Presente! Sign Out for Pete and Toshi Seeger
January 29, 2014
Harvey Wasserman / EcoWatch & Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War
Toshi and Pete Seeger defy description. Their list of accomplishments will fill many printed pages, which all pale next to the simple core beauty of the lives they led. They showed us it's possible to live lives that somehow balance political commitment with joy, humor, family, courage and grace. All of which seemed to come as second nature to them, even as it was wrapped in an astonishing shared talent that will never cease to inspire and entertain.
CNN's Tribute to Pete Seeger
So Long, Pete & Toshi Seeger,
It's Been Amazingly Great to Know You
Harvey Wasserman / EcoWatch
(January 28, 2014) -- Toshi and Pete Seeger defy description except through the sheer joy and honor it was to know them, however briefly.
Their list of accomplishments will fill many printed pages, which all pale next to the simple core beauty of the lives they led.
They showed us it's possible to live lives that somehow balance political commitment with joy, humor, family, courage and grace. All of which seemed to come as second nature to them, even as it was wrapped in an astonishing shared talent that will never cease to inspire and entertain.
Pete passed on Monday, at 94, joining Toshi, who left us last year, at 91. They'd been married nearly 70 years.
Somehow the two of them managed to merge an unending optimism with a grounded, realistic sense of life in all its natural travails and glories.
Others who knew them better than I will have more specific to say, and it will be powerful and immense.
But, if it's ok with you, I'd like to thank them for two tangible things, and then for the intangible but ultimately most warming.
First: In 1978, we of the Clamshell Alliance were fighting the nuclear reactors being built at Seabrook, NH. An amazing grassroots movement had sprung up. With deep local roots, it helped birth the campaign for a nuke-free/green-powered Earth that still evolves.
We had staged successful civil disobedience actions in 1976-7 that grew from Ron Rieck solo climbing a weather tower (in January!) to 18 arrests to 180. Then in April, 1977, some 2,000 folks came from all over the U.S. to an occupation whose 1,414 arrests filled the Granite State's National Guard armories for two media-saturated weeks.
In the summer of 1978 a complex, controversial chain of events led us to shift from a civil disobedience action to a legal rally. It was daring, difficult and divisive. We had no idea what would happen.
But the weekend dawned with bright sunshine . . . and with Pete! Joined by Jackson Browne and John Hall, their presence helped transform a challenging gathering into something truly transcendent. It was, like Pete himself, an unassuming miracle.
Thirty years later our sister Connie Hogarth brought me to Pete and Toshi's hillside cabin overlooking the Hudson, not far enough from Indian Point. With utter nonchalance Pete had built one of the world's first electric vehicles by gutting the engine from an old pick-up and filling it with car batteries. It got him to town and back. It did the job.
Like the Clearwater. A boat to sail the Hudson. To do it well while making a point about the Earth and what she needs.
They chopped wood and made preserves and it was all so comfortably grounded. Toshi had a deeply affecting grace, an irresistible combination of firm direction and gentle wisdom. And those sparkling eyes. What a glorious partnership!
But I had an agenda. I wanted a song for Solartopia, a vision of a green-powered Earth. And who was a pischer like me to ask?
Pete's response was instant, warm, enthusiastic. He whipped out that legendary banjo of his and within five minutes he had a song. A good one.
He asked me to write some verses, then gently informed me that as a songwriter, I should keep my day job (which would've been great if I had one!).
So he handed me a set of envelopes carefully addressed to various lyricists. We kicked the thing around for a year or so.
Then his wonderful colleague David Bernz came up with verses Pete liked. Joined by Dar Williams and a chorus of "Rivertown Kids," they recorded it in a single take, and it found its way on to an album that won a Grammy.
Something only Pete Seeger could have done. Because for all the catalogue of his political battles, his unshakable integrity and his giving nature, this was a guy with an astonishing talent.
Someone who could help conjure a political anthem like "If I Had a Hammer" and then help join it with a gorgeous love song like "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine."
A man who conspired to give the picket lines of the world "We Shall Overcome" and then took "Turn, Turn, Turn" from the Bible to a rock anthem.
A performer who could sing and sing well deep into his nineties, his innate sense of justice and dignity completely in tact.
So we could go on and on like that, but Pete and Toshi wouldn't have had the patience for it. Their longevity was a great gift. It gave us all time to appreciate them, to assess what meant the most to so many of us about them, to understand the beauty of their mentoring.
These were people who knew who they were and stayed true to it. They were incredibly talented. They raised their kids, lived on the land, learned as they went along, embraced new things, but stayed true to an abiding faith in compassion and grace.
So now . . . with tears of gratitude and joy . . . so long, dear friends.
How good it's been for all of us to know you.
Pete Seeger Sings "Bring 'em Home"
Get Active -- For Pete’s Sake
By Gar Smith (Written in honor of Pete Seeger's 92nd birthday in 2011)
If you’re humming in your hammock on a sunny summer day
And you hear some gears a-groaning on a hill across the way
It just might be a feller-buncher tearing down some trees
So grab a rope and climb a limb and tell the loggers: “Freeze!”
Don’t lie there like a log, my friend, and tell the world to “Screw it!”
You want a pot of java, Joe? You’ve simply gotta brew it.
A better world is waiting ‘round the bend, so hasten to it.
A boat is just afloat unless there’s someone there to crew it.
Hope is like a libr’ry card — you need to go renew it.
There’s really nothing to it.
For Pete’s Sake, do it!
If you’re punching clocks and buying stocks and diving into debt,
Just take a break and shake a leg and make yourself a bet,
To see what you can fix around the house, the yard, or block
Between the crack of dawn and up to midnight, twelve o-clock.
Don’t give up and grumble how now, “Everything is fake.”
Give back a little heck for every nasty knock you take.
Push ahead and raise some dust with every step you make.
Don’t bitch and moan, go skip a stone — across the whole darn lake.
Head out for the open road and never hit the brake,
Pursue the wild and sing your song and dance — for old Pete’s sake!
If you’re walking down the sidewalk and you spot a chap in trouble
Don’t steer your feet across the street and head home on the double
Assert yourself, insert yourself, step forth and take as stand
Demand what’s right and join the fight for justice, life and land.
If you’re feeling kind of hungry in the middle of the day
Avoid that fast-food burger hut and walk the other way.
Your backyard garden’s just the place to score a tasty snack
Those seeds you planted back in April now are paying back.
Too many have too little and too few have got a lot.
Ten million souls in prison have been tossed aside to rot.
Our land is of the free, they say, our home is of the brave.
But if you’re poor, you’re shown the door and treated like a slave.
The masters of the world rely on owning every word.
In pulpit, print and politics, it’s money that is heard
Explaining what is real and good and what is right and wrong.
But all these lies will wither in the torchlight of a song.
The sun will rise, the sun will set, as dusk returns to dawn.
The years will roll, the bells will toll, those coming will be gone.
The ax will rise, the ax will fall, the forests fall and rise.
The tides return in endless reach beneath the starlit skies.
We mark our days in pain and praise -- a game of give and take.
And with the wind, we’ll kiss the ground and smile -- for old Pete’s sake!