Pete Seeger in 2000: Can Music Move a Mountain?

Pete Seeger performing on February 13, 1944, at the United Federal Labor Canteen, with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in attendance.

Pete Seeger performing on February 13, 1944, at the United Federal Labor Canteen, with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in attendance.

In 2000, Chris interviewed the legendary folk singer Pete Seeger, who died today at 94. Here is Pete Seeger on “The Connection.” As Chris noted in introducing him, Pete Seeger wrote and popularized folk music for over 60 years. He always used his voice and his banjo for a purpose. He never sang a song that didn’t have meaning. His convictions about social justice were deep, and his performances changed lives. There’s little doubt the FBI had a huge fat file on him back in Washington, and for his liberal politics he was the target of mob attacks too. He sung anti-American songs in Moscow, and was at one time banned from television. He continually inspired other people to action to stop the Vietnam war, to fight racial inequality, and to save the world.

 


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8 thoughts on “Pete Seeger in 2000: Can Music Move a Mountain?

  1. Ahhh Community! Love it. Some very memorable moments in this interview! I’m still imagining the eternal sly “grin” on Guthrie”s face… Thank you for leaving enough space for me to get a sense of this man and his passion…and compassion. Mr. Seeger can tell a story with just the tone of his voice . Makes me think of what Arlo just wrote about Pete: “I’ve always loved the rising and falling inflections in his voice.”

    This is what Arlo just wrote:
    Pete Seeger:

    I usually do a little meditation and prayer every night before I go to sleep – Just part of the routine. Last night, I decided to go visit Pete Seeger for a while, just to spend a little time together, it was around 9 PM. So I was sitting in my home in Florida, having a lovely chat with Pete, who was in a hospital in New York City. That’s the great thing about thoughts and prayers- You can go or be anywhere.

    I simply wanted him to know that I loved him dearly, like a father in some ways, a mentor in others and just as a dear friend a lot of the time. I’d grown up that way – loving the Seegers – Pete & Toshi and all their family.

    I let him know I was having trouble writing his obituary (as I’d been asked) but it seemed just so silly and I couldn’t think of anything that didn’t sound trite or plain stupid. “They’ll say something appropriate in the news,” we agreed. We laughed, we talked, and I took my leave about 9:30 last night.

    “Arlo” he said, sounding just like the man I’ve known all of my life, “I guess I’ll see ya later.” I’ve always loved the rising and falling inflections in his voice. “Pete,” I said. “I guess we will.”

    I turned off the light and closed my eyes and fell asleep until very early this morning, about 3 AM when the texts and phone calls started coming in from friends telling me Pete had passed away.

    “Well, of course he passed away!” I’m telling everyone this morning. “But that doesn’t mean he’s gone.”

    • Garrett, What a wonderful story about Arlo Guthrie!! I just tried to listen to the interview, but it cut off before I could hear Pete for very long. Arlo’s story — it was perfect that you found it, and he told it in a perfect way. For me, I was so glad to know someone else who does that. I had a friend like Pete and I talked to her every day for years before she died, sometimes on the phone, but mostly not. One of my favorite memories of Pete is when he walked with the OCCUPY protesters in NYC. Another wonderful memory is when I saw him in concert at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia in 1972. Whenever we have good people in our lives, we’re so lucky.

  2. Ahhh, Nother! Ahhh, Arlo, too! And by all means: Ahhh, Community. This is so far the most wonderful thing I’ve read or heard about that treasure of a man. Thank you, dear Gar.

  3. (From Bohica’s post on the website “Daily Kos,” January 28 2014)

    Source: Congress, House Committee on Un-American Activities, Investigation of Communist Activities, New York Area (Entertainment): Hearings, 84th Congress, August 18, 1955

    Mr. TAVENNER: My question was whether or not you sang at these functions of the Communist Party. You have answered it inferentially, and if I understand your answer, you are saying you did.

    Mr. SEEGER: Except for that answer, I decline to answer further. . . .

    Mr. SCHERER: Do you understand it is the feeling of the Committee that you are in contempt as a result of the position you take?

    Mr. SEEGER: I can’t say.

    Mr. SCHERER: I am telling you that that is the position of the Committee. . . .

    Mr. SEEGER: I decline to discuss, under compulsion, where I have sung, and who has sung my songs, and who else has sung with me, and the people I have known. I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American. I will tell you about my songs, but I am not interested in telling you who wrote them, and I will tell you about my songs, and I am not interested in who listened to them. . . .

  4. That’s wonderful Robert.

    Happy Traum writes this on TPM:

    I owe it all to Pete

    Still thinking about Aaron Swartz, another activist and how different the ending. One burned out, left us intentionally (probably in pain) at 26, the other kept going to 94, including through the McCarthy period. One difference was Seeger’s love and faith in humanity and his apparent acceptance that though things are not right, and may never be, (as Arlo would say): bit by bit, row by row… to the end.

  5. Pete Seeger was a dear friend of Manny Granich the director of Higgley Hill Camp in Vermont .(Manny was also my Mom’s partner for 14 years.) Pete and Toshi once had dinner with Mom and Manny in Truro, Cape Cod, where we
    exchanged funny fart jokes. He once wrote me a letter about a song I wrote about child abuse; Pete wrote, “its too long and make it into a story.”

    Pete’s life and songs have inspired me since I was a young girl.
    My favorite Pete Seeger song is Rainbow Race.

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