THE PETE SEEGER PAGE
I have known Pete Seeger and been a "Fan" for about 40 years, since I lived and worked in the Hudson Valley in the 60's and 70's. I was fortunate to work with Pete a few times on concerts and benefits and school visits, back in that day.
In the 80's, we crossed paths working the Champlain Valley Festival in Vermont. One year he sang with his Grandson, Tao Rodriguez Seeger, who in later years I have known as a member of The Mammals, along with Ruth Ungar and Michael Merenda, who have also played at that festival and at Middle Earth in Vermont. One of Pete's gifts to the entire world of music has been his unflagging help and encouragement to young musicians everywhere.
At the Obama inauguration, Pete sang "This Land Is Your Land" with many thousands of people, with Tao on his right and Bruce Springsteen on his left.
I have to do some digging in the old Film Archives in the USA for my photos of Pete, but here are a few I took of his Grandson Tao with The Mammals:
Left to right: The Mammals play Champlain Valley Festival, 2003, Tao Rodriguez Seeger, Ruth Ungar, Michael Merenda.
THE "REAL" PETE SEEGER
But the outstanding things about Peter Seeger are not his concerts. They are the things he's DONE with and for people, especially young people.
Pete loves to tell stories, and I have a story to tell about him:
Back in the late 60's I worked for Radio Station WALL, in the Hudson Valley of New York. There was a lot of concern about young people, in that era of Vietnam Protests, the Newburgh, NY riot, drugs and other social issues. Social action groups created a Youth Clubs organization, and I led a Radio Club of aspiring performers, DJ's and Sound Engineers.
In the Spring of that year, the various clubs came together to present a community talent show, and Peter Seeger was invited to participate. He agreed, and we assumed he would sing as a headline act and just walk in and play, but about 4 O'Clock Pete ambled into our rehearsal at the High School, his sleeves already rolled up. Pete helped my group, moving speakers around, and patiently worked with 2 or 3 different musical groups, listening and making suggestions, and singing an example harmony over and over again with a young girl.
A teenaged boy named Don* was going to play "Yellow is the Color of my True Love's Hair", in the style of Donovan.. He came out and my kids set up two mikes. Pete taught them how to place the guitar mike so that the performer could move a little without hitting it, or moving off mike. The kid rehearsed his song, which went OK, but his playing had the same strumming, with little variety. Pete gave him a hint about holding the end of phrases a little stronger.
Time flew, and it was 7 PM and we were closing the curtain and everyone was getting nervous and milling around backstage. One of my kids came running over and said "Pete says we need one more mike for a couple of the vocals".. I had most of WALL's remote gear with me, and we pulled out another mike and cable and a folding stand. Pete grinned at me from the edge of the stage, as we agreed, wordlessly, that the kids would do everything. The mike was set up in the wings, stage right, and our two Sound Engineer kids checked it out and made some notes, without any help from me.
And so the show went on, introduced by the Mayor and all that.. and the various groups and singers and dancers did their parts. When it was time for the "Colors" song, the kid went out with his guitar, there was a smattering of applause, and he started singing.. At the chorus, I heard a little difference and a little more variety. I moved to my right and peered over the top of the light board. There, on that mike BEHIND the curtain, was Pete with his banjo. The notes rang out in perfect accompaniment with the kid's song ..
"Freedom is a word I seldom use, without Thinkin' .. A Huh!"
In the dim backstage light I could see Pete's head bobbing back and forth, and on his face was a big grin!
We can never pay back Peter Seeger's generosity to the World. It's our turn. Our turn to pay it forward, to our young people and our communities, with whatever talents we have, as Performers, or Engineers, or just plain helpers. The more important and successful and famous and rich and rushed you are, the more you owe. Pete taught us that every time there's something truly important, there's an opportunity to participate, to sing along and work along, together.
Terry King... Shekou, mainland China 2008
* Don Hulick, later known professionally as Don Rushmore, a famous voice under and over many things! http://www.donrushmore.vze.com/