Over the summer, I had the privilege of sitting in on a WVKR radio session with folk legend Pete Seeger. Our own Joel Tyner brought him on as a special guest on his show called Activist Radio. It was the first time I had ever seen this folk legend, and I immediately hoped that I could be that cool when I’m 90. He even had his famous banjo, the writing on which reads, “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.”
This past weekend, Pete Seeger came to Vassar and performed in front of the chapel. His once robust, now somewhat thinner voice had to compete with the wind and Raymond Avenue traffic. Nonetheless, it was an amazing concert.
Not only did he play from his classics, songs such as “Turn, Turn, Turn,” he played a song he recently arranged that was originally an African folk song. This one was sung in a canon, and he divided up the crowd, one half singing the bass and the other the tenor. Everyone there, sitting huddled on blankets or on lawn chairs, was completely mesmerized by his magnetic presence. He would sing us the lyrics, and then we would sing along with him, all of us nearly in ecstasy.
Pete Seeger is more than a performer. He is a humorist, a storyteller and an inspiration. He sang children songs and activist songs, and bantered blithely while plucking his banjo between songs. I hope there will be someone from our generation who can have the same enduring impact on our culture as he has.
If you would like to meet Pete Seeger sometime, you can attend one of the weekly peace vigils started six years ago by WVKR’s Chris Ruhe. Every Saturday, anyone who wants to is welcome to join together with their own homemade signs in support of peace. They say they will not stop until the war ends. For more information on the peace vigils go here.