Archive for January, 2014

The man who made the world sing – Pete Seeger

January 30, 2014

Nehru said on Gandhi’s death “the light has gone out of our lives” and then in the course of his speech, delivered ex tempore, he added  ” The light has gone out, I said, and yet I was wrong. For the light that shone in this country was no ordinary light. The light that has illumined this country for these many years will illumine this country for many more years.”

I’ve similar thoughts, with Pete Seeger “Music has gone out” (and no it’s not an exaggeration) and yet what he sang, remains forever, the music that struck an emotional chord with millions.

I woke up to the sad news of Pete’s demise and just now I discover that he passed away on 27th and I came to know it this morning, the 29th. I think I was waiting for this news to come. In his last performance, on his B’day along with Bruce Springsteen, he looked extremely frail, but what wasn’t missing was his enthusiasm to ensure that people sang along.

I am an imbecile to all matters music, but I beg to say that I haven’t come across anyone like Pete, who unfailingly & unconditionally made people sing along. At his concert in Melbourne, while singing “Down by the Riverside” he said something like “Sing along, don’t worry about the melody” (I am trying hard to locate that video on youtube but can’t). Guantanamera, a beautiful spanish song, and a supposed national anthem of Cuba, was popularized by Peter. He made his audience sing Guantanamera, notwithstanding the fact that hardly anyone spoke Spanish.

It’s so romantic to listen when Pete recalls his days, crisscrossing the States, along with Woody Guthrie, hitch-hiking on every possible mode of transport and picking up America’s folk music all along.

Pete’s joy didn’t lie in his audience listening intently to him, his joy laid in making people sing with him. For other singers, it’s clichéd to say “I grew listening to XYZ” but for Pete it can be safely said “One grew singing along with Pete”. It would be sacrilegious to not sing along! And very sadly, I discovered Pete exactly 5 years before he left us. I am an ordinary mortal but this one regret I’d carry for my life that I didn’t get to meet this great soul. He looked so charmingly affable. Never one to touch alcohol or resort to swear words, he was admirable in his casual bearing.

Pete sang protest music, and as is often the case, today’s protesters are tomorrow’s politicians. But despite Pete’s strong political opinion, he never ever tried to dabble in politics, other than the membership of Communist Party of America, which killed his music career in the days of Mccarthyism. But then Pete was never in it for money, he survived those harsh times, and went on to become the greatest folk music/protest music icon that America has ever had.

This world is surely a lesser place without his presence. Never in my life I’ve felt a void at passing away of a public figure. In fact I am crossed at not being able to put down my feelings into words and youtube isn’t letting me watch my favorite Pete’s videos. When I first came to know of Pete I was overwhelmed with emotions, tonight I’m overwhelmed with numbness.

Hope the world does change for better to have Pete rest in peace. Long Live Pete Seeger and his music!

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