His aura was exceptional.
His voice had failed years ago, but that aura remained. Few can render an old-time folk song these days without attracting snickers. Pete never needed to worry–he practically perfected that musical genre in his lifetime. If you were privileged to have sung with him or for him, as I did at the 2011 Great Hudson River Revival, it was an unforgettable experience.
Pete’s death on Monday, January 27, 2014 has left a gap that can’t be filled. He was the last of my great heroes. He lived what he believed, and he never seemed to stop believing that things could be better. That the air and water would be cleaner, that people would consume only what they need, that the arc of history would bend more quickly towards justice. Pete had carried out a campaign to draw attention to the real meaning of the holiday celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, just weeks before his death. A joyous line of singers chanting civil rights hymns paraded through Beacon, New York, on Monday, January 20. Sadly, Pete was unable to attend, a possible signal that his remaining life was slipping away.
The loss of his beloved wife, Toshi, in 2013, must have been overwhelming. No matter what he was able to achieve after her death, it wouldn’t be the same without her.
We will miss you, magnificent hero.
Note to readers: A proposal to rename the Tappan Zee Bridge in honor of Pete Seeger has been proposed by an elected official, and is gathering steam. Please add your voice in favor of this most appropriate honor, at https://www.change.org/petitions/gov-cuomo-name-the-new-tappan-zee-bridge-for-pete-seeger. Also, it is no longer certain that the landscape along the northerly stretch of the Palisades will remain pristine and undeveloped, as Pete would have wished. To learn about an alarming proposal in the works by LG Electronics to build a huge office tower atop the Palisades near the George Washington Bridge, visit: http://www.protectthepalisades.org.
Article copyright Vivian R. Carter 2014. Photo of the Palisades copyright Vivian R. Carter 2010. Other photos (including header photo) copyright Vivian R. Carter 2011.