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Seeger's swan song?

25 May 04 - 10:03 PM (#1194026)
Subject: Seeger's swan song?
From: Janice in NJ

I just got the new (Summer 2004) issue of Sing Out! magazine, and this is what I read in Pete Seeger's Appleseeds column:

Friends, it looks like this is my last "Appleseeds" column. Doctors and pills have failed to bring my memory back; I can't remember names, words...

I am tempted to cry out, "Say it ain't so, Pete!" But quite frankly, I am not at all surprised. People close to Pete tell me this has been a long time coming. For example, during a concert appearance at Philips Andover Academy earlier this year he forgot some words to So Long, It's Been Good to Know You, and two days later he was still apologizing to people for the memory lapse.

Pete did leave himself a bit of wiggle room, but the way I see it, after 50 years of writing that column, he's tossed in the towel. Can his farewell concert be far behind? I hope not.

25 May 04 - 10:37 PM (#1194038)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Joe Offer

I've always wanted to hear Pete Seeger in concert - but from the sound of what he said in his column, I guess I never will. Editor Mark Moss gave a brighter description of Pete's condition, and said Pete keeps sending information and suggestions to the magazines - but what Seeger himself said in his column makes it sound like things are really going downhill for him.
Bless you, Pete.
-Joe Offer-

25 May 04 - 10:53 PM (#1194045)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: open mike

well the fellow is 85 after all,
maybe he should get to retire!!

25 May 04 - 11:41 PM (#1194063)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Seamus Kennedy

No. Not retire. Because if you retire, you die.
I'd rather hear Pete screw up the words to a few songs that we all know anyway, and enjoy singing along to, than to have him retire.
Bet he doesn't forget the words to new songs.
Keep performing, Pete. Drop the column!


26 May 04 - 12:17 AM (#1194089)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Deckman

What a delemma: a wonderful man, a leader, an icon, a figure head, a teacher, and he's getting tired! All of us, who are younger, would wish that things could continue on as they have been, forever. But of course, they cannot.

This is another side of the price of being in the public life. It's not pretty. And none of us would wish we were in his position.

Would that we could give him, and his, the grace and the privacy that he deserves.


26 May 04 - 12:30 AM (#1194093)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Peace

I absolutely love his "We Shall Overcome" concert from Carnegie Hall. Have it on vinyl and CD. It is still great. And so is the man.

Bruce M

26 May 04 - 12:57 AM (#1194107)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: michaelr

Seamus -- I respectfully disagree. I'd rather not see a performer I'm fond of stumble through songs he once owned. Here's to Pete, and may he bow out the way he bowed in: graciously and with conviction.


26 May 04 - 12:58 AM (#1194108)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Three generations and more of songs. Songs that will never die.

26 May 04 - 01:03 AM (#1194110)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: DaveA

I think Deckman hit the nail on the head - it is a dilemma for everyone. The thought of Pete as a stumbling travesty of his old self is tragic, but who among us who have heard him gather up an audience & get them singing would not like to hear it happen just one more time.

I feel we owe it to Pete to let him decide how & when he wishes to put the banjo down - and to support & applaud whatever decision he reaches. He really has earned the right to do what HE wishes.

And three pertinent thoughts from very diverse people on reaching very senior years:
1/ Charles de Gaulle
      "Old age makes shipwrecks of us all"
2/ anon
      "Its not how well the bear dances, its that it dances at all"
3/ J.R.R.Tolkien
      "He was granted the grace to go at a time of his own choosing"

God Bless You Pete

The world is a better place for you having lived.


26 May 04 - 10:08 AM (#1194144)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Sandra in Sydney

Pete Seeger is one of my heroes. He was one of the artists whose music I was listening to between folk-music-as-Top-40 & finding live folk again in 1996. And I still keep buying his music - in CDs now!

I'll keep listening to my collection of Pete Seeger CDs as I wish him well.


26 May 04 - 10:23 AM (#1194156)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Big Mick

I pretty well agree with Seamus. I want Pete to know that as long as he wants to sing, I want to hear him, and I could care less that he might miss the odd lyric. This man's music and message transcends simply enjoying the tune. He has been the conscience of the late 20th century, prodding us to do the right thing, all the while doing so with grace and dignity. His courage, compassion, and committment have been inspirational to several generations of those of us who love to use music to deliver a message.

Keep singing, Pete, as long as the spirit moves you. I will be there to listen and learn.

All the best,


26 May 04 - 10:38 AM (#1194171)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: RoyH (Burl)

Right On Big Mick. I'm with you all the way. Burl

26 May 04 - 10:45 AM (#1194175)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Flash Company

I saw Pete at Manchester's Free Trade Hall a lot of years ago, and will never forget it.
He really knew how to get an audience singing, and that voice was incredible. I recall that, to demonstrate a work song, he brought out a log and an axe and showerred the front rows with chippings. Magic!


