To call Pete a folk music icon is to make an understatement. His life and career made more of a difference than we will ever know. Over the past week since he died at age 94, the tributes have been coming from far and wide. I noted in passing that there were even those from people I know did not and would never approve of his politics.
I never met Pete, or even saw him in concert. Yet his music has been a presence in my life- even a defining presence- for the past 50 years since I first heard Where Have All the Flowers Gone sung by him- and, believe it or not, a haunting version in German sung by Marlene Dietrich.
I was not yet the "hippie peacenik" I would become. The song, in and of itself, didn't make me into one. Instead what it did was introduce me to a type of music that was not yet in my consciousness- American Folk Music. It showed me that before rock and roll protest songs, there was another type of song that could touch the soul with awareness and conviction.
I am going to spend some time reflecting on Pete Seeger this week. He was a man whose life and music crossed three-quarters of a century and more changes than we could have even dreamed possible in 1938 when he settled in New York and began a remarkable career.
He was controversial at many different times in these 75 years. He faced stiff opposition and great pressure to conform. His stubborn opinion that he lived in a great and FREE nation never left him. He kept singing about it and making sure it remained so.
So to start a series of remembering Pete, a tribute posted on You Tube by the wonderful people at the Newport Folk Festival:
Wann wird man je versteh´n, wann wird man je versteh´n?
When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?