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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

So long, it's been good to know ya: Pete Seeger lays down his banjo

Pete Seeger with the young Bob Dylan at the
1964 Newport Jazz Festival. (Photo by Jim Marshall.)

Word comes that Pete Seeger has passed away at 94.

While many folks may remember him as a champion of folk music, my memories are of a talented and fearless man who used his music to rally his listeners for peace, justice and brotherhood.

And I do mean fearless. A childhood of some privilege and a family with wide and influential connections did not deter him once he had picked up the banjo and the justice message.

Not only was he fearless in the face of some of America's darkest times (during the McCarthy period, in which I spent my high school years), he stared down the HUAC, refusing to rat on his friends and fellow activists or to plead the Fifth Amendment, basing his arguments on his First Amendment rights of speech and association.

Though he (and groups in which he sang, like the Almanac Singers and the Weavers) was blacklisted, he stood his ground.

And whole generations of young people learned the value of sticking to your principles as a result.

Among the honors of his late life was singing at the inaugural of President Barack Obama.

If you experienced his music in person, I need say no more. If you never have, nothing I can say will do the man justice.

As his friend Woody Guthrie put it well, 'so long, it's been good to know ya'.

So long, Pete, it's been good to know ya.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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