26 May 04 - 10:46 AM (#1194177)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Backstage Manager(inactive)

In Pete's own words from "Quite Early Morning":

And so we keep on while we live
Until we have no, no more to give
And when these fingers can strum no longer
Hand the old guitar to young ones stronger
And when these fingers can strum no longer
Hand the old guitar to young ones stronger

26 May 04 - 11:02 AM (#1194194)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Charley Noble

It's Pete's call but he should know that if he decides to sing one more round, we'll be there to sing along with him.

Charley Noble

26 May 04 - 11:10 AM (#1194208)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Stilly River Sage

With all due respect to Big Mick and Seamus, I would judge that what Pete is worried about isn't "missing the odd lyric," it's much more complicated. In the old days missing a lyric would be cause for a chuckle or a slight groan from listeners. It won't mean the same thing now, and the social and physiological response is going to be more pronounced--confusion, pauses, discomfort, repetition, a whole pattern of behaviors that would make everyone uncomfortable, most of all, Pete.

I think we can rest assured that Pete won't just put down that banjo for all time, but certainly for public appearances. Not personally knowing the man or the complexity of his circumstances, I would conjecture that he'll still sing around the house, and probably with friends in small private gatherings. Does he still live in that wonderful little house up in Fishkill? Then maybe he'll putter around the cabin singing also. The woods will be filled with scraps of songs, and maybe he'll sing a chorus or two when he phones good friends or family (my Dad always used to do that!) but let him choose to retire from the stage with dignity.

I don't make this suggestion out of reluctance to look mortality in the eye--we all know we are seeing a giant of the folk world falter and decide to bow out gracefully. Those who have seen elderly parents make decisions regarding how they will spend their final days know that this is a particularly difficult path, that of choosing to stop what you've been doing, but is being weighed against the prospect of continuing on and stumbling more and more. It's what my social worker mother used to call "the summing up" that elderly people go through as they set their lives in order. We may not have heard the last of Pete--he may well turn to sorting and releasing papers, early recordings, etc. It's his call.

Here's hoping he's happy and comfortable in whatever he chooses to do to fill his days.


26 May 04 - 11:16 AM (#1194221)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Franz S.

I've attended close to two dozen of his concerts, from 1955 to 2001. I'm sure that as long as he is physically able he'll continue to show up for the good causes,and as long as he's able he'll strum his longneck banjo and 12-string. He'll never be a travesty of himself because he has never been primarily a performer. He's been a believer and a participator in almost all of the great causes of the last 65 years. (Think about that!) I've never gone to a "performance" of his to listen to the music, but always to help make it. I think most of his fans feel the same.   He's kind of like the family's favorite uncle. He said at the SOA demo a few years ago that his voice was gone and we'd have to sing for him. We did.

26 May 04 - 11:23 AM (#1194233)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko

Let's face it, we are all heading downhill. Unless someone finds a cure for aging, we can all expect the same. As Mick pointed out, Pete has always carried himself with grace and dignity. At 87 years old, we should expect that names and words will be forgotten. I'm 47 and I've always had trouble with names.   Pete does not like to present himself as anything less than what HE thinks people expect.

You might remember that he started his "retirement" years ago when he felt his voice was slipping. He cut back and brought his grandson on stage with him to help sing the songs.   Pete felt that people could not understand his aging voice. Arlo Guthrie pointed out that Pete's audience also had aging ears and wouldn't know the difference!!

I had the honor of interviewing him 3 years ago in his home in New York state. It was a wonderful conversation, and when we finished taping we had a nice chat. He had more energy than people half his age. However, like anyone his age, he needs to recharge the batteries and get some rest.   He still has projects that he wants to complete, and from what I know of him - he will see them finished.

Backstage Manager, that was a perfect song to quote.   Pete's definition of folk music and storytelling is that it is a PARTICIPATORY action.   That is a lesson that I hope we can carry on for him.


26 May 04 - 11:25 AM (#1194236)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: GUEST,Art Thieme

Retirement is not death. Pete would never see it as death. Capitalists ethics might want one to see it as death---so they keep on building the economy or whatever. To me, all it means is that the more things change, the more they get different. That is all that happens. I am in enforced retirement now and my world has never been more full in spite of some old friends who cannot see that I am moving on -- and that is all. The boredom of the road life between gigs with my body beginning to fall apart, and then falling apart, is all I have lost. No, not actually physically being around the music and the people I love is surely a negative aspect, I will agree. But I couldn't see people having to pay for what I could give then these days. It was and is that much less. It was hurtful to see Michael Jordan being less and less and less until, even he, had to leave HIS game.------- That's my take on this---so be it. I wish Pete all the best. I love the man, but I can understand. You all have valid points of view--but just know that it is only for you and ought not be extrapolated to others. You are causing pain to the people you judge.

