Goodbye to the greatest entertainer I ever saw
With the passing of Pete Seeger, John wanted to share some special memories of meeting the folk legend.
Pete Seeger was a giant among men. Anyone who was ever exposed to his music came away a changed person. Such was the power and purity of his songs that, after hearing his message, you felt like doing something about it.
I was lucky enough to met Pete at a folk festival when I was twelve and that moment influenced me in ways far beyond music. His enthusiasm and joy for music were undeniable. As Pete would sing about the plight of coal miners, or migrant workers, or the corruption of mighty corporations, he would tap his toes, smile and flail a ringing banjo. A neat trick indeed.
Back in the seventies, I received a warm letter from Pete with a musical request. Pete had been sailing the Sloop Clearwater on the Hudson River as a way of alerting the public to the pollution that was poisoning the water, and this little ship came to symbolize what “the little guy” could do. In his letter, Pete explained that the passengers did a lot of singing onboard the Clearwater, and that one of their favorite songs was Proud Mary. To help further the environmental message, they were going to publish a little book of songs from the Clearwater and hoped to include Proud Mary. I was (and am) deeply flattered to be included in something so important. I wrote back that he of course had my approval but that he would still have to contact the people at Fantasy Records who (unfortunately) own the song. I had the good fortune to see Pete perform many times over the years. I always felt that this music was coming from a humble and uniquely gifted guy. On top of everything else, Pete Seeger was also the greatest entertainer I ever saw. This world needs more people like Pete Seeger. We will miss him.