BWW Blog: Remembering Pete Seeger

BWW Blog: Remembering Pete SeegerPete Seeger died last Monday at age 94. He was and remains a champion of social change.

If you have never viewed his "Rainbow Quest" television series from the mid-1960s, take a moment. See him with Johnny Cash and June Carter, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, and Tom Paxton. You can also see him with Arlo Guthrie,son of Woodrow Wilson Guthrie - an inspiration to Mr. Seeger.

At one time, and for many years, living not far from where he lived in New York and from Alice's Restaurant in Massachusetts, I saw frequent images of the aging Mr. Seeger living in the woods with his beloved wife (who passed last year), chopping firewood, independent, singing what he wanted when he wanted.

In the 1950s he was convicted for contempt of Congress (defying the House Un-American Activities Committee), and in the 2000s he sang at an inaugural concert for President Obama.

He could sing any song, for any audience, but his passion sided with anthems on behalf of the labor, civil rights, and anti-war movements, and of environmental causes.

He got people singing. He insisted upon it in his concerts. You didn't go to a Pete Seeger concert to hear Pete sing. You went to sing along with Pete. He was brilliant at getting children to sing, too. What was his was yours. He was there to get youu enthused, and he gave his creations freely to give to others.

In listening to interviews of his family and friends in the last week, it was clear this was how he lived his life as well. Things passed through him. Emotions. Songs. Money. Belongings. He was a civil servant who wanted no spotlight and distrusted commercialism. Personal awards were meaningless to him.

My dad introduced me to him through recordings by his wonderful group, The Weavers. Listen to those songs again, especially "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," which Mr. Seeger wrote.

While his lyrics will be remembered, and rightly and hopefully so, I take away from his passing his apparent joy in his awareness of himself as a small part of something much larger - both before him and after him. His focus was on change, not himself.

"My job," he said, "is to show folks there's a lot of good music in this world, and if used right it may help to save the planet."

Pete Seeger is the model of an artist.

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Guest Blogger: Dan McCleary Dan McCleary is the Founder and Producing Artistic Director of Tennessee Shakespeare Company, the Mid-South’s professional, classical theatre and education organization based in Memphis.  Dan has made a living as a classical stage actor, Shakespeare master teacher, producer, artist-manager, and stage director around the country for 25 years. Memphis Magazine named him among the “Who’s Who in Memphis” each year from 2009-12, and the Germantown Arts Alliance honored him with its 2009 Distinguished Arts and Humanities Medal for Performing Arts.  Dan is a published poet, and he holds a B.A. in Advertising and Journalism from Temple University.  Dan is the proud father of three-year-old twin boys, Sullivan and Collins.

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