Art Thieme

26 May 04 - 12:01 PM (#1194273)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: GUEST,Arkie

I feel very fortunate to have seen Pete Seeger in concert and was amazed at the way he related to his audience and certainly enjoyed the songs. I have also acquired many of his recordings which are treasured and have been nurtured through a number of moves around the country and have survived several waves of downsizing. There is no one in the field of folk music or any other type of music that I respect more. His Sing Out columns are no less worthy of praise than his music.

Eras do come to an end and I am truly thankful to have been around for the Pete Seeger Era. While those of us who have appreciated Seeger over the years would be most forgiving of a few forgotton words, by the standard he has set for himself, which is one of the reasons he is so greatly respected, I would suspect Mr. Seeger cannot accept that himself. Knowing when to quit often requires more of a person than struggling to go on. The world is far richer because of Pete Seeger and those who have been inspired by him. And he has done far more than his share to bring joy and hope of peaceful accord and clean environment. And his memory can't be all that bad. He remembers he forgot some words.

26 May 04 - 12:06 PM (#1194276)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Rapparee

Art, you're dead on, as usual. Much as I love Pete's music, much as I love his writing, there comes a time when it's his call. I'll respect and accept whatever he decides. He's already given far more than I probably ever will.

26 May 04 - 12:07 PM (#1194277)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Big Mick

Well put, Art. This is why I started out with "as long as he wants to sing, I want to hear him" and ended with "Keep singing, Pete, as long as the spirit moves you". Some folks need to learn that words have meaning. I thought the words were clear. As long as Pete wants to sing, I will be there to listen.


26 May 04 - 12:57 PM (#1194320)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: dick greenhaus

i'm put to mind of a jazzman's comment when someone told him Louis Armstrong was losing his lip.
"Hell, he's still got his teeth!"

26 May 04 - 01:58 PM (#1194366)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: GUEST,amergin

This feels sad to me...that such a great man would bo out ...but like others said it is his call..and we'll just have to respect that no matter what our personal feelings are. I am one of the unlucky ones who have never had the privilege of seeing him on stage...I have always wanted to. I feel sad that I most likely will never have that chance.

26 May 04 - 02:30 PM (#1194397)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: GUEST,Blackcatter at work

Hi all

And of course, what is retirement for a folk singer / activist?

Sure, when you retire from the Post Ofice, that's it, same with most professions - you just stop it completely. But when you're an artist or whatever you either stop it completely (usually unlikely unless something forces you to do so, such as health), or you sort of cut back. How many concerts a year does Pete do now? When was the last time he toured and recorded like he did 40 years ago?

Retirement for him I think, will be just a few less concerts or events than now. Almost it's a way of letting people know that he'll say "yes" less often than before. Until he can't speak or pay the banjo he'll be there doing what he's always done, just less of it. And I'm sure he's aware that if you don't use it, you lose it.

26 May 04 - 02:55 PM (#1194422)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko

This is starting to sound like an "obit" thread and it is surely not the case.

Check out this article of a recent interview with Pete:
Reuters article

26 May 04 - 03:00 PM (#1194426)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: semi-submersible

The only time I heard Hank Snow in person, his memory was far gone, but his singing voice was still the high point of the Grand Ole Opry for me. Sing, and we'll be glad of a chance to listen.

Mr. Seeger, you must know how vast a legacy you have created. Sharing, and open community, questioning, and responsibility, are embedded in your work. They will be there, fresh upon discovery, for generations yet unborn.

Maureen in Canada

26 May 04 - 03:52 PM (#1194477)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Once Famous

semi-submersible, I remember Hank Snow toward the end and it was very sad. True, there was some of that old spirit left in his voice, but he kept dropping his guitar pick and would forget many words. I know that I felt very sad seeing him this way.

Other opry stars have been trotted out or hobbled out sometimes I think more in pity than anything else. The Willis brothers come to mind.

26 May 04 - 04:12 PM (#1194495)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Mudlark

Pete Seeger is above all an intelligent, thoughtful, generous man with a wonderful sense of humor, who has given so much to not just the field of folk music, but the community of man. If he is ready to retire, for whatever reason, I'm sure he will not look on it as death, a rediculous notion. But it will give him time to concentrate on the things that now most matter to him and he feels most capable doing. He has the love and respect of millions, in any case.

26 May 04 - 06:56 PM (#1194582)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Joe_F

IMO, he is entitled to eat a good breakfast & go back to bed. We all have the songs, including that one.

27 May 04 - 08:41 AM (#1194882)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?

We sang together a couple of weeks ago, when Clearwater was named to the National Register of Historic Places. He is not as young as he once was but he is always youthful.

One of my favorite lyrics of his:

How do I know my youth is all spent?
My get up and go has got up and went.
In spite of it all, I'm able to grin
When I think of the places my get up has been.

When I commented on the similarity between this lyric and "Officer Krupke" from "West Side Story," Pete's response was that he and Lenny were at Harvard around the same time and that both songs were probably descended from "Fair Harvard."

