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Guest Column

Pete Seeger and Me

Charles A. Rubin

Monday, February 3, 2014 • 12:31pm

Pete Seeger, who passed away on Monday at the age of 94, truly touched all of our lives.  We all know so many of his iconic songs;  If I Had a Hammer, Turn Turn Turn, and We shall Overcome, that have become the theme songs to our collective history.  I had the good fortune to have met him fleetlingly on two occasions

In 1976, on a weekend outing with my college hiking club near Beacon New York, Pete drove up to the cabin where we were staying to meet one of our members about something to do with Clearwater, the environmental organization that he was instrumental in founding. We had been sitting around with our guitars and when Pete saw the assemblage he went back out to his truck and got his banjo.  We were, of course, struck dumb to be in the presence of a legend not to mention being invited to make music with him.  With his amazing warmth, he broke down the barriers and had us playing and singing in no time.  I wish I could remember what we played and I wish even more right about now that we had recorded it.

The second time I met him was in 1987 when I was a volunteer at the Great Hudson River Revival, a folk festival that has been held since 1979 to benefit the Clearwater organization.  I had stayed over at a friends house in Ossining and was going to the festival on foot early on a Sunday morning when Pete and his wife Toshi pulled over to pick me up.  It was a beautiful day and we talked about how lucky we were that the weather was so nice.  I wish we had talked about something of more consequence.

Pete and Toshi are gone now but I believe that the songs that they sang and the work that they did will make them immortal. This land is your land, this land is my land….

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