Then someone put his name on a government black list
It’s the same old story, gonna be hell to pay
When the sins are totaled up on that judgment day”
When I included Pete’s name in the lyrics of “Judgment Day,” a song I wrote more than a decade ago, I already knew Pete Seeger was icon of American folk music and an activist for social justice. But I learned years later that he was so much more.
After his death last month, I finally got around to watching the documentary “Pete Seeger: The Power of Song,” that I had recorded on the DVR a few months earlier. This great film not only details Pete’s early years and musical influences, but also his efforts to speak out about social wrongs and environmental problems in America.
In an interview with Johnny Cash, Pete noted that he wasn’t ever trying to be negative about his native country. He saw it as his patriotic duty to speak out.
But Seeger didn’t just talk. He organized efforts such as the one that resulted in cleaning up the Hudson River. He was an instrumental part of that effort, helping to build a boat and sailing it on the river to call attention to the issue.
Singer-songwriter David LaMotte, who once was part of a show featuring Seeger, told the story of how when Pete got to the venue he didn’t like the organized rows of chairs that were set up for the audience. He wanted a more relaxed arrangement that would make people feel more like they were part of the show.
Instead of asking anyone for help, the eighty-plus-year-old Pete went out and started moving the chairs around.
Pete Seeger was a force of nature. Fortunately for all of us he was a force for good.