Saturday, October 18, 2008
Hail and Not Farewell to Pete Seeger
" On May 3rd, 2008, shortly after completing (the above)recordings, Pete Seeger turned eighty-nine. Some might ask, 'Why put out another recording at this late date?' The answer is simple, 'Because.' Because, at 89, Pete is still vibrant and interested and creative." (from the notes of the Album) He still chops wood and drives his car and ice skates on his driveway at midnight. He sill attends the Beacon Sloop Club potluck suppers, collects donations for the VFW, boils maple syrup with his wife Toshi, and stands out in the heat and cold every Saturday at the vigil against the Iraq war - and he still writes songs.
He has long been a "mentor of mine". It started when I tried to learn to play the banjo with Mrs. Chase of the Folk Music Center. She had classes at Memorial Park every week and recommended his book. I soon found out that I was more of a "strummer" instead of a "picker" and I gravitated toward the autoharp and ukulele as accompaniment instruments. My career's goal, like his, was getting people (young people) to sing along with me. (not sing solos) Mostly it worked and continues to work as I now substitute teach. My words and content have been more instructive and less "revolutionary". I was very active in the early Environment Movement which has now caught on again as "The Green Movement". I served in the military (Navy) even though, like him, I was against war. (he was in the Army) I can remember having lots of fun singing "Abiyoyo" after I heard his rendition. It is his playfulness with kids that I like. That is when I'm at my happiest.
His on-going support for cleaning up the Hudson River around where he has lived reminds me of drives and endeavors I got into with some of my classrooms. i.e. We did not live anywhere near the beach but we got all the paraphealia to clean-up beaches. We met at a local park. In my visits around to different schools now days I see very little of this type of activity. Kids like to be active and involved in projects and then learn to read and write better with a purpose for their future. Not much of this anymore. "One of these days...or else", a song on this album, is especially meaningful to us now.
I was so encouraged to hear of the artistic success of Springsteen's Seeger Sessions. To hear young people now singing the songs of Guthrie, Dylan and Seeger with new meaning and it is... heartening. "This Land is Your Land" (all the verses) are still being learned even by Kindergarteners. They get "a kick" out my calling my Uke "Woody"...talking to and about it. They think it is "Woody" from "Toy Story". They don't know, it is "Woody" Guthrie.
Just to think that he is soon starting his tenth decade of this kind of "fun life" gives me hope. He has had some "dark times", like being "Black Listed" and admitting to be a "different kind of communist". I don't aspire to any of that. But, I do believe that I do better with "a cause", something to improve and work on in our schools. That's why I'm continuing to write this blog and teach the way I do. I again could've worked everyday last week. I was requested. I had to take a break and only work three. However, in those three days, I was able to suggest and demonstrate some "rubrics" of change, of hope and fun...not just prep for tests. So, Hail to you Pete. Long may you...wave! RRR
at 9:45 AM