FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

So Long Pete Seeger

by HARVEY WASSERMAN

Toshi and Pete Seeger defy description except through the sheer joy and honor it was to know them, however briefly.

Their list of accomplishments will fill many printed pages, which all pale next to the simple core beauty of the lives they led.

They showed us it’s possible to live lives that somehow balance political commitment with joy, humor, family, courage and grace. All of which seemed to come as second nature to them, even as it was wrapped in an astonishing shared talent that will never cease to inspire and entertain.

Longtime CounterPuncher Pete passed on Monday, at 94, joining Toshi, who left us last year, at 91. They’d been married nearly 70 years.

Somehow the two of them managed to merge an unending optimism with a grounded, realistic sense of life in all its natural travails and glories.

Others who knew them better than I will have more specific to say, and it will be powerful and immense.

But, if it’s ok with you, I’d like to thank them for two tangible things, and then for the intangible but ultimately most warming.

First: In 1978, we of the Clamshell Alliance were fighting the nuclear reactors being built at Seabrook, NH. An amazing grassroots movement had sprung up. With deep local roots, it helped birth the campaign for a nuke-free/green-powered Earth that still evolves.

We had staged successful civil disobedience actions in 1976-7 that grew from Ron Rieck solo climbing a weather tower (in January!) to 18 arrests to 180. Then in April, 1977, some 2,000 folks came from all over the U.S. to an occupation whose 1,414 arrests filled the Granite State’s National Guard armories for two media-saturated weeks.

In the summer of 1978 a complex, controversial chain of events led us to shift from a civil disobedience action to a legal rally. It was daring, difficult and divisive. We had no idea what would happen.

But the weekend dawned with bright sunshine … and with Pete! Joined by Jackson Browne and John Hall, their presence helped transform a challenging gathering into something truly transcendent. It was, like Pete himself, an unassuming miracle.

Thirty years later our sister Connie Hogarth brought me to Pete and Toshi’s hillside cabin overlooking the Hudson, not far enough from Indian Point. With utter nonchalance Pete had built one of the world’s first electric vehicles by gutting the engine from an old pick-up and filling it with car batteries. It got him to town and back. It did the job.

Like the Clearwater. A boat to sail the Hudson. To do it well while making a point about the Earth and what she needs.

They chopped wood and made preserves and it was all so comfortably grounded. Toshi had a deeply affecting grace, an irresistible combination of firm direction and gentle wisdom. And those sparkling eyes. What a glorious partnership!

But I had an agenda. I wanted a song for Solartopia, a vision of a green-powered Earth. And who was a pischer like me to ask?

Pete’s response was instant, warm, enthusiastic. He whipped out that legendary banjo of his and within five minutes he had a song. A good one.

He asked me to write some verses, then gently informed me that as a songwriter, I should keep my day job (which would’ve been great if I had one!).

So he handed me a set of envelopes carefully addressed to various lyricists. We kicked the thing around for a year or so.

Then his wonderful colleague David Bernz came up with verses Pete liked. Joined by Dar Williams and a chorus of “Rivertown Kids,” they recorded it in a single take, and it found its way on to an album that won a Grammy.

Something only Pete Seeger could have done. Because for all the catalogue of his political battles, his unshakable integrity and his giving nature, this was a guy with an astonishing talent.

Someone who could help conjure a political anthem like “If I Had a Hammer” and then help join it with a gorgeous love song like “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine.”

A man who conspired to give the picket lines of the world “We Shall Overcome” and then took “Turn, Turn, Turn” from the Bible to a rock anthem.

A performer who could sing and sing well deep into his nineties, his innate sense of justice and dignity completely in tact.

So we could go on and on like that, but Pete and Toshi wouldn’t have had the patience for it. Their longevity was a great gift.  It gave us all time to appreciate them, to assess what meant the most to so many of us about them, to understand the beauty of their mentoring.

These were people who knew who they were and stayed true to it. They were incredibly talented. They raised their kids, lived on the land, learned as they went along, embraced new things, but stayed true to an abiding faith in compassion and grace.

So now … with tears of gratitude and joy … so long, dear friends.

How good it’s been for all of us to know you.

Harvey Wasserman edits www.nukefree.org and wrote Solartopia!  Our Green-Powered Earth.  With Moveon.org he and others are presenting petitions to the United Nations with more than 150,000 signatures calling for a global takeover of the situation at Fukushima.  

Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth. His Green Power & Wellness Show is at www.prn.fm

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 30, 2017
William Binney and Ray McGovern
The Surveillance State Behind Russia-gate: Will Trump Take on the Spooks?
Jill Richardson
Gutting Climate Protections Won’t Bring Back Coal Jobs
Robert Pillsbury
Maybe It’s Time for Russia to Send Us a Wake-Up Call
Prudence Crowther
Swamp Rats Sue Trump
March 29, 2017
Jeffrey Sommers
Donald Trump and Steve Bannon: Real Threats More Serious Than Fake News Trafficked by Media
David Kowalski
Does Washington Want to Start a New War in the Balkans?
Patrick Cockburn
Bloodbath in West Mosul: Civilians Being Shot by Both ISIS and Iraqi Troops
Ron Forthofer
War and Propaganda
Matthew Stevenson
Letter From Phnom Penh
James Bovard
Peanuts Prove Congress is Incorrigible
Thomas Knapp
Presidential Golf Breaks: Good For America
Binoy Kampmark
Disaster as Joy: Cyclone Debbie Strikes
Peter Tatchell
Human Rights are Animal Rights!
George Wuerthner
Livestock Grazing vs. the Sage Grouse
Jesse Jackson
Trump Should Form a Bipartisan Coalition to Get Real Reforms
Thomas Mountain
Rwanda Indicts French Generals for 1994 Genocide
Clancy Sigal
President of Pain
Andrew Stewart
President Gina Raimondo?
Lawrence Wittner
Can Our Social Institutions Catch Up with Advances in Science and Technology?
March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why Not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail