Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Only the good die young

By Carl

And for Pete Seeger, 94 was too young:

Pete Seeger, a 20th-century troubadour who inspired and led a renaissance of folk music in the United States with his trademark five-string banjo and songs of love, peace, brotherhood, work and protest, died Monday night after being hospitalized in New York for six days. He was 94.

His death was confirmed to the Associated Press by his grandson, Kitama Cahill-Jackson.

For more than 50 years, Mr. Seeger roamed America, singing on street corners and in saloons, migrant labor camps, hobo jungles, union halls, schools, churches and concert auditoriums. He helped write, arrange or revive such perennial favorites as “If I Had a Hammer,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” and popularized the anthem of the civil rights movement, “We Shall Overcome.”
Tall and reed-thin, Mr. Seeger was a recognizable figure for generations of listeners. And with dozens of top-selling records and albums, he became one of the most enduring and best-loved folk singers of his generation. He also was one of the few remaining links to two of the 20th century’s early giants of American folk music: Huddie Ledbetter, the black ex-convict from Texas and Louisiana better known as Lead Belly, and Woody Guthrie, the minstrel songwriter from Oklahoma.

Few people had as large an impact on my youth as Pete Seeger. His songs were among the first I learned to play on guitar when I was 8, and while I outgrew pickin’ and strummin’, I never outgrew his music or his politics. To this day, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” plays in my head everytime we send young men – and now, young women – off to fight wars we never needed to fight. “We Shall Overcome” remains a mainstay at any rally where human rights are on display. His band, The Weavers, was played even on old-people’s music stations. Folk was acceptable, and groups like The Kingston Trio, and Peter, Paul and Mary, in addition to The Weavers, were in regular rotation.

As noted by WaPo, Seeger instroduced the nation to Leadbelly and Guthrie, and other folk tunes from other cultures. Notably included among these is “Wimoweh,” which you may know as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.

Yea. You can blame Pete for that earworm.

He fought the good fight right up to the end, being passed over this weekend for a Grammy for his latest release, albeit a spoken word record. Perhaps the thought of losing to Stephen Colbert was too much for his body to handle.

Godspeed, Mr. Seeger.

Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crecen las palmas.
Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crecen las palmas.
Y antes de morir me quiero
Echar mis versos del alma.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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