Today, I reflect on the passing of one of my few great heroes. Pete Seeger was first and foremost known as a musician, but he was much more than that. For Pete,
music was a vehicle. At his core, he was an activist for cross-cultural understanding, civil rights, a healthy environment, love, justice, and inclusion.
In my own essay about my teaching approach, I quoted from Pete's guitar book which somehow cut right to the core in a way none of the other 400+ guitar books I've read have done. His sense of perspective was just wonderful, and he cared about people more than about music.
I don't need to provide any biographical overview here as Pete has been, thankfully, recognized and honored by millions of people. The Wikipedia page linked from the picture above goes through the details. The simple fact is: the core energy that Pete had was unfortunately unusual. He was a man of deep integrity who lived all his life working for a better world.
I grew up listening to his music and conscious of his notable roles in the civil rights, environment, anti-war, and labor movements. Still, it wasn't until I began my own deep explorations of folk musics from around the world and struggling with my own feelings about my music career that I really came to appreciate Pete more deeply.
As a musician, Pete was the essence of what I call being expressive instead of impressive. Im- means in. To impress someone means that the energy goes inward from them to you. By contrast, to be expressive means to send your energy out as a gift to others. That is the core of Pete Seeger as a musician: a performer who didn't care about his performance. Every element of his music was about tearing down any walls between himself and his audience. Unlike other sing-along concerts and pop music idolatry, nothing about a Pete Seeger experience was contrived. He cared only about making everyone else feel appreciated, welcome, and connected. He wanted nothing more and nothing less than for everyone in the world to join together in harmony, recognize our common human heritage, and work together for peace and justice worldwide.
I could go on and on about how the core values that Pete expressed inspire me and provide such a great model for a life well-lived. For what it's worth, I know Pete would celebrate the cultural freedom and open participation that I am promoting now through my website: Snowdrift.coop.
Pete Seeger lived a humble and sincere life of great service. I encourage everyone to learn about his legacy and continue the important work needed to achieve a peaceful, healthy world where we can all sing together in harmony while celebrating our connections with each other and the rest of living things as well as our marvelous diversity.
Addendum: Probably the best example of Pete other the prototypical examples of his most famous songs, All Mixed Up written in 1960: