so familiar, so comfortable like a worn out shoe, but in his case like a worn out shoe that mystically, never wears out. Like a fairytale, folktale kind of person but- a person that is really like that, not by design, but just by breathing in and out, like water flowing is just water. A stone rolling down a hill is a stone rolling. A tree in the wind is a tree in the wind. No subterfuge. No posing.
And when you heard him, and I did, throughout my childhood here and there on tv, and later, in
documentaries and finally, in Washington D.C. in 1983 at a human rights rally on the Mall, you had a feeling just like that. Like you were in a story he was singing, you were part of the story he was singing and you were happy to be and comforted like a child hearing the story, being the story and always, at his invitation, singing along.
In a country half-mad with rebranding itself every other minute it is refreshing to remember how he was
with his banjo just walking up and commencing to play. No fanfare. No preliminaries. Just like the
clouds drift and you watch them and you feel better.
Pete Seeger didn't have to rebrand himself. What he was was good enough. An American in his own way, a singer in his own rhythms. Steadfast. A lovely tune you couldn't get out of your head, but then, why would you want to. The news article I read online said he didn't like
the term folk singer. Call me a river singer he said. He flowed like a river indeed, unobtrusively, but needed in the landscape.
How we will miss him.
mary angela douglas 28 january 2014
P.S. The article that referenced Pete Seeger's preference for being called a river singer is by
Bob Minzesheimer of USA Today.