It’s the end of an era. My three childhood heroes were Isaac Asimov, who died in 1992; Adlai Stevenson II, who died much earlier, in 1965; and Pete Seeger, who died much later…yesterday. So it took nearly half a century for them all to vanish…and now they’re all gone. You can figure out for yourself what they all had in common (if anything) that would make them heroes of mine; now is the time to say something about Pete. No, I never actually met him…though I heard his music countless times, and saw him on television, and went to his concerts…but he was still the sort of person you would call by his first name…unlike Asimov and Stevenson.
What’s striking about Pete Seeger is not just his combination of music and politics. Plenty of other singer-songwriters pursued and pursue that combination. And it’s certainly not his voice, as he was never known for a beautiful voice. No, what’s striking is the way he would involve his audiences…“singing each line twice,” as I have heard it called. It always seemed totally effortless when he got his listeners to sing along, prompting them vocally before each line. I still shake my head when I hear it. I was unsurprised to hear a few of his songs on WUMB this morning, and I am sure we will hear many more tributes in the coming week. We’ve already heard from President Obama today, and we heard from Bruce Springsteen at the inauguration, and we’ll be hearing from the tens of thousands of people Pete has affected and influenced…perhaps even from Fox News, though that’s something I don’t look forward to.