27 May 04 - 10:55 AM (#1195018)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Stilly River Sage

Nice little story, guest! Wonderful musical convergence.

27 May 04 - 11:13 AM (#1195044)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: kendall

This is so sad, but, I understand his point of view. Hell, I forget lyrics all the time and it is a pain in the ass.
No matter what he does or doesn't do, he is still Pete Seeger, and in my opinon he is an angel on earth. No finer human ever lived.

27 May 04 - 01:22 PM (#1195217)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Seamus Kennedy

I made my post out of pure selfishness.
I was only thinking of me.
I don't like to think of the folk scene without him or any of the greats - Tommy Makem, Liam Clancy, Martin Carthy, et al.
But their day will come too.
Of course whatever Pete decides is best, is what will be.
I wish him a long, happy and productive retirement, and hope for a few musical highlights from him now and again.


27 May 04 - 01:56 PM (#1195243)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: GUEST,Larry K

About 25 years ago, they started a new festival in New Jersey called the Raritan River Festival in New Brunswick.   Pete Seeger came and played at the first two years of this festival.

During the festival, I was at one of the workshops as it was starting to begin.   Pete came walking by and several people asked him if he would play a few songs.    The workshop leader wasn't pleased, but really had no choice and Pete did a few songs to get the workshop started.   To cheer the workshop leader up, I mentioned that he would be able to tell people that Pete Seeger was his opening act.

About a year ago he appeared in Detroit to accept an award and do a few songs.    Unfortunatley, it was the same night that Arlo Gutherie was appearing with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.   Strange coincidence that they would be appearing in the same city on the same night in different venues.    We already had tickets to Arlo.   People who saw Pete were very dissapointed.    I would hate to have peoples only experience Pete in concert today and not when he was in his prime.   Kind of like watching Willie Mays in his last days with the Mets.

27 May 04 - 06:06 PM (#1195410)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: emjay

I see different ages given for Pete Seeger in a couple of posts. According to How Can I Keep From Singing by David Dunaway, Pete was born on May 3, 1919.
Few people have accomplished any where near as much as he has and is still doing. His music has made so many look differently at the world around us. It has probably even inspired many to become activists in various environmental and human rights causes.
He probably has a lot more he wants to accomplish, and is taking some well deserved time to do those things that he has pushed aside for many years.

27 May 04 - 06:25 PM (#1195420)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Big Al Whittle

perhaps he could get a prompter - either a human one or a sort of karaoke machine - tele prompter - lets face it everybody still wants to hear him, and I bet he still wants to gig - show me a musician that doesn't!
there are lots of things that old people can do nowadays with the help of aids - folksinging is probably another, just needs someone to sort it out for him - an expert in that sort of thing.....

In a few years time old peoples homes will be like Spinners concerts

27 May 04 - 06:48 PM (#1195434)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: catspaw49

Sometimes it's hard to know what to say. Reading the many other posts I am convinced of the the one thing that does matter above all else..........The love Pete Seeger brought to us goes back to him from all who heard him and saw him in any context. Everyone on this thread expresses a love for the man that very few public figures can enjoy across the board from one and all.

Art, old friend, for me you said it best and from a perspective that is uniquely yours. Thanks for saying it and thanks too for making us all feel pretty good about another old!


27 May 04 - 07:48 PM (#1195465)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Deckman

"Wee little drummer" just made a comment that reminded me of something I saw happen at what was apparently Burl Ive's last public concert. I was very pleased to be in the audience. Burl had been at death's door, and this was a fund raising and "thank you" concert for the local hospital, in Annacourtis, Washington. He felt that this very small hospital had saved his life and he wanted to do something for them.

He was still quite weak. When the curtain opened, he was already on stage and seated, ready to go. He gave a strong, hour long concert, his voice was strong and he was a delight to behold and hear.

As he tired, he did start to forget some words (I started forgetting words when I was 13) but he had planned for that. He had a close friend sitting in the front row who acted as a "prompter." The first time it happened, we all were a little startled, but we quickly realized what was happenning and we were all quite pleased. And, it was obvious that Burl was also pleased that he could get through his concert this way.

Does this apply to Pete? Who knows. Only Pete can make that decision. CHEERS, Bob(deckman)Nelson

27 May 04 - 08:11 PM (#1195479)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Susan A-R

I imagine Pete won't disappear, he'll just pick and choose, and we'll love him where ever he goes, and whet ever he sings or forgets, 'cause he's Pete and he's given us sixty odd years of great music, humor and thought.

27 May 04 - 09:43 PM (#1195549)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Stilly River Sage


Did my Dad go to that concert with you? I remember his talking about a Burl Ives concert in Anacortes. Burl Ives was the earliest of the folksingers that he started listening to intently when he was learning songs. Ives recordings are as visceral for me as oatmeal in the morning and hot bread and soup on cold winter evenings.

