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Pete Seeger

I do not know if ever there was a greater performer than Pete Seeger. Many more, even hundreds have had better voices. Many more could play a guitar or banjo better. But as a performer, committed to justice and equality, none come close to this man. Seeger’s greatness is on display in his 1967 Carnegie Hall Concert album, the best folk recording I have.

The Carnegie Hall concert was performed during the time of protest music, and Seeger was at the forefront, seeking justice, singing “We Shall Overcome.” From time to time, I like to listen to Seeger’s version of Dylan’s “Hard Rain.” It is a small punctuation mark of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a time we should remember but one we all avoid as a miserable little cockroach of history.

There’s “Little Boxes,” a wonderful tune of social satire written by Malvina Reynolds and featured by a long list of artists on the TV series, “Weeds.”

And then there is the ballad of a war fought for freedom and equality, played by Seeger as “hillbilly flamenco,” a song all the much sadder because it was a song of the Spanish Civil War, a victory for fascism, “Viva La Quince Brigada.”

Seeger entertained with a tenor voice that did not often ring with power (he could easily make it do so), but with a gentle kindness. To listen to him was to hear the legacy of Woodrow Wilson Guthrie and the so many other voices this country has produced seeking justice.

I am tempted to say those voices are lost and simply history, but that would deny the sort of people we are. We seem to tolerate a great deal of injustice, but then there comes a point that Americans say enough.

When they had, Seeger always wasin the forefront, first in the faith that we shall overcome. We will miss that.

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