34 Recently singer/songwriter Pete Seeger died at age 96. As someone who grew up listening to his music I truly believe that the loss of Pete Seeger was a huge loss to the world of music. Currently deaths of people who have gained a great deal of renown, especially for music and acting are associated with dying too soon, with common causes of death being things such as drug and alcohol abuse, for the basic human universal reality of death being associated with our cultural obsession with melodrama. I don't deny the tragedy of these circumstances but it causes assumptions, assumptions that someone like Pete Seeger is just another victim of tragedy which isn't true. He's someone who's accomplished great things and gave back a great deal to society without feeling the need to walk in the superficial and melodramatic circus of celebrity.
When someone asks me what makes me a fan of Pete Seeger's music I have multiple positive associations. One of the most positive is a return to music and storytelling as a communal activity, where there's no pedestal for the performer to stand on because everybody's in it, as active participants together. The combination of the communal, healing power of a Pete Seeger performance and the subjects that his music explore is the music's greatest asset. Pete Seeger music is a call for civil rights and action while striving for peace through the power of the community and the return to music and storytelling's ancient origins. It is also a satire of cultural subjects that never seem to change and sometimes it's even a light hearted folksy celebration of life. Yesterday I found myself listening to "We Shall Overcome" and "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?" and I realized something:the difficult things it explores are things that we're a long way from achieving but I don't think that's what matters. Listening to these songs inspire us as individuals to never stop trying.
The true value of Pete Seeger's legacy is that it reminds us of music and storytelling's true value that sometimes gets lost in the plastic facade of western culture's notion of celebrity. It brings us together and empowers us rather than the understandable temptation to drift apart and that's 96 years of life worth celebrating.
Below: two Pete Seeger Youtube videos: 1. "Where have all the flowers gone"