I am reading through these posts and seeing a tug between personal longings for a hero to keep going, and for him to do what works for him without worrying about the public. So many heartfelt expressions of appreciation. And I ask myself--what would Pete say if he read this thread? He no doubt has friends who drop in at Mudcat, if he doesn't himself. I hope the speculation (where it occurs) comes through as heartfelt concern, and that even with this shift in his activities there is still room for some of the participation that we all hope for.

I like the idea of a prompter offstage--and it isn't an odd idea at all. When Dad was learning his songs, both music and words, sometimes the music took precedence. We knew from the hesitation that he was thinking about it and volunteered the words--he didn't often have to ask "What's the line here?" The four of us had learned all the words because we were sung to at bedtime every night. I can imagine a lot of kids listened to Pete's music at bedtime. He could probably start just about any song and have the entire audience sing it back to him, as was suggested above.


27 May 04 - 10:38 PM (#1195584)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Deckman

Hi Maggie,

You bet that your Dad was there, along with the rest of the diehard Seattle contingant. And, what's more, we all payed $50 for our tickets! That gave us permission to attend a semi-private gathering/reception at the annacortes Yacht Club. He was quite a yachter, by the way.

I still well remember the graciousness that Burl extended to me as I came through the receiving line. I was the last person, on purpose. We and some delightful conversation, in spite of his wife/nurse/nanny. This was the first time we'd actually met, though we'd exchanged several letters over the years.

You bet your Dad was there, and I well remember his delight. Love to you, Bob

Sorry for the thread creep ... back to the subject ... please.

27 May 04 - 10:40 PM (#1195588)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Stilly River Sage

Yes, back to the thread. But thanks, Bob. Joy and pleasure in music--that's part of what this thread is about.

Maggie (SRS)

27 May 04 - 10:46 PM (#1195592)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Suffet


Some of you might know that I am one of Pete's friends -- take a look at that Appleseeds column and you can see that he starts off by quoting me -- and yes, I have seen Pete slow down quite a bit of late. I was there at the Andover concert this past January when he forgot a verse to a song, but the remarkable thing is that he got up on stage in front of several hundred people and did four songs, more than he has done in concert recently. When you ask Pete how he's doing, he will nearly always answer, "Still here!"

So in spite of his very real memory lapses -- remember how he left his banjo by the side of the road once? -- and his retirement from Sing Out, it looks like we'll still have Pete around for a little while longer. He's supposed to be at the People's Music Summer Gathering in Walden, NY, from June 4 to 6, and then at the PMN Winter Gathering in New York City next January 28 to 30. I suspect he'll have a song or two ready to share with one and all at each.

--- Steve

27 May 04 - 10:57 PM (#1195598)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: DonD

Have I told this Pete story before? It bears repeating:

Back in 1946 or 1947, Pete was already a celebrity to the growing folk audience, and something of a hero to us kids at Harvard, because he had dropped to follow his dream, did something worthwhile like learning at the feet of the old traditional singers in Appalachia, and achieved fame.

He came back to Cambridge to give a concert/lecture in Sever Hall. a lecture space that was primarily used by the Philosophy Dept., and the hundreds of seats were packed. The rafters rang until the custodian insisted it was time to close the building.

Pete announced that he wasn't finished singing that evening, and was adjourning the meeting to a school where they didn't have closing hours, the Sam Adams School in downtown Boston, known as a fairly radical establishment, and anyone who wanted to come along was welcome to join him as long as our voices held out.

With a group of other students, I hopped on the MTA and found the loft building where Pete was set up in a relatively small room, which was even more packed. I found a seat on a windowsill in the back of the room, and was swept up in the fervor of the moment, singing my heart out on every chorus. When Pete gets a group singing together, it becomes an emotional experience, at least for me; that's togetherness.

I can't remember the song -- it was one I didn't know -- but I was belting out the chorus so enthusiastically that I caught his attention, and he called out, "Take the next verse, back there on the windowsill." I didn't know the next verse, or any verse, but that didn't daunt me in the heat of the occasion, and I extemporised something that seemed to go down OK.

The adrenalin rush kept me going it felt like hours, and we were there until Pete's voice actually did give out. Almost all of us have sung with Pete, either in person or along with one of his recordings -- when he says; "Sing!" you sing -- but I'm proud to be able to say that I sang a solo to his picking. It's been all downhill from there!

I saw him last a couple of years ago at the Clearwter Festival on Father's Day, and he was as unassuming and personable as ever. I was surprised to see how he had changed from those earlier days, unlike me. I wonder if he looked at me through ever youthful eyes, and thought the same thing.

And now (in the words of the old joke) he has lots of time to consider the hereafter -- as in "What the next line that comes here after the last one I can remember?"

