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Pete Seeger - My Personal Superhero

Updated on December 2, 2015

Closeup of One of Pete's Banjos

some rights reserved, used with permission
some rights reserved, used with permission | Source

This Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces It To Surrender. - Pete Seeger

I debated with myself whether Pete would want to be identified as a superhero. I then thought, if I can tie it in with his current causes that he's still fighting for, if I can show people ways for them to get involved or to take up their own cause; then maybe he'd tolerate the term 'superhero.'

This 94 year old wore a wool cap instead of a cape. He played a banjo. Up until a year before his passing, he still went out often in public to talk and play music.

Alright, let's get to the causes FIRST! Information about the man SECOND! I believe that's the way he would have liked it.

Update: Pete Seeger passed away at the age of 94 on January 27, 2014. He will be sorely missed. What a beautiful life and a beautiful soul. -KM

The Clearwater Sloop

Photo of the sloop Clearwater sailing south on the Hudson River, past Manhattan's Grant's Tomb and Riverside Church
Photo of the sloop Clearwater sailing south on the Hudson River, past Manhattan's Grant's Tomb and Riverside Church | Source

The Movement

The Clearwater Festival is hosted yearly by the non-profit Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc. at Croton Point Park, Croton-on-Hudson, Westchester County in New York State. It's in June so if you miss it this year you can always go the next.

The original idea over 40 years ago was to draw people's attention to the deteriorating condition of the Hudson River. The pollution made it unswimmable, it made the water and the surrounding environment unsafe for the plants and animals and fish. It was labeled a 'dead' river.

Mr. Seeger and his team's idea was to raise funds to build a sloop called the 'Clearwater.' It would sail the length of the Hudson river and hold educational classes and music festivals, bringing attention to the problem of the Hudson River. Due to it's efforts, the Hudson is now a clean, viable river.

This non-profit now uses its proceeds to educate and help protect the Hudson Water and it's tributaries. It was instrumental in helping the legislation for The Clean Water Act to get it's 'teeth' to successfully prosecute the polluters of our waterways.

Museum of the City of New York

released to the public domain
released to the public domain | Source

Folk Benefit Concert

This Folk Benefit Concert's purpose is to raise money and awareness of a new exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York. The opening is expected in summer 2015.

Performers include John Wesley Harding and other special guests. Mr. Seeger is honorary chairman of the event and I believe he also performed. The Exhibit will be called 'Folk City: New York and the American Folk Revival'. It will focus on how integral New York City was during the big folk music revival in the 1950s and 1960s.

Junk Keying in the New York Harbour 1847 - The Museum of the City of New York

Public domain painting by Samuel Waugh his Museum includes gorgeous, detailed paintings of New York City's past. This picture reminds me of the Clearwater Sloop.
Public domain painting by Samuel Waugh his Museum includes gorgeous, detailed paintings of New York City's past. This picture reminds me of the Clearwater Sloop. | Source

The Power of Song

Pete Seeger: The Power of Song
Pete Seeger: The Power of Song

To Rent. This highly acclaimed documentary not only describes Pete Seeger's life, but makes a strong case that music inspires us to come together to make changes to improve our lives and our world.

 

Pete at a Performance

All rights reserved by Pilgrim on this road - Bill Revill, used with permission
All rights reserved by Pilgrim on this road - Bill Revill, used with permission | Source

The Man

Pete Seeger would be the first to say he's not perfect, he may have given his name to some organizations that he later regretted. Some years he may have been away from his family too much. But luckily he had an amazingly supportive wife and people around him. His magic is that he got positive things DONE. He had his own sort of yankee views, yet embraced the world and the idea of all of us living together in peace. He kept his integrity while being blacklisted during the McCarthy Era.

Trivia: Many people don't know he went to Harvard but dropped out after two years. He also served his country in WWII in the Pacific.

A Legacy Left for Us

A Musical Journey The Films of Pete, Toshi and Dan Seeger
A Musical Journey The Films of Pete, Toshi and Dan Seeger

This is a documentary about the Seegers journey and the film footage they took. During this world tour, they filmed local cultures and music. These films are extremely valuable as field work; they've documented some cultures which are fast disappearing.

 

Photo from 1986

Source

Personal Story One

Pete on Television

I have fond memories of his public television appearances where he sang children's songs in front of an audience. I didn't understand it quite then, but when he appeared on the Smothers Brothers show in 1967, they had to fight the network to get him on the show. Of the songs Pete sang for the show, the most pertinent one 'Waist Deep in the Big Muddy' wasn't televised then, but the Smothers Brothers went to the media and the word got out about CBS's censorship policies, and finally in 1968, Pete got to re-tape it and the song was broadcast over the country.

