I was lucky to see Pete Seeger, the irrepressible Pete Seeger, in the 1990s at The Bottom Line in New York. It was about that time that I got a reviewer’s copy of “We Shall Overcome: The Complete Carnegie Hall Concert” from June 8, 1963.
Those two compact discs were transformational. It was the quietest, kindest revolution. Here was this gentle, persistent man leading what I imagined to be a buttoned-down crowd in songs ranging from “Skip To My Lou” to “This Land Is Your Land” and the timely “We Shall Overcome.” I still can’t listen to that version without breaking down.
In the liner notes, Pete quotes the English philosopher Alfred North Whitehead about duty and reverence: “Duty arises from our potential control over the course of events. Where attainable knowledge could have changed the issue, ignorance has the guilt of vice. And the foundation of reverence is this perception, that the present holds within itself the complete sum of existence, backwards and foreward, that whole amplitude of time, which is eternity.”
He writes that in 2004 he stayed in the cabin that Pete built in upstate New York and the next morning asked him how he got the massive stone lintel over the fireplace. “I lifted one end and wedged a stone underneath it. Then I lifted up the other end and got a stone under that side,” Seeger told him. “I kept going like that until I had it where I wanted it. It took a while”
“When I think of him now, it’s the only thing I really know about him:
When a thing seemed impossible, he saw that it was only difficult. Then he worked until it was inevitable.”
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