Updated: 4:31 pm EST, 29 January 2014
. 7:11 pm EST, 29 January 2014
Econintersect: Pete Seeger has found at last where all the flowers have gone. The iconic folksong stalwart died yesterday (27 January 2014) in a New York City hospital. His passing followed the death of his wife of 70 years, Toshi, who died at their long-time log cabin home in Beacon, NY just six months ago. The home represented the life of the couple, dedicated to social and environmental causes, but overall guided by a deep understanding of the role of traditional music and heritage in defining the character of a people.
Pete Seeger and Bruce Springstein, 2009.
To understand the dedication of Pete Seeger to the music of the American folk one needs only to listen to the following six minute segment of a 2006 interview by Tim Robbins (conducted in the Seeger log cabin in Beacon):
It saddens Econintersect to realize that the voice of the Sloop Clearwater and the co-founder of the Great Hudson River Revival will no longer gaze across the Hudson from his home to the Storm King Mountain headland that met his gaze whenever he looked up from his banjo or from his firewood spitting chores. We are consoled that he got to live to the very end in that place he loved so well: He was cutting firewood as recently as ten days before his death.
The New York Times has a lengthy (and very much worth reading – see sources) obituary, which concludes with the best encapsulation of the philosophy of the man who lived a humble life of song:
Through the years, Mr. Seeger remained determinedly optimistic. “The key to the future of the world,” he said in 1994, “is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.”
However, Seeger’s real strength lay in his ability to touch emotionally and intellectually on the flaws of his beloved country. As Bruce Springstein said in a 2009 concert introduction:
“He’s gonna look a lot like your granddad that wears flannel shirts and funny hats. He’s gonna look like your granddad if your granddad can kick your ass. At 90, he remains a stealth dagger through the heart of our country’s illusions about itself.”
Here is the USA Today story on a video presented by the Poughkeepsie Journal:
More videos and stories about Pete Seeger can be found in a 15 December 2013 article at GEI News, on the occasion of Seeger’s nomination for a 2014 Grammy award. (He lost on Saturday night to Stephen Colbert in the category “Best Spoken Word Album”.)
One final word: It is a true statement of American exceptionalism that nothing is more exceptional than the unassuming life of dedication to ideals, family, community, heritage and country. From the day in 1938 when he dropped out of Harvard to ride a bicycle across the country, Pete Seeger lived American exceptionalism. And America was exceptionally privileged to have known him.
Update: 4:31 pm EST, 29 January 2014
Provided by Roger Erickson. This video provides insight into the quiet life of an icon living for his craft and not for public acclaim. (YouTube)
Update: 7:11 pn EST 29 January 2014
Read Postscript: Pete Seeger, Alec Wilkinson, 28 January 2014.
- Pete Seeger, Songwriter and Champion of Folk Music, Dies at 94 (Jon Parales, The New York Times, 28 January 2014)
- Toshi Seeger, Wife of Folk-Singing Legend, Dies at 91 (Douglas Martin, The New York Times, 11 July 2013)
- Grammy Awards: Where Have All The Flowers Gone? (GEI News, 15 December 2013)
- Folk singer Pete Seeger dies at age 94 (Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today, 28 January 2014)
- Pete Seeger talks about the history of “We Shall Overcome” (2006) (Tim Robbins interview segment, YouTube)