught me about the importance of posture when I shot her last month and have not slouched since. Have to share the tips about posture.

Two nights later in the mountains, we are at Bill and Elizabeth’s mountain house looking out at the most beautiful night.  Full moon.  Friends from the east who also settled out west. Kids bouncing all over. Elizabeth is working margaritas and massaging the kale salad. Corn is shucked and steaming. What is missing from this summer? Lobster. Fresh live lobster. It is the only thing I am missing. Not missing the beach. Not missing hot steamy days in the city. Find an Asian market in Broomfield. Right above the nasty box of big live frogs is the tank of live lobsters. I ask the man who doesn’t speak of word of English where they are from. He answers with one word, “Boston.” Right answer. “I’ll take 4″ So here is the scene last up in the mountains: The sun setting over 14 peaks and the full moon rising. 4 dishes of melted butter. 2 lobster crackers (this is NOT the well supplied beach larder). Some wine and salad and corn. And a trumpet.

 

And this song is playing in my head….. Your Heart is a Black As Night

07.24.13 Posted in Everything Is Connected, Personal Work, Photos, Something I Heard, Something I Saw

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When A Fire Starts to Burn – 4th of July, 2013

 

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The 4th of July is not the beginning or end of summer.   It is not really the middle either.  It is towards the end of real green.   It is warm days, cool nights and dry here in Colorado.  It is skies packed with more stars than the ipad app of the night.   It is pitching baseball after baseball after baseball until the balls finally start sailing over my head.

It is hard to work in summer.   The long days don’t define work and it is never really dark enough to sleep.   Deer rest by the bikes under the deck.  Corn silk is littered all around the grill.  Clothing is optional.

Generally on the 4th I sing George M. Cohan’s anthem to my boys, like my father did on the 4th ( although I think my father was thinking James Cagney’s version rather than the real Cohan.)     I remember holding Jackson under a huge flag in the park in  Maplewood teaching him the lyrics.

This morning I was thinking about the young firefighters in Arizona.  Everytime I read about someone dying – especially that young – I think, “that is all you get.”   They were strong soldiers fighting a fight I can understand – though in the next breath the news talked about the climate changing, and all of us are driving what is terrorizing the weather.

Always thinking about Woody Guthrie and Louis Armstrong on the 4th.   Louis because he claimed he was born on the 4th of July, 1900 (though probably not born that day I will give it to him anyway and listen to “Weatherbird” with awe – all that magic he made in that crazy duet with Earl Hines).

Woody Guthrie - the most patriotic american I ever knew.  We all have our gifts.  His was not being a great father or husband, but he shared a view of this country that was true and benevolent and inspired.   “This Land is Your Land” came on in the house this morning.  These lyrics stopped everything we were doing :

 

In the shadow of the steeple

I saw my people

At the relief office

I seen my people

As they stood there hungry

I stood there asking

Is this land made for you and me?

 

Nobody living can ever stop me

As I go walking that freedom highway

Nobody living can ever make me turn back

This land was made for you and me.

In Boulder we are eating like kings.  Farm to table. Organic.  Gluten free.

Food of the gods.  Until they start chewing for us, too – I am happy food is honored and respected and grown with such passion.   I wish everyone was able to sit at these tables.

In Lincoln, Nebraska this spring I went to a high school where they spoke 22 languages.  In LINCOLN, NEBRASKA!   The school was a miracle of a tight community with open hearts.  Unemployment was low, but many were working poor and could barely afford food.   The children were fed during the week at school, and then sent home for the weekend with knapsacks full of food to get them through the weekend.  There was no ridicule.  There was just a sense of people helping each other.   In the 4th grade class everyone was reading over 100 words a minute.   The bright strong eyes of the teacher taught as much as the books.

We have talked about that school alot in the weeks since I was there.   The boys sent their lemonade stand money there.  I am sending these Woody Guthrie lyrics out there today for them.   In shadow of this magnificent land here in Colorado.  In the plains between the mountains.

We are turning off our screens, pulling over on the side of the road and feeling, for a moment, small and timeless under a bright blue sky bigger than the ocean.  We are holding each other and letting time stop, even for a brief moment.   We all get alittle more time,  which means we can sit still and live large and love each other even more….and not stop walking.

I am going to sandwich this post of July 4th reflection with a new song (When I A Fire Starts to Burn)  I heard yesterday from a band of brothers ( Guy and Howard Lawrence) in the UK.  Check out that video!

 

And a series of pictures from my family over the last couple of days.

Happy 4th all.

 

 

 

07.03.13 Posted in Everything Is Connected, Personal Work, Photos, Something I Heard, Something I Saw, Something I Thought, Something I Took

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