[Editor’s note: It’s a privilege to here publish this kind, wise and unflinching remembrance of the recently-passed-on Pete Seeger from Bob Cohen (aka Cantor Bob), who knew him, sang with him, and for a time traveled with him.]
I am writing about my mentor and one-time hero of beloved memory, Pete Seeger, or as young women called him back in the day: “Pete’s eager!” I learned so much about the rich, humorous, plaintive, and energetic repertoire of the folks of the U.S.A. and also all over the world from Pete. And I learned from him how to get people to sing sitting under his Adam’s apple at Carnegie Hall or at a hootenanny on the Upper West Side of NYC.
Pete always used humor. He would say: “If you sing a wrong note call it harmony!” His banjo was like a magic wand that got even the grouchy to exhale a rousing chorus, be it: “We Shall Overcome” or “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain When She Comes”—both based on Black Gospel songs.
I first heard Pete as I was growing up in the ’50s and ’60s and the folk revival was starting on its way. Charity Bailey, our music teacher at the Little Red School House, had filled us for years with the songs of railroad workers, sailors, farmers, and prisoners—from “Drill Ye Terriers, Drill” to “The Midnight Special.” It was quite a distance away from the old school songs such as “Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes” and “Home Sweet Home” tho I still love those old-fashioned passionate love songs. Pete was on the radio and on records (78 rpm discs) and sang at our school at many an assembly. Continue reading Memories of Pete Seeger