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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Published: 2009/01/24
by Mike Gruenberg

Pete Seeger

In My Life
We are truly living in extraordinary times. That is the only word I can use to describe the events that have led up to the election of Barack Obama. What is even more incredible is the pageantry surrounding his taking the oath of office of the Presidency on January 20th. Yesterday, I watched celebrity after celebrity singing and reading and proclaiming the virtues of change for a better America. Hope and promise is not only on the mind of all American citizens, but is also the dream held by every thinking person throughout this world. The crowds lining the streets of Washington for the inauguration are impressive, but the message to the world has even more meaning.
Given the length and breadth of the performers who came out to lend their collective talents to the event, I was most taken by seeing an 89 year old man singing and strumming a banjo standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial with Bruce Springsteen at his side. How many people of that age can still stand and sing? How many people of that age are still standing, let alone singing with gusto, pride and purpose?
It was so proper to have Peter Seeger being part of the festivities. Pete Seeger, who will reach the ripe old age of 90 in May, represents a special type of person in our culture. He understands, through first hand accounts the struggle for equality. He is a person who cares about the environment and someone we can all believe in. Petes been there, on the lines of protest to grant all Americans equal rights. Petes been there in fighting to end pollution in our waterways. And for those of us old enough to remember, Petes been there writing memorable songs that will live on with our children and grandchildren for many years to come.
I first got to know Pete through his work with the legendary folk group, The Weavers. The album that should be resident in everyones collection of folk music should be The Weavers at Carnegie Hall which was recorded on location at that great venue on December 24, 1955. Pete, along with Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays and Fred Hellerman comprised of the group. For a true folk music aficionado, this is the album you must have. Fortunately, Vanguard Records has issued the album on a CD.
On vinyl in my collection, I have a reunion album from The Weavers called Together Again which reunites the original group, Pete, Lee, Ronnie and Fred. They got together to record the album in 1980. Back together at Carnegie Hall, 25 years after their last concert and once again produced a folk music classic.
Among the songs that Pete is best associated with are If I Had a Hammer (originally written by Seeger and Lee Hays of The Weavers as The Hammer Song), Where Have All the Flowers Gone, Little Boxes, Turn! Turn! Turn and The Bells of Rhymney.
A Rock n Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Pete has devoted his life to music, social causes and the environment. I cannot think of a better person to help usher in our 44th President than Pete Seeger.

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