If I Had a Song...
I noticed this album cover in the window of this house when we scooted by today. (Yes, Virginia, music used to be recorded on big round discs with covers big enough to read the words and see the pictures!) I know this album well - Peter, Paul and Mary, ca. 1962. This was my introduction to folk music.
Among the tracks are two Pete Seeger songs -- If I Had a Hammer and Where Have All the Flowers Gone. It looks like yet another person has been immersed in all things Seeger this week. It's been quite remarkable -- articles, stories of encounters with the legend, songs and interviews on the radio. Last night the first half of our choir rehearsal was devoted to Seeger songs and stories. I talked with a voice student yesterday about him, we discussed the impact his music had on our lives, on the world, and we sang his songs and cried together, in gratitude and for the loss of a great person from the planet.
And among all the stories runs the common thread of a man sincerely humble and true to his values, in love with his family and with the world around him, unwilling to compromise his rights or the rights of others (read his HUAC testimony for some eye-opening information).
Here's my own Pete Seeger close encounter: In the mid-1990s Portland hosted the National Folk Alliance conference; I was part of an organization that was helping to put on the conference. One of our members was tasked with checking IDs of people going into the hall. She stopped a man who wasn't wearing an ID tag and told him he couldn't enter the hall without it. He apologized, said he'd left it up in his hotel room and turned around to retrieve it. A moment later, one of the other volunteers ran up to her and said "You just turned away Pete Seeger!" She hadn't recognized him! The beauty of the story is that he didn't try to play the Big Famous Musician card and was willing to play by the same rules as everyone else.
His body will be missed, but his spirit is too huge and will be around for many generations to come.