27 May 04 - 11:20 PM (#1195603)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Deckman

"DonD" Thank you for sharing that quite wonderful story. We are all blessed by his continuing presence and teaching. Bob

28 May 04 - 11:08 AM (#1195946)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Suffet

Let me tell a very recent Pete Seeger story. This happened this past January 25 in Lawrence, Massachusetts, at the annual Winter Gathering of the People's Music Network.

It was Sunday morning, just after breakfast, and several dozen participants were sitting in a big circle waiting to begin what PMN calls Songs of the Spirit. It is a loosely structured, leaderless, session in which people sing Gospel songs, Freedom songs, or whatever else "the Spirit" moves them to sing. It is also a strictly a cappella session. By tradition no one plays an instrument, not even a drum, a rattle, or a tambourine.

The session was just beginning when Pete walked in with his banjo slung over his shoulder. As he took a seat in the circle he explained, "I can't sing anymore. My banjo is my voice."

For a few seconds people looked at one another somwhat uncomfortably. Then a woman named Jill Friedman spoke up and asked, "Would anyone like to tell Pete it's against the rules?

No one had the chutzpah to do so.

So Pete stood up, and to the accompaniment of his banjo, he started to sing softly, If you miss me at the back of the bus... That was enough. Everyone joined in, and after just the first verse Pete put the banjo down. The rest of the session was a cappella as usual.

--- Steve

28 May 04 - 12:05 PM (#1195987)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: EBarnacle

The May 27, 8:41 AM post is yours truly. My cookie went astray.

As long as others are talking about his voice, I have to comment that Pete is responsible for teaching me to use my voice and strengthening my Baritone. He did most of this teaching while we were on stage during Sloop Singer sets.

Several years ago, we were called from one set directly to another at the Hudson River Revival. One of the featured Sunday afternoon acts had failed to show, so Pete volunteered us [the Sloop Singers who were still there] to fill in. This was in the period when his voice was becoming less reliable. When his song came up, he asked me to accompany him to the mike. After he began Old Man River, his voice gave out and he signalled me to take over. Afterward, I got compliments and a comment from Pete that he had intended to do a slightly different version that time around. Still one of my happy thoughts.

07 Jun 04 - 12:15 PM (#1202055)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Suffet


I saw, spoke with, and heard Pete Seeger yesterday (June 6, 2004) at Camp Redwood in Walden, New York. His voice is weak, but still right on pitch, and he is more than a bit forgetful, but he is alert, insightful, and a wonderful conversationalist. Pete spent a lot of time speaking with young people -- teens and twenty-somethings -- but he also found time to lead well over a hundred people in singing a slow ("long meter") version of Amazing Grace, and showing folks how to find the harmonies.

Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but I really do believe his "swan song" is still a while off.

--- Steve

07 Jun 04 - 01:48 PM (#1202150)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Barbara

Lots of my older singer friends are returning to lead sheets, teleprompters, personal assistants, and audience participation to make it through the songs they used to be able to sing from memory. Merritt did it for the last three years of his life -- first sheepishly, and then later on with aplomb. Faith Petric has used paper off and on since she had a stroke and sometimes she just points and asks someone else to sing the next one. Dick Holdstock whips out the reading glasses, or borrows a pair from his wife, and proceeds with the song,
there's a lot of ways of making it though, and those of us boomers in our fifties are counting on you olders to model for us "not giving up when the going gets rough". I'd say, if you can still sing from your heart, you don't have to still know it by heart.

My life flows on in endless song
Above earth's lamentation;
And still I hear the far off song
That hails the new creation.
Through sight may blur and memory fail
Inside me music's ringing --
When it resounds throughout my soul,
How can I keep from singing?


07 Jun 04 - 02:11 PM (#1202163)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: GUEST,Stephen

I had the immense pleasure of interviewing Pete last summer - he's a great guy, and he spoke about his memory loss then... things like having to ask guys he's known ten, twenty years to remind him of their surnames. Not good.

He played some fine songs too - all of us journalist types just sitting out on the grass and listening.

08 Jun 04 - 11:28 AM (#1202743)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Big Al Whittle

forgetting acquaintances names - thats not memory loss - just prioritising.
I used to a gig with a guy who forgot the same lines in the same verse nearly every night for a year - in the end the suspense of waiting for him to forget got to me and I had to quit the band

08 Jun 04 - 02:45 PM (#1202859)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Folkiedave

I too was lucky enough to see Pete at the Free Trade Hall all those year ago.

Brilliant night. Still in my memory.


08 Jun 04 - 09:38 PM (#1203167)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: cobber

I'm only half Pete's age and I've been forgetting the words to songs most of my career. It doesn't mean the performance is no good, just proves you're human. May he sing as long as he wants to and want to as long as he sings.

09 Jun 04 - 07:57 AM (#1203441)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Suffet

I should add that when I spoke with Pete Seeger this past Sunday (6/6/04) he renewd two commitments he made to the People's Music Network Winter Gathering in New York City next year.

