I had never met Pete Seeger before the day he came into my studio to do some recording - an unassuming man with his signature banjo, but with a presence that couldn’t be missed. He was quiet and humble, but deeply interested in everyone. Pete loved people and believed in people. He also believed that music had the power to change the world, and in his case, it did. Songs like “Turn Turn Turn” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” were messages for peace, and “We Shall Overcome” remains, to this day, the anthem of the civil rights movement. Indeed, he changed the world through his music.
I had the honor of performing with Pete once. Backstage, while we were warming up, Pete couldn’t stop playing. He just loved jamming with us, and it didn’t matter whether anyone was there to listen or not – he genuinely loved music, even after all those years of being deeply immersed in it. But to watch this quiet man take control of the stage and interact with the audience was quite something. He loved nothing more than getting the audience to participate. I guess he felt this was an essential ingredient to music’s power to change – engaging the listener on more than a superficial level.
No one involved in music can deny its power – it’s part of the reason we got into the music business to begin with. Its power can be used for many things, but in Pete’s case, he used it for making the world a better place. The world could use a lot more people like him, and he will be dearly missed.
So long, Pete. You did what you set out to do.