Pete Seeger, 93, just played his banjo at the Clearwater Great Hudson River Revival in Croton Point Park. That is in Croton-on-Hudson., located on the east bank of the Hudson River.
Some folks tried to get him nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. I agree with them.
After all, he did a lot for the environment and people who needed support in the 20th century.
First of all, in 1969 Pete gathered a group to help remove the pollution from the Hudson River. This cause helped inspire the environmental movement that is still going on. To this day, the sailboat Clearwater sails up and down the river, reminding folks that the fight to keep our water clean is ongoing.
Secondly, he was a pacifist against war. One of the many poignant anti-war, particularly the anti-Vietnam, movement songs was "Where have all the flowers gone?"
It is still sung at folk festivals today. During the Vietnam War, he led an anti-Vietnam movement. Yes, that's when his song "We Shall Overcome" was important. In the 1950s, he fought for the banning of nuclear weapons and opposed the Cold War.
Thirdly, he supported many folks who were not treated fairly and were oppressed. In the 1930s and '40s, he sang for labor unions and migrant workers. In the 1960s, he sang at churches in the south and at the march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. to support the civil rights of the blacks in the south. This is when he made the song "We shall overcome" in the United States and all over the world. In the 70s his cause was in opposition to South African apartheid.
However, not all of his music was sung for causes. In the 1920s through the '40s, he joined Carl Sandburg, John Lomax, his son Alan, Lawrence Gellert and other folks interested in folklore to collect folksongs.
They included work songs, sea shanties, hillbilly songs, prison songs, African American and slave songs, and union songs. Not only did these folks collect them, but they used them to encourage people to understand other cultures.
Several of their songs reached the pop charts. "Goodnight, Irene," written by Lead Belly, was No. 1 for about six months. Woody's song "So Long, it's Been Good to Know You" got to No. 4. My generation grew up with his music. "If I had a hammer," or Woody Guthrie's "This land is your land" and when I taught music a very long time ago, "This land is your land" was in all the songbooks. I bet it still is.
Now, in his later years, he has been honored. In 2009, Pete sang "This land is your land" at a pre-inaugural celebration with President-elect Barack Obama and Michelle on the platform and half a million folks listening on the mall. The event was broadcast all over the world.
In the same year, when Pete turned 90, 15,000 fans filled New York City's Madison Square Garden for a concert honoring him.. Of course Pete played his banjo and very movingly led the audience to sing "Goodnight, Irene" and "Amazing Grace," with no accompaniment.
He still has not quit advocacy. When he was 92, he walked about 7 miles in New York City's march with Occupy Wall Street to Columbus Circle. He led the march, where thousands of people joined him.
In 1943, Pete married Toshi-Aline Ota. Pete has lived in Beacon with Toshi since 1949. They live in a log cabin that they constructed themselves.