It would be a truly tragic loss if he hadn’t already left us with so much, and for so long. Singer and activist Pete Seeger died over the weekend at 94, less than one year after his wife Toshi. They were married in 1943 and shared a home in the Hudson Valley region of New York, and had four children.
Seeger wrote and performed the songs “Turn, Turn, Turn,” “If I had a hammer” and popularized “This Land Is Your Land” and “We Shall Overcome.”
Seeger kept performing, stayed strong, and remained active in political and environmental issues right up until the end of his life. His grandson told reporters Seeger was chopping wood ten days before he died.
Jim Romenesko got to reveal what Seeger called “the worst damn thing” to happen to America: Sports pages.
“Michael Norman, who was the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s pop music critic from 1992 to 1999, shared this Pete Seeger anecdote on Facebook:
“I interviewed Pete Seeger in 1996, right before he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“When I called, he was late coming to the phone because he was out chopping wood. He was in his late 70s then, but an exercise fanatic. We had a great interview about music, politics, history, life. And when it was over, he asked me whether I enjoyed working in journalism. I said I did. And then he scolded me.
“Worst damn thing that ever happened to America was the invention of the Sports pages!,” he said. “Turned us all into a nation of watchers and couch potatoes!”
“I protested a bit, blaming it on TV. And he wouldn’t have it. “It all started with you guys in the newspapers!” That was Peter Seeger. He was such an uncompromising, but lovable character. One of the great artists, activists and souls of the 20th Century.”
So be more like Pete: ride your bike and don’t care so much about sports. Go chop some wood and change the world. Or sing a song and change your immediate environment.
For an almost sepia-toned view of vintage Seeger, check out this clip from the Johnny Cash show, in which the Man in Black expresses wonderment at Seeger’s ability to play his hundred-year-old fretless banjo (his machine that kills fascists).