My Framed Note from Mr. Seeger

The CMN Seeger is referring to is the Children's Music Network.
The CMN Seeger is referring to is the Children's Music Network. | Source

Personal Story Two - Pete and My CD

Although I've performed drums in many rock bands, one of my dreams was to create a children's CD. During the summer of 1999 while off for the summer from teaching, I recorded in my basement studio 14 songs for my children's CD entitled Dinobone, Dinobone, Have You Heard? One of the songs I chose to do was a song he covered. He did a great version of All Around the Kitchen.The next year I sent him the CD and thanked him for being a role model for me.

He actually sent me a short note back (!) and I have it framed.

Concert at the Church

Personal Story Three - American Folklife Tribute and Concert

Some Background:

On March 15 and 16, 2007 the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress paid a tribute to Charles, Ruth, Pete, Mike, Peggy, Toshi and Dan Seeger for their work in preserving our American folk music heritage. The Center presentation highlighted The Pete and Toshi Seeger Film Collection which includes their films of local music cultures during their world tour of 1963-1964. The Seegers are working with the Library to preserve the films for future generations.Story: This event was so popular that The Folklore Society of Greater Washington coordinated an additional concert March 17 2007 in which I was privileged to get TICKETS and see him perform with his brother Mike and sister Peggy at a church in Maryland. It was a great concert.

The Show:

Although his singing was more frail than it used to be, his energy and talking was the same and when he was running up and down the aisles (literally) he gave folks in the audience a chance to participate in a song by calling out hellos in different languages. I got to offer the Chinese hello 'Ni Hao' into his microphone.

The Essential Pete Seeger

The Essential Pete Seeger
The Essential Pete Seeger

This is a beautifully produced and remastered collection. It includes greatest hits as well as some finely recorded songs done in the seventis. Make sure you get this 2 CD set, not the 1 CD recording of the same name.

 

Recommended by the Author

ALBUMS

The Essential Pete Seeger If you've lost your collection or are a first time buyer, this is the one to get. Most of his greatest hits are here.

Which Side Are You On? The Almanac Singers with Woody Guthrie

Wasn't That a Time The Best of the Weavers The Weavers had some hits including 'Goodnight Irene' which was a song written by Leadbelly.

American Folk Game and Activity Songs for Children - Pete Seeger An essential collection of standard American children's folk songs. I've used the songs in this resource for teaching general music.

Abiyoyo - retold by Pete Seeger Book and CD A wonderfully illustrated book of the retelling of this African Tale. The CD has his own voice telling the story in his beautifuly unique way.

DVD

Pete Seeger’s 90th Birthday Concert A must for a fan! A wonderful collection of performances and memorable people at Clearwater.

BOOKS - Yes I’ve read ALL of them!

Pete Seeger: His Life In His Own Words This newest book takes his letters, articles, and journals and categorizes them for easy reference on topics.

How Can I Keep From Singing: The Ballad of Pete Seeger This is a reissue of his biography. I found this book clearly written and well indexed. Good pictures.

Hard Hitting Songs for Hard-hit People This is one of my favorites. Co-authored with Alan Lomax and Woody Guthrie, the choice of songs and the side notes and stories make this a historical masterpiece.

SONGS

All Around the Kitchen - American Folk Songs for Children - Pete Seeger

All Around the Kitchen - Dinobone, Dinobone, Have You Heard? - Kim Milai

Seeger and Guthrie

copyright Guy Logsdon used by permission
copyright Guy Logsdon used by permission | Source

Pete and Woody

This is such an interesting pairing of talented singers and composers who both shared a love of folk songs and who both had a desire to travel and see our great country. What they didn't share made them such an odd partnership. Pete, a non-drinking, non-smoking, and non-swearing Yankee and Woody well -- he wasn't exactly like that.

But Woody Guthrie was totally dedicated to the plight of the common people during the Great Depression and wrote about it and sang about it. With our hero in tow, they ended up traveling and performing together in the early 40's.

Pete and Eleanor - An Integrated Concert

Source

A Historical Moment with the First Lady

Here he is performing for the United Federal Labor Canteen in 1944. I believe it is the first integrated gathering of this kind in Washington D.C. With first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

On the Smothers Brothers Show

On Rainbow Quest

On the Johnny Cash Show

Get Inspired

Whether you're a music fan of his or not, this man exemplifies the idea of thinking globally but acting locally. And he always does it with a song in his heart.

