At first, it may be difficult for a younger generation to connect with Pete Seeger, the legendary folk singer who died Monday at 94.
Sure, they may recognize the name from their parents’ (or grandparents’) folk record collection. Or maybe he made a blip on young people’s radar during his infamous march with Occupy protesters in October 2011, in which a then-91-year-old Seeger, his grandson, and Arlo Guthrie led the crowd in a rendition of “We Shall Overcome.” It’s possible you remember him as the old dude onstage with Bruce Springsteen at Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration, speaking the lyrics to “This Land is Your Land” so the crowd could sing along. Or maybe you’ve heard the tall tales, as Seeger was long accused of being a folk purist who attempted to cut the cord on Bob Dylan’s electric performance at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival (Seeger said he merely wanted to hear the lyrics clearly).
He was as much an activist as a singer for seven decades, challenging Adolf Hitler, nuclear power, and Communism (of which he was also accused) while leading a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career. But even if this generation doesn’t immediately relate to Seeger, his message remains universal.
In this brief interview, the peace-loving Seeger shares a wealth of world experience anyone can appreciate.
“Some person seeing the sunrise will get silent and another person seeing the sunrise will shout. So we human beings are very different in many ways. But within this century, we will learn how to talk instead of shoot and when words fail, we’ll try a different language. And if they fail then, we will try music or pictures or good food. But somehow, we will learn to respect each other and little by little, cross over.”
It’s particularly appropriate that the clip fades out to a song Seeger penned in 1973 with a refrain of, “Well may the world go when I’m far away.” The man himself may now be far away but his contributions, actions, songs, and most of all, words live on.