So Long Pete Seeger


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

Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
James Anderson
Reframing Black Friday: an Imperative for Déclassé Intellectuals
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxemburg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
Patrick Bond
China Sucked Deeper Into World Financial Vortex and Vice Versa, as BRICS Sink Fast
Majd Isreb
America’s Spirit, Syrian Connection
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
Charles R. Larson
Chronicle of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Juliet Jacques’s “Trans: a Memoir”
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
CounterPunch’s Favorite Films
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving