A Short Tribute to Pete Seeger

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  January 29, 2014 — 5 Comments

I want to acknowledge the passing of legendary folk musician and activist Pete Seeger, who died on Monday at the age of 94 of natural causes.

Mr. Seeger’s career carried him from singing at labor rallies to the Top 10, from college auditoriums to folk festivals, and from a conviction for contempt of Congress (after defying the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s) to performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural concert for Barack Obama. For Mr. Seeger, folk music and a sense of community were inseparable, and where he saw a community, he saw the possibility of political action.”

While not a Pagan, Seeger did briefly belong to a Unitarian-Universalist church, and ascribed to himself a kind of pantheistic view of religion

“I feel most spiritual when I’m out in the woods. I feel part of nature. Or looking up at the stars. [I used to say] I was an atheist. Now I say, it’s all according to your definition of God. According to my definition of God, I’m not an atheist. Because I think God is everything. Whenever I open my eyes I’m looking at God. Whenever I’m listening to something I’m listening to God.”

Throughout his life, Seeger was an actively and unapologetically left-wing in his politics, which led to him being blacklisted by the entertainment industry for decades after his appearance at the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955.

“I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, or yours, Mr. Willis, or yours, Mr. Scherer, that I am any less of an American than anybody else. I love my country very deeply, sir.”

There are many, many, places out there paying tribute to Seeger, for his politics, for his environmental activism, for his role in (at least) two folk-music revivals, but I want to leave this short tribute on a more whimsical note. You see, Seeger had a hand in popularizing the filk-music classic “That (Real) Old Time Religion,” which became something of a classic amongst certain portions of our community.

In the end, Seeger was someone who wanted everyone to sing along, to be engaged, and for that alone, he should be remembered and honored.

“He was a person who believed deeply that people should sing, in groups, with harmony, in public — and not just in church. He was a passionate director of probably thousands of pickup choirs, formed at the beginnings of performances and disbanded when they were over. That became even more true as he got older and his voice weakened, but it was true all along.”

Rest well Pete, thanks for everything.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

    I love the youtube videos of Pete Seeger singing old Irish folksongs, as well as his other folk hits. Whenever he sang, you could tell he really meant what he was singing.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Pete Seeger provided the soundtrack to my political life from the civil rights movement on. What is remembered, lives.

  • Deborah Bender

    It’s also worth mentioning that late in life, Mr. Seeger sang in support of clean rivers and other conservation causes.

    He had a very long career, and seemingly a selfless one, which is rare in performers.

  • ChristopherBlackwell

    Here is something about Pete Seeger, the folk singer that just died, on his testimony at the House Committee on Un-America Activities when he refused to help that particular witch hunt. http://tinyurl.com/lzle4p5 Just a reminder on how dangerous were the good old days in the 50s were.. His whole testimony is short and to the point. You might remember him singing “Give Me That Old Time Religion” Though an Atheist himself he had strong feelings about nature.

    http://tinyurl.com/lzle4p5

  • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat C-B

    I had forgotten Seeger’s version of Old Time Religion! It was actually the first I ever heard.

    Thanks for the memory, Jason