There were many celebrations for what would have been Pete Seeger’s 95th birthday throughout the country last weekend. But one of the most unique celebrations of Pete’s life was held last Sunday night (May 4) at the Towne Crier Café in his hometown of Beacon.
Producer and noted percussionist Jeff Haynes masterminded a multimedia celebration of Pete’s life and times. Haynes’ roots are not in the folk tradition; rather, his musical background is in jazz, and he has played and toured with the likes of Pat Metheny, Cassandra Wilson, Al Jarreau and Lizz Wright and Peabo Bryson.
Haynes used his interpretation skills both as a musician and as a producer/engineer to blend a wide variety of musical styles on the Grammy nominated CD, Pete Seeger: The Storm King, which featured Pete telling stories of his life and times accompanied by musicians of many genres and a revolving slide show of Pete and his wife Toshi’s life.
TURN, TURN, TURN!: REMEMBERING PETE SEEGER The Eighth Step at Proctors, Schenectady
8pm Friday (April 4), $15
The Eighth Step welcomes several long-time musician friends and others whose performing lives were intertwined with Pete Seeger’s. Several of the performers appeared frequently with Pete Seeger including singer-songwriter Dan Einbender (Grammy Award winner for the CD Pete Seeger & the Rivertown Kids), the honey-voiced Hudson Valley quintet Betty & the Baby Boomers (who will be joined by Celtic harpist Lynn Saoirse) and Albany’s own Ruth Pelham (the Queen of the Music Mobile). The evening will also feature short video clips of Pete Seeger and an exhibit of Seeger images by photographer Robert Corwin. Wanda Fischer (host and producer of WAMC-FM’s “Hudson River Sampler”) and Eighth Step director Margie Rosenkranz (former artistic director for Seeger’s Clearwater Great Hudson River Revival festival) will co-host the festivities.
The little Hudson Valley hamlet of Marlboro doubled in size last Saturday night (February 22), when the Falcon hosted “A Celebration of the Life & Legacy of Pete Seeger.” Performers and audience from near and far flocked to “the Village Vanguard” of the Hudson Valley to celebrate Pete Seeger’s life in song and joy. People parked as far away as a half mile away for the event.
Pete was there in spirit and voice. Recordings of Pete telling stories of his life and family – as recorded by producer/musician Jeff Haynes – were played in between songs.
94-year-old American music icon Pete Seeger was an unannounced special guest at Farm Aid at SPAC on Saturday (September 21). Following his introduction by John Mellencamp, Seeger walked out on stage with his long-neck banjo and led the crowd in a sing-along of “If I Had a Hammer.”
Then Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, Neil Young and Willie Nelson joined him onstage as Seeger sang Woody Guthrie’s classic “This Land Is Your Land,” which included a new verse from Seeger that ended with the lyric, “New York was meant to be frack-free.”
Pete Seeger and Peggy Seeger (photos by Rudy Lu courtesy of The Eighth Step)
Review by Charlie Braverman
Photographs (from soundcheck) by Rudy Lu
It is still Pete’s season.
Saw Pete Seeger last weekend. So old, he has outlived his singing voice, which died a quiet death years ago… but was it from old age – or a vast right wing conspiracy, you decide.
Played to a packed house of doddering devotees, average age topping 72 years old. The concert, itself, was so long (over three hours) that seven audience members dropped dead of natural causes over the course of the evening. A concert that long mixed with an audience that old, you naturally expect some ‘spillage.’ “And the big fool said, push on…”
[NOTE: nobody died during the performance; that was hyperbole.]
Pete Seeger and Peggy Seeger (photo by Rudy Lu courtesy of The Eighth Step)
Review by Greg Haymes
Photograph (from soundcheck) by Rudy Lu
Peggy Seeger said it best with a new song that she had penned for her brother Pete’s 94th birthday. It kicked off the second half of the evening, and she was joined by Bill Vanaver on banjo, Happy Traum on guitar and quartet of Seeger family ‘n’ friends back-up singers as she settled down at the piano and sang, “It’s Pete. It’s Pete. Strummin’ his banjo, stampin’ his feet. That lanky man comes down your street, and what do you know… you’re singing.”
The sold-out audience at Proctors rose to their feet in a hearty standing ovation as soon as Pete Seeger ambled out onto the stage, and they were singing along – loudly and frequently in harmony – by the second line of the Seegers’ opening song – the time-honored “Worried Man Blues.”
Story & interview by Don Wilcock
Photograph by Thomas Lindsay
Before folk music icon Pete Seeger had the Sloop Clearwater built to call attention to the need to clean up the Hudson River, he’d had little experience on the water. “(A friend) took me out at midnight sailing in a little thing called a Beetle Cat – 11 feet long, one sail – and for the first time in my life I found out why people spend millions of dollars on private sailboats,” he says. “It’s not how fast you go, but the fact that you move at all. (Sailing) is a wonderful analogy for life. You use the force of the wind against you to move against it.”
Seeger has been using society’s own negative forces to fight against them in a career that spans more than 70 years. Appearing before the House on Un-American Activities in the ’50s, he pled the first amendment instead of the fifth. “I pled the first. It says in effect you have no right to ask me this question, and nobody like you has the right to ask questions like this of anybody.”
He and his sister Peggy Seeger will celebrate his 94th birthday and the Eighth Step’s 45th at 7pm on Sunday, Mother’s Day (May 12), when the Eighth Step takes over Proctors’ Mainstage in Schenectady.
Pete Seeger is the man who made “We Shall Overcome” the mantra of the civil rights movement. He is the cohesive force that moved folk music into the general public’s consciousness, giving the genre a cause above the simple messages of artists like the Kingston Trio and Burl Ives. He has stood tall for the common man from the moment he first took the stage. Humble to the point of being mistaken for naïve, he does not consider himself a singer, but rather a song leader, and can’t believe he has the power to “fill an old movie theater with 2000 people.”
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