Not even a day after I said I was burned out and taking a break, and here I am again. I did say I would write if I felt inspired, though, so I have a good excuse.
Today, I am sad. Singer/songwriter Pete Seeger passed away at age 94. For the first time, I actually cried at the loss of someone famous. Not that I’ve never been sad about a celebrity’s death, but none have touched me in quite the same way.
I should say here that I didn’t actually know Pete, of course. I know people who knew him, but I never met him personally. But I grew up on his music, and I’m grateful that I did.
I’m a genuine product of the 1970s. As most children do, I listened first to my parents’ music. The Beach Boys and the Beatles were often on the stereo. My dad didn’t often dance with me when I was little, but I remember him teaching me a few steps to the early rock ‘n’ roll tunes he loved. Since I was the youngest sibling by quite a bit, I also heard my fair share of Pink Floyd, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Kiss, and Queen. But it was my mother’s folk music I liked best of all.
For as long as I can remember, I have had a physical response to Pete Seeger’s words and music. I imagine what I feel is very much the effect contemporary church worship leaders often work far too hard to achieve. I’ve never had a “mountain-top” spiritual experience when singing praise songs, but I sure have when I hear one of Pete’s tunes.
It’s not the complexity of the music or even Pete’s voice (which was, let’s be honest, middle-of-the-road). It’s the something that just speaks right into my soul. That sense of longing, of there being something better–and perhaps I can, in my humanity, bring that something better to fruition.
When my son was younger and I homeschooled both kids, we used to listen to all kinds of music together. One of the first songs that made an impression on them was “Turn, Turn, Turn” (yes, I know the Byrds sang it; but it’s Pete Seeger’s song). My son created elaborate interpretive living room dances to it, and he knew all the words before he was six years old. I was delighted to be able to play more for him, and even more delighted by his enjoyment. I am honored to have been given this gift by my mother, and I feel so fortunate to be able to pass it on to my children. Perhaps one day, they will have children of their own with whom they can share it.
I kept my son home today because of the cold weather. Later, the kids and I will fire up YouTube and find some of my favorite Pete Seeger songs. We will listen, and we will talk. We will speak of the legacy Pete has left and the future they can create and their place in the larger tapestry of the world.
There is a candle on my mantle, lit in loving memory of Pete Seeger for all he’s given us. Thank, you Pete, with all my heart. Thank you.