In light of the recent passing of folk legend Pete Seeger, we are pleased to share a touching story from Sol Weber, author of Rounds Galore and friend of Pete Seeger. He was kind enough to share his experiences with Pete as an artist and friend.
"The passing of Pete Seeger was a sad event for the millions who loved and were inspired by him. I was fortunate to be musically involved with this gent for most of my life. He had many facets. An activist, always involved in issues of peace, justice, human rights, free speech, the environment, and more, Pete used music as a tool to help address those issues.
A consummate musician and great singer/songwriter, using "The Power of Song" (the recent film about him) so effectively, some written by him. or re-shaped. Songs such as "We Shall Overcome" "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" "Tzena Tzena" "Turn Turn Turn" "Kisses Sweeter than Wine" "Wimoweh" "Goodnight Irene" "If I Had a Hammer" were instant classics.
A supportive, accessible, approachable gent, always ready to help aspiring young performers with words of encouragement plus solid, practical advice. Many's the time I'd phone him on some matter or other, and breaking away would often be difficult as Pete would cheerfully expound at great length on whatever was of interest that day!
I first met him when, as a teen, I was working as a 'page' in my local Bronx Public Library. A brand new unknown group, The Weavers, came in to give a concert up on the second floor. The audience consisted of four patrons, so all available employees, myself included, were drafted to swell the numbers. It was fantastic. They sang their hearts out as if we were thousands strong, and afterwards we all chatted.
I began collecting rounds and leading round sings, and since rounds are a great way to get people singing (and that was also Pete's aim), and a connection was made which continued on for a half century or so. My book Rounds Galore mentions him and includes a round by his musicologist father! He also has a nice quote praising my humble book, and toward the back is a Magic Square celebrating one of his birthdays.
I, and round-singing friends, often do round sings at various festivals, etc, and these frequently include some at The Circle of Song at the annual (June weekend) Clearwater Revival, which was started by Pete. Lots of music and other stages and exhibits, solar power setups, children playing, and cheerful crowds of old folkies and upcoming generations. And of course the sloop Clearwater and its sister ship, his two vessels that spearheaded the cleanup of the Hudson River. Festival-goers can go for a sail on them.
Pete always appeared at some Clearwater stages and did some songs, with various musicians participating. Always a big crowd! In the photo to the left, cohort Evy Mayer and I are leading a 3 part, lively favorite of the Seeger family that goes: "Joy and temperance and repose. Slam the door on the doctor's nose...." Evy has produced three rounds CDs for our singing group, Rounds Galore & More, and we went up to his mountaintop home to interview him for the third CD. It was a pleasant visit, Toshi feeding us soup, Pete talking, singing, telling anecdotes. He was a funny guy with the common touch - he's sung some rude rounds to me which I won't repeat. His charming homebuilt house included a small bathroom with a tiny picture window overlooking the Hudson River valley, and it has a wooden toilet seat. He cracked up when I asked if he belonged to the Birch John Society!
Anyway, that interview is on our Vol. 3 rounds album, a double CD. So do look into the life of this unique gent whose like we'll never see again, 94 remarkable years, a life well lived. I had to wipe away a tear when, above, I realized I had to change 'he is' to 'he was'. Thanks for reading this far, and Happy Singing."
Check out these great books and CDs by Pete Seeger!