When the Committee asked me about that song [Wasn’t That A Time], I said, “Well, that’s a good song, and I know it. I’ll sing it for you”.
“No. We don’t want to hear it. We want to know did you sing it on such and such a place and date?”
I said, “I would be glad to sing any song I ever sang. But as to where I’ve sung them, I think that’s no business of this Committee. I’ve got a right to sing these songs. I’ve got a right to sing them anywhere.”
I was headed to Poughkeepsie Station this morning when I got the news. Pete Seeger had died the night before. He was a neighbor, in a way—Beacon, where he lived, isn’t so far from us, and he came up the Hudson River from time to time, sometimes on his on Clearwater Sloop and to Poughkeepsie Day School in 2010 . “But this was far from his first visit to PDS.”
As reported in the Poughkeepsie Journal of January 12th 1949, he came to play folk music for the fourth, fifth and sixth grades in a concert open to the public. . . . That 1949 concert was a benefit for Peoples Songs Inc., an organization he had co-founded in 1945 with the belief that folk music could be an effective force for social change.
I only met him once, and it was a neighborly sort of thing. I was waiting for a train at Poughkeepsie Station, headed down to New York City, just like I was today. He was with his wife, Toshi. She was sitting on a bench, and he was standing. He came up to me and struck up a conversation. He didn’t know me, of course, and though I knew who he was, as a well-trained New Yorker, I didn’t let on. He pointed out things about the station renovation he thought could have been done better, things that showed what went into it, about its history, about the working people who’d made it all happen, from the beginning.
Pete Seeger carried on in the lineage of Woody Guthrie. He had a long arc of life, and he got the big things right all the way through, including making sure all the lyrics of Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land got sung that inauguration day not so long ago.
A great high wall there tried to stop me
A great big sign there said: ‘Private Property’
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing.
That sign was made for you and me.
He never gave up, and he never gave in. He always had his banjo or his guitar, and he always had a tune.
So long, Pete. It’s been good to know ya.
The photograph at the head of the post was taken at Poughkeepsie Day School in 2010. The other photograph may be found here. The quotations are from the sources linked in the post.