Friday night, January 28, 2005, Pete will appear in a concert open to the general public at the Brooklyn High School for the Arts, along with the Brooklyn Women's Chorus and several other performers.

Saturday morning, January 29, 2005, Pete will appear in a children's concert at the Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights, Queens, along with Takako Nagumo and members of MacDougal Street Rent Party. The concert will only be for children who go to that school, children of people attending the PMN Winter Gathering, and their respective families.

--- Steve

05 Oct 04 - 07:55 PM (#1289686)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Suffet

for Songs of Freedom and Freedom


Friday • January 28, 2005 • 7:30 to 10:30 PM
Brooklyn High School for the Arts
345 Dean Street, between 3rd and 4th Avenues
Brooklyn, New York

Pete Seeger
Brooklyn Women's Chorus
Disabled In Action Singers
Lafayette Inspirational Ensemble
Harmonic Insurgence
Brooklyn High School for the Arts Chorus
PMN Chorus

Cosponsored by...
Brooklyn High School for the Arts
Renaissance Charter School
Brooklyn Women's Chorus
Peoples' Voice Cafe
New York Pinewoods Folk Music Club

$15 for members of PMN or cosponsors if purchased in advance. All others, and at the door, $20.

For ticket information and sales, please contact...
Bev Grant.
Phone: 718-230-4999


• B65 bus to 4th Avenue stops in front of the school eastbound or one block north of the school westbound.

• Subway to the Atlantic Avenue - Pacific Street station. Walk south along 4th Avenue to Dean Street. That will be anywhere from half a block to two blocks depending on what station exit you use. Turn right. School will be on your right.

• Long Island Rail Road to Flatbush Avenue terminal in Brooklyn. Cross Atlantic Avenue, then walk south along 4th Avenue two blocks to Dean Street. Turn right. School will be on your right.

• Driving: I-278 (BQE) to Atlantic Avenue exit. Go east (away from waterfront) along Atlantic Avenue to 3rd Avenue. Turn right. Go two short blocks to Dean Street. Turn left and look for parking. School will be on your left.

PMN website: http://www,

Be there!

--- Steve

05 Oct 04 - 08:34 PM (#1289720)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: open mike

ha! one recent issue of home power magazine features pete seeger and the cover shows him on the roof with solar panels!
seems pretty lively to me!!Pete Seeger solar article in Homepower magazine

27 Apr 05 - 08:18 PM (#1472874)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Suffet

For the Love of Pete!

An evening to celebrate the music of Pete Seeger and the release of the updated edition of his autobiography, Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Saturday • May 21, 2005 • 8 PM
Community Church of New York
40 East 35th Street
Midtown Manhattan, New York City

Pete Seeger
Work o' the Weavers
Jim Scott and the Community Church Choir with the Rev. Hope Johnson
Stan Strickland
Geoff Kaufman

Presented by the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. Cosponsored ny the New York Pinewoods Folk Music Club (Folk Music Society of New York, Inc.).

Tickets: $25 in advance.

For more information:

Or call 1-800-388-3920 extension 230 to reserve.

Be there!

--- Steve

27 Apr 05 - 09:04 PM (#1472875)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: open mike

earlier this link had an extra comma added.. try this...

28 Apr 05 - 09:27 PM (#1473832)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Frankham

Pete is still an inspiration. When you inspire, you want to carry on your message through others. He wants us to write songs that say something positive about the human condition and sometimes controversial. He wants all of us to be his legacy. He is still as sharp as a tack. He is up on what's going on in the world. The important thing is to paraphrase him, we used to think that
the world would change by sweeping movements and expansive ideas. Now the time has come for small groups to organize and not be co-opted by big movements that are too general. Maybe just planting a tree or a growing garden to feed a hungry family. Maybe just getting a group together to talk to your congressman about bringing our troops home. Small groups of commited people can do amazing things.

When Pete first started, the folk music movement was small. When I grew up in Los Angeles, I had to search for a teacher to show me anything on the five-string banjo. Pete provided his book. It sold a few copies. I was thrilled to get it. There was a small group of us included were Derroll Adams, Dave Zeitlin, Sid Berland, Ry Cooder,Guy Carawan, Bess and Butch Hawes, Ed Michel, Ed Pearl, Odetta, Jimmy Gavin, Will Geer, Vern Partlow, Sam Hinton , Bill Olliver, Bart Van der Schilling, Jerry Atinsky, Dave Arkin and his talented son Alan, Cisco and Woody. The Folk Scare hadn't kicked in yet. Nobody in the general public cared about folk music in those days.
But there was this small group of people and they kept on meeting together.

When the Weavers were blacklisted, a small group of supporters carried them through into college concerts. Then that magic one at Carnegie Hall.

The point is, we are all Pete's children. We are his legacy. He lives on through all of us.

