Pete Seeger 1919 – 2014

Pete Seeger at Florida Music Festival in White Springs, FL,  May 1977I did a post on Pete Seeger titled Pete Seeger & Songs of My Life in 2010. In it, I wrote of the photos I had taken at the White Springs Florida Folk Festival, “He just turned 91, so I’d better have them ready for an obit. I hope it’s later, not sooner, though.” I invite you to revisit those photos.

I woke up this morning at 5:10 to get a drink. As is my habit, I hit the keyboard to wake up the computer see if we were at war with anybody new. The lead headline that come up was that the clock had run out on Pete at age 94.

You can say it is unexpected when someone who is 94 dies of natural causes, but it’s still a shock when a national icon passes.

This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender

Pete Seeger at Florida Music Festival in White Springs, FL,  May 1977It’s funny how two photos that don’t even show Pete are my favorites from that evening in the spring of 1977.

No posse, no entourage

Pete Seeger at Florida Music Festival in White Springs, FL, May 1977After the performance, Pete stuck around backstage to sign autographs, pose for photos and to talk with his admirers, one and all. Then, when nobody had anything else to say, Pete hoisted up his banjo and guitar and a box and walked out into the night. I thought about that exit when I read what Arlo Guthrie wrote this morning.

He passed away. That doesn’t mean he’s gone

Arlo, the son of Woodie Guthrie, and a long-time friend and fellow performer, posted this this morning.

Pete Seeger at Florida Music Festival in White Springs, FL, 5/21 or 22/1977I let him know I was having trouble writing his obituary (as I’d been asked) but it seemed just so silly and I couldn’t think of anything that didn’t sound trite or plain stupid. “They’ll say something appropriate in the news,” we agreed. We laughed, we talked, and I took my leave about 9:30 last night.

“Arlo” he said, sounding just like the man I’ve known all of my life, “I guess I’ll see ya later.” I’ve always loved the rising and falling inflections in his voice. “Pete,” I said. “I guess we will.”

 I turned off the light and closed my eyes and fell asleep until very early this morning, about 3 AM when the texts and phone calls started coming in from friends telling me Pete had passed away.

 “Well, of course he passed away!” I’m telling everyone this morning. “But that doesn’t mean he’s gone.”


10 Replies to “Pete Seeger 1919 – 2014”

  1. My favorite Pete Seeger song is “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”, written in 1955 when I was a Baby Boomer 9 years old. I did not hear the song – not Pete’s original – until 1964 when my high school girl friend gave me two (2) vinyl albums, one by Peter, Paul, and Mary and one by the Kingston Trio. Both albums had Seeger’s “…Flowers…” song on them. Supposedly the Kingston Trio recorded their version soon after hearing the PP&M version – without even being aware of the Seeger original. In fact, I did not hear the Seeger original until 2013 when I was preparing a speech that I will give in August 2014 at the 45th Anniversary Reunion of my 1969 U.S. Army Engineering Officer Candidate School Class 22-Hotel, Ft. Belvoir, Virginia. I discovered that Pete’s original version only had 3 verses, and said nothing about soldiers gone to graveyards. That verse was added by fellow folk singer Joe Hickerson in 1960, turning Pete’s original song about the Cossacks and the Czar in Russia into a rhetorical classic circular song with meditation on death.

    I have been a mobile DJ since 1989 and I love to educate people about the history and origin of my favorite songs. When my fellow former 2nd Lieutenants gather at Ft. Belvoir in August 2014 to celebrate coming together again after 45 years, I will tell them about Pete’s 1955 original and the later PP&M and Kingston Trio versions. And I will put all 3 versions on the soundtrack that I will make to accompany the DVD I am making for the reunion about us 53 Vietnam era Baby Boomers, many of whom served in Vietnam but none who died there. Where have all the flowers gone, indeed.


  2. Dennis,
    I never saw one of my class of 22 again after graduation (132 started). There were only 3 classes. Demand for officers was winding down. I was sent to Okinawa instead of Viet Nam.

  3. Michael,

    What part of the country do you live in now, and was that where you came from before ending up at Belvoir?

    Have you ever been back to Belvoir since September 1970 for any reason? Much has changed: the billets and classrooms have all been bulldozed, and the St. Martin’s chapel where I got married in on 8/16/69 is long gone. Many new brick buildings, even a strip mall. I live in Springfield, VA, only about 30 minutes away from the post. I grew up in Falls Church, elementary school and high school, then off to UVA, Accounting major, 1968 graduate, then off to government job 3 months and into Army September 1968. Basic training Ft. Leonard Wood, MO, AIT at Ft. Sill, off to Belvoir when the Artillery OCS backlog at Sill grew to 2 months wait and we were offered the chance to go to Belvoir or Benning via coin flip. Both choices were closer to my fiancé in northern Virginia, so I went with coin flip and got Belvoir. Sweet!

    If you have any interest whatsoever in seeing our OCS Reunion website, I can give you the address. Some information is password protected, but much is not. I’m just thinking out loud here.

  4. Dennis,
    My wife and I live in Kentucky but are moving to Arkansas later this year to be closer to the kids and grandkids. Never made it back to Belvoir.

  5. Michael,

    I am a little familiar with eastern Kentucky (Perry County, Hazard) from my federal government work 1975-1979 in Appalachia. I was auditing the Appalachian Regional Commission and got a first-hand look at the many problems that people in the coal fields confront.

    Moving anywhere to be closer to kids and grandkids sounds like a great idea. My son and his 2 sons live about 45 minutes away, while my daughter and her 2 kids are in New Orleans. She is married to a minister. I am going to visit them for Mardi Gras, March 1 – March 8.

    This land is your land, this land is my land…

  6. We live in Richmond, a bedroom community of Lexington. The Bluegrass Region. UK country, but I am a Missouri graduate.

  7. God love you! I did my Basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood in 1968 and bought a timeshare at Branson Woods in 2012. Scenery in that part of the country is great.

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