“Peter “Pete” Seeger (May 3, 1919 – January 27, 2014) was an American folk singer and left-wing activist. A fixture on nationwide radio in the 1940s, he also had a string of hit records during the early 1950s as a member of the Weavers, most notably their recording of Lead Belly‘s “Goodnight, Irene“, which topped the charts for 13 weeks in 1950. Members of the Weavers were blacklisted during the McCarthy Era. In the 1960s, he re-emerged on the public scene as a prominent singer of protest music in support of international disarmament, civil rights, counterculture and environmental causes.” (wikipedia entry). He died peacefully in his sleep January 27,2014. He survived his wife of 75 years by a mere 6 months. There will never be another like him or at least that is the wish of most right wing reactionaries.
I was fortune to be able to hear Peter Seeger live in Australia in 1963 at a concert held at Sydney University. Because of his left wing views Seeger had been prevented from leaving the USA (“land of the free”) to tour and, I suspect, the Australian tour was one of his first appearances outside the USA. I am not one to be celebrity struck but that concert left an indelible mark on my memory. Pete strode onto the stage with a banjo in one hand and a 12 string guitar in the other. With only his voice and those two props he gave us a memorable night of mostly traditional songs and counter culture attitudes. It was a portrait of an America that we hardly knew. Before that concert I had never heard banjo played that way; nor seen a 12 string guitar; and I had never heard of Huddie Leadbetter (Leadbelly). Since that time I have not heard a performance that matched the one on that night. The nearest I have come to it was the concert by Chris Coole at the Clawhammer in Fernie a year or so ago. The wikipedia entry suggests that the Peter Seeger tour initiated a folk boom in Australia and was responsible for the explosion in folk clubs and folk music in general in Australia. I would contest that notion. I further suggest that the Seeger tour was a response to an already significant ground swell of traditional music, and specifically Australian folk music, that was well under way prior to the tour. I suspect the folk boom got under way in Australia because of the influence of the new British immigrants to the country who were already well versed in traditional music back in the old country. Be-that-as-it-may, I am forever thankful for the concert and the life of Pete Seeger.