Happy Birthday, Pete!

Sunday afternoon I went to a celebratory sing-along at the Featherstone Art Center in honor of Pete Seeger on the occasion of his 90th birthday. Pete himself was evidently in New York City at a big concert hosted by Bruce Springsteen, peace be upon him, but I am glad that I was where I was.

I’m generally not the sing-along type, but heck, this was a celebration for Pete Seeger! The man’s not only a great champion of liberty, equality, and democracy; he’s also the driving force behind Sing Out!, and who the hell am I to disrespect that? When Pete Seeger says “Sing!”, I sing. I sang as loudly and as well as I was able. Everybody sang. We sounded really good.

The United States of America skated very close to fascism in the 1950’s and 60’s. When most of country was denying or avoiding or hiding in fear from this simple, ugly truth, Pete Seeger was there singing it out to us, standing up to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, accompanying himself on 5-string banjo and smiling like the risen Christ.

It’s not at all clear that we’ve skated away from that hideous “ism” even now. Rather than rant about that, however, (it occurred to me as I was sitting on the floor Sunday, singing like a schoolchild, laughing or crying, or both), maybe I should try to learn a thing or two from the old woodchopping folk singer.

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