Sunday, May 3, 2009

Thoughts on Pete Seeger's 90th Birthday

Folk musician Pete Seeger turns 90 today.

He's one of those artists whose music I enjoy but whose politics I don't.

But Seeger has done some good. He was instrumental in the clean up of the Hudson River Valley beginning in the 1960s.

In 2007, Seeger made headlines when he wrote a song condemning Joseph Stalin. Like many folk singers of his era, Seeger was a Communist who looked the other way where it concerned Stalin. Perhaps this condemnation came half a century too late. But better late than never. Can you say Paul Robeson? However, Ron Radosh does have some second thoughts here.

I did see the documentary Pete Seeger: The Power of Song when it aired on PBS a couple of years ago. The thing that I admire about him most was how active he still is at his advanced age. The film showed him chopping wood, rowing a boat and performing. If I should live to 90 years of age I will be blessed. If I should live to 90 years of age and still be able to walk a couple of miles a day, swim twice a week and read poetry I will be blessed like Pete Seeger.

I mention all of this because my maternal grandmother turns 90 in August. While not as physically active as Seeger, my grandmother keeps active with painting and pottery. When I last saw her a couple of years ago she was working on a painting and trying to figure out how to finish it. Now that's active living. If I should reach 90 and am still trying to figure out how to finish my newest poem then I will be a very happy man indeed.

So a happy 90th birthday to you Pete Seeger. Here's the late Harry Chapin's tribute song to Seeger called "Old Folkie" which Chapin wrote in 1979 to commemorate Seeger's 60th birthday. Sadly, Chapin would never live to see 40.

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