Frank Hamilton

28 Apr 05 - 11:59 PM (#1473920)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: GUEST,Guest - Michael Harrison of Texas

Many good and heart-felt feelings generated here, and my two-cents says - Pete, as long as you want to sing, I will listen. Thanks for the music, the songs and the inspiration. Down the road,.........

29 Apr 05 - 12:21 AM (#1473932)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Stephen L. Rich

We all love Pete Seeger and forgive him almost any sin, especially one as seemingly harmless as occasional memory loss. But, as a performer I can see this from his perspective as well. Blowing the words to a song one has been doing all of one's life is, at the very least, very embarassing. I'd rather see him retire than subject himself to what, for him, would be regular humiliation. Let the man go with his dignity intact.

Stephen Lee

29 Apr 05 - 03:41 AM (#1473998)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Roger the Skiffler

According to an advert I noticed in UK press Peggy Seeger is performing a "farewell to UK" concert with Pete and Mike Seeger listed as guests. I didn't note the date but it was in London (possibly Purcell Rooms this summer).


29 Apr 05 - 08:23 AM (#1474152)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Brian Hoskin

Does anyone know who is publishing the new edition of his autobiography Where Have all the Flowers Gone??

30 Apr 05 - 07:06 AM (#1474873)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Roger the Skiffler

The Peggy Seeger 70th Birthday "returning home" Concert with Mike & Pete guesting is Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank Centre Sunday 29th May 2005. Waterson/Carthy are also schecduled to appear.


30 Apr 05 - 05:54 PM (#1475251)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: GUEST,Tannywheeler

I don't know what he thinks he's lost, but it's not his wisdom, warmth, kindness. For those who've never met him, I assure you those parts of his personality are very real and present. As long as he stays among us he can choose whatever conditions he feels necessary and we'll be lucky to have him.   Tw

p.s.Compuwhizzes, how can I get my cookie back? Help?

01 May 05 - 02:59 PM (#1475882)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Frankham

He's got a birthday coming up. May 3, 1919.


01 May 05 - 03:05 PM (#1475890)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?

"He's got a birthday coming up. May 3, 1919."

Actually, I think his birthday *coming up* is May 3, 2005.

May 3, 1919 was his date of birth. Not quite the same thing.

23 Jul 06 - 01:38 PM (#1790786)
Subject: RE: Jerry Atinsky["Seeger's swan song?"]
From: GUEST,Nancy D.

For Jerry:

Saying "Hello," again -- after these many years.

If you want to write, I can be reached at .

That's the only way I can be reached these days.

    Nancy D.

23 Jul 06 - 02:55 PM (#1790854)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: folkwaller

The angel of music is with you Pete she will help you decide. The concerts in the 60's in London are with me forever. I'm with Seamus on this one. Whisper a song to me Pete and I will listen forever.

23 Jul 06 - 08:22 PM (#1791162)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Anglo

I see Brian Hoskin's question went unanswered. The new edition of Pete's book, like the previous one, is being published by Sing Out Publications.

23 Jul 06 - 10:31 PM (#1791250)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Lady Hillary

He performed at the recently past Clearwater Revival, both in his own set and in various others' including with Tao and the Mammals. Long may he wave!

24 Jul 06 - 03:18 AM (#1791383)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: Richard Brandenburg

How do we regard the fade of the body in this life is what I wonder about. Pete will be Pete until his breath fails and then until his friends and those of us who remember him are gone, and then it's in history's hands.

Those near him see him diminished perhaps but still the same, and he is no doubt the same, to those of his friends who can perceive him. Remembering songs is no longer his task here; and our task may be to remember his singing and let him go in the manner in which he wishes and is able to leave us.

It all ends in forgetting, whatever we wish. Pete's done more than most to ensure and justify remembrance, and to his credit, seemed never to care about any of that. Pete seemed to me to be all about the present moment. I recall him emblazoned in his archetype, singing, "The time is now quite early morning".

But we all know better, despite our love.

I once shook his hand.

24 Jul 06 - 06:52 AM (#1791497)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: kendall

On the back of Utah Phillip's brochure there is a saying: "No matter how New Age you get, old age gonna kick your ass". I got a card from Pete (I save all his cards) and it was apparent that his memory was slipping, but I still hold dear that evening in Gordon Bok's living room back in 1969,when Pete gave me my first banjo lesson. That memory will never fade.

I did have the honor of seeing him in concert. In no time at all he took a loud crowd and had them eating out of his hand. He is an entertainer more than a performer.

24 Jul 06 - 09:04 AM (#1791564)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: BanjoRay

Here's a picture of Pete being a very naughty boy with Bela Fleck only 14 years ago, on both ends of a panoramic picture. He was obviously still capable of a good sprint.
Tennessee Banjo Institute panorama 1992

24 Jul 06 - 11:57 AM (#1791705)
Subject: RE: Seeger's swan song?
From: NormanD

That's some photo.

I can imagine cartoonist Gary Larson seeing this as a vision of hell. You go through this room to.........

......the accordion players.