I suggest you see the documentary, get some of his songs. Be inspired by this hero.

Lift Your Voice

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    • Kim Milai profile image
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      Kim Milai 3 years ago

      @Heidi Vincent: You're welcome FreshStart7!

    • Kim Milai profile image
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      Kim Milai 3 years ago

      @John Dyhouse: You're quite welcome.

    • Heidi Vincent profile image

      Heidi Vincent 3 years ago from GRENADA

      To be doing what you feel called to do up until age 94 is a great feat! I can see why you consider him a superhero, kimmilai. Thanks for sharing.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 3 years ago from UK

      I became a teenager as the sixties came along. - Pete Seeger was one of my heroes. I grew up courting my wife to be, in folk clubs and pools of scrumpy cider. Pete Seeger was folk music. His songs are legendary and he will be sorely missed. Thanks for the memories

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 3 years ago

      This is such a nice tribute to him. I don't know much about him, but I learned quite a bit from your lens.

    • Kim Milai profile image
      Author

      Kim Milai 3 years ago

      @DuaneJ: I love that era of music, the meaningful lyrics, the public activism.

    • DuaneJ profile image

      DuaneJ 3 years ago

      Bob Dylan is my favorite singer-songwriter and I know how much Pete Seeger meant to him.

    • Kim Milai profile image
      Author

      Kim Milai 4 years ago

      @RuralFloridaLiving: So right. Thanks for stopping by! :)

    • profile image

      RuralFloridaLiving 4 years ago

      Yep, he's a superhero. Love the guy and all he's done. Always stayed true to himself, his music, and his causes.

    • Kim Milai profile image
      Author

      Kim Milai 4 years ago

      UPDATEPete Seeger' wife of 70 years Toshi passed away this Tuesday at the age of 91. Please keep her and her family in your thoughts and prayers this week.

    • PurplePansy LM profile image

      PurplePansy LM 4 years ago

      The name Pete Seeger seems familiar, but I wasn't sure who he was til I read your lens about him. I didn't think I liked folk music, but I liked the clips of music that you have here of him. Makes me curious to learn more about him. Thanks for sharing!

    • Kim Milai profile image
      Author

      Kim Milai 4 years ago

      @lisln: Thank you so much.

    • lisln profile image

      LorLinda 4 years ago from Denver Colorado

      We need more people like Pete thank you for sharing your inspirational story with us great job!

    • Kim Milai profile image
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      Kim Milai 4 years ago

      @Elyn MacInnis: Just remembered you did a lens on Mister Rogers who is another superhero of mine. They are such positive influences in the world.

    • Kim Milai profile image
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      Kim Milai 4 years ago

      @Elyn MacInnis: That is so awesome! Thanks for sharing that. :)

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 4 years ago from Shanghai, China

      I was so fortunate and had the chance to meet Pete when I was a kid. He was very inspiring to me - mostly because he dedicated all of himself to making the world a better place.

    • Kim Milai profile image
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      Kim Milai 4 years ago

      @artbyrodriguez: Thank you. Glad this brought memories. I've made visits to New Rochelle but would like someday to go to Croton for the festival.

    • artbyrodriguez profile image

      Beverly Rodriguez 4 years ago from Albany New York

      Very interesting lens. I lived in Westchester County for many years and am familiar with Croton-On-Hudson and The Hudson River, so that brought back memories.

    • Kim Milai profile image
      Author

      Kim Milai 4 years ago

      @flycatcherrr: I forgot to mention, you should have seen me when I received this note in the mail with a copy of one of his Children's Music Network pamphlets. I FREAKED out! :)

    • Kim Milai profile image
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      Kim Milai 4 years ago

      @flycatcherrr: He is so special and so naturally so. It's like he can't help it to keep singing and fighting for causes. Thanks for your comment.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 4 years ago

      How awesome for you to have an actual note from Pete Seeger! He's certainly one of my musical and social heroes, too; a terrific role model of the kind we just don't see often enough anymore.

    • Kim Milai profile image
      Author

      Kim Milai 4 years ago

      @BarbaraCasey: Thank you so much. That must have been a great show you saw. Someday I may go to Clearwater.

    • profile image

      BarbaraCasey 4 years ago

      What a lovely tribute! I'm a Weavers/Seeger fan and saw Pete sing at a Mariposa Folk Festival decades ago. Excellent lens.