In this day and age of self-aggrandizing pop stars, It is hard for today’s generation to imagine that there ever existed a selfless singer of song who’s only concern was the causes he sang about and not his celebrity. Well there was, and still exists a man of such integrity and I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down and chat with him. I’m speaking of America’s last folk hero, Pete Seeger.
As an artist myself focused on challenging people to think more deeply about sociopolitical issues, I was overjoyed to have been invited to Mr. Seeger’s cabin to meet a man who has done so much for so many for so long.
A champion of the disenfranchised since the 1940’s, Pete has been railing against war, pollution, racism, greed, and social injustice for eight decades. He bravely risked a 10-year prison sentence for defying Senator Joe McCarthy’s witch hunt in the 50’s and popularized the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” for Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic march in the 60’s. His anti-war song “Knee Deep in the Big Muddy” served the same role in the ending of the Vietnam War. He founded the Clearwater organization, which continues to clean up the Hudson River. At 94, he’s still fighting the good fight, recently leading Willie Nelson, Dave Mathews, Neil Young and John Mellencamp in song against fracking at the Farm Aide concert.
Neither the threat of prison, censorship or loss of monitory gain has ever dissuaded Pete from standing up for what he believes in or tempted him to compromise his principles. His unwavering and selfless dedication is the reason he is so widely admired. Besides being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and winning a Grammy at 90, he has been bestowed with the National Medal of Arts and a Kennedy Center Honor. He was chosen to sing at President Obama’s historic first inauguration. There is even a petition to nominate him for a greatly deserved Nobel Prize at http://www.change.org/petitions/nobel-peace-prize-nominate-pete-seeger-for-the-nobel-peace-prize?share_id=yAXbIXJqKF&utm_campaign=signature_receipt&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition I don’t know how he reacted when Bruce Springsteen devoted an entire album to Pete’s songs, but being the humble man he is, I saw Pete wince when told about the portrait I did of him titled “Beacon Of Hope” (http://artandresponse.com/paintings/beacon-of-hope.html) hanging in Pete’s (and my) hometown of Beacon. Pete doesn’t really care about all these honors, he only cares about the making the world a fairer place for generations and preserving it for future ones. I believe the best way to honor Pete and his legacy is for each of us to do what we can to continue his work.
– Michael D’Antuono www.ArtandResponse.com