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Pete Seeger

Of all the people who made a strong impact on my sensibilities throughout the agonising years of my growing up, Pete Seeger was chief. His voice resonates in my soul, his goodness and courage stirs my spirit, and his longevity testifies of the divine necessity of his remaining among us to remind us of what is truly good and noble. Pete is still active despite his advanced years, still singing, still showing up at important political demonstrations, a bulwark against encroaching inhumanity and a champion of civil rights.

I anticipate his passing from this world with dread, believing in my heart that the moment he leaves us the pressing darkness, kept at bay by the light of his presence here, will overwhelm and consume us, and the resistance to injustice of which he was the vanguard will collapse under the weight of burgeoning global hostility and selfishness. I know there are others committed to the cause, and would not be so ignorant as to dismiss their contribution and effort, their sacrifices, but none has the power to impart with gentleness of manner and strength of conviction such a cohesive and inclusive unity of purpose and universal brotherhood as Pete Seeger.

Being members of the Sydney Push, about which I shall write at a later time, my parents had access to a great number of political activists, writers, musicians, and artists, all of whom turned up to a party I recall they threw to raise money to mount a defence for Pete’s trial for contempt of Congress, each guest paying to enter with a yellow ribbon pinned to the clothes as proof of participation. Hundreds turned up. Here is a quote from Wikipaedia relating to the trial:

“On August 18, 1955, Seeger was subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Alone among the many witnesses after the 1950 conviction and imprisonment of the Hollywood Ten for contempt of Congress, Seeger refused to plead the Fifth Amendment (which asserted that his testimony might be self incriminating) and instead (as the Hollywood Ten had done) refused to name personal and political associations on the grounds that this would violate his First Amendment rights: “I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this.”[54] Seeger’s refusal to testify led to a March 26, 1957, indictment for contempt of Congress; for some years, he had to keep the federal government apprised of where he was going any time he left the Southern District of New York. He was convicted in a jury trial of contempt of Congress in March 1961, and sentenced to 10 years in jail (to be served simultaneously), but in May 1962 an appeals court ruled the indictment to be flawed and overturned his conviction.[55][56]”

Anyone who doesn’t know of Pete Seeger must educate himself immediately. Seek out his YouTube appearances and listen to his songs, read everything there is to find about his life, and then, and only then, will something of great value be grafted in to the soul. Here he is with Woody Guthrie’s son Arlo…

And here in this video you’ll see at the end what kind of man he is…

Pete formed a group in his university days called the Almanac Singers, and later, to worldwide acclaim, The Weavers. Here they are at their reunion concert, and you can see that the chance of seeing them together again created a rush on tickets…

Here’s Pete with Arlo’s old man Woody when the two of them were young men.

Well, it’s just another picture of Pete.

Here, in advanced years, appearing on the David Letterman show, Pete articulates his basic tenet that the world’s issues can and should be addressed through song, the unifying medium…

My hero.

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