I call it the mark of a life well lived when strangers burst into tears at word of your demise: Pete Seeger, dead at 94. A profoundly courageous, decent, honourable man who cared about the world and put his music and his very life on the line. I saw a documentary about him a few years ago, and if you were a cynical person, you’d laugh – this lanky folksinger protesting, attending sit-ins, standing up for his beliefs time and time and time again – through song. There was a shot of him protesting – I forget what, maybe the Iraq war? Anyway, he was in his late eighties, standing by the side of the road in a windstorm with a sign to alert motorists: CARE! THIS IS YOUR PLANET. That’s not what his sign said, but that’s what it meant.
Thank you from us all, Pete, on this wounded planet you worked so hard to fix.
When I lived in the Kootenay Mountains of B.C., the singer Ronnie Gilbert of the Weavers lived there too. Ronnie was royalty. Here’s one of the first tunes I learned when I got my Goya nylon string guitar and tried to become a folksinger, like Pete Seeger and the Weavers. Sing along:
Tonight, with the wind chill, it will be minus 32. This is real pioneer stuff, my friends – what are we made of, we Canadians? Being outside for too long hurts – face, hands, feet. It’s a challenge, and we will prevail. My one pleasure in all this is that the vicious cold is killing the pests that are killing our trees. I hope. And in the meantime, more bird seed. There was a tiny frozen bird by the feeder the other day – just not big and strong enough to make it.
Not stringy and tough, like Pete.