Goodbye… Pete Seeger 1919-2012

Goodbye... Pete Seeger 1919-2012The contributions Pete made to the world will be felt for a long, long time. As a man, his gifts went beyond his music, and as a musician, it is hard to think of one who constantly shared with others—any others Pete came across—the knowledge of how to make music and the joy that can surround it. He stood up for what he believed in, supporting so many meaningful causes with that same joy, never anger. We are all better for having had Pete in our world.

I had his red book, How to Play the 5-String Banjo. It was and is a road map of how to make music with the banjo and gave me my first directions to a new life. I know at least 25 musicians who bought it too. Steve Martin and I got one the same week in the fall of 1964, and dug in. It was a busy winter. The door Pete opened for me led to Earl Scruggs, Doug Dillard, Bill Keith and many more. His life, a life that he shared with everyone, enriches mine to this day.

In 1995, at the Tennessee Banjo Institute gathering (more than 300 banjo players in one place!), I drove my car and gear from a stage area workshop Pete and I had just shared, and headed to another stage about 150 yards away. Being from California, where you get in your car to cross the street, I pulled up alongside Pete as he walked to the same stage and asked, “Pete, can I give you a lift?” He was about 78 then, and his spry answer, after looking up at the sun, looking at my car, then looking at the sky again was, “No…but thanks. Too nice a day to not walk.”

The world was a better place when he was in it, and it will be a better place for that same reason. I will forever be grateful for the time I spent with him, and the times we played together. Thank you, Pete, for the inspiration of music, and how to be.

— John McEuen

One of the world’s leading banjoists, multi-instrumentalist John McEuen, a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, has released over 40 albums, including five Gold and four Platinum.


Goodbye... Pete Seeger 1919-2012

Pete Seeger and I lived on opposite sides of the Hudson River. I sent him photos of the Clearwater I’d taken from from my deck, and a cartoon about Noah’s Ark. Pete sent the photo back with a mini-history of the real Ark and signed it with his usual drawing of a banjo.

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