i was planning a different song for this week, but when i got news pete seeger died, i wanted to write something for him.
i have long considered pete seeger at the top of my list of most admirable americans, a man with a spirit that deserves to be considered in the class of gandhi, martin luther king, and harvey milk, but having the benefit of living his life to its natural end.
he’s made his impact known in every populist movement since the early 40s, he introduced “we shall overcome” to the civil rights movement, his example an almost impossible bar to aspire to, especially now, in the internet age, where the noise drowns out so many vibrant voices.
you can also make a case for him as the most important american musician, when you consider how his music affected the world he lived in, how the “we can change the world” ethic of the folk movement he lead defined the best music of the 60s and beyond.
jeff marshall wrote a great piece on pete at talkingpointsmemo.com.
the song started out as a simple little folk song, but as often happens, i got carried away with the lyric and started juggling the puzzle pieces. the result is a left turn from pete’s sing-a-long style: this one is just too complicated to sing along to. so i tried to make up for it by laying it down in a single take, one track, playing and singing, no edits. i actually played it once all the way through, and that was it. i think the spirit is captured, anyway.
i want to point out that on any other week i would have dropped everything to write a homage to philip seymour hoffman, who i considered the greatest american actor of his generation. just watch ‘capote’ and ‘before the devil knows your dead’ in quick succession for ample proof. his loss is a real tragedy, another genius brought down by that fatal sensitivity that so often gets blanketed in depression or the drugs that mask it. what a loss.