But That Doesn't Mean He's Gone
    • TUESDAY, JANUARY 28, 2014

    • Posted by: Matt Howard

    Pete Seeger, legendary folk singer-songwriter and activist passed away last night in a New York hospital. He was 94.

    Shortly after his passing, Arlo Guthrie, Seeger's longtime friend, fellow folk artist and son of late legend Woody Guthrie shared this inspiring note on his Facebook:

    Pete Seeger:

    I usually do a little meditation and prayer every night before I go to sleep - Just part of the routine. Last night, I decided to go visit Pete Seeger for a while, just to spend a little time together, it was around 9 PM. So I was sitting in my home in Florida, having a lovely chat with Pete, who was in a hospital in New York City. That's the great thing about thoughts and prayers- You can go or be anywhere.

    I simply wanted him to know that I loved him dearly, like a father in some ways, a mentor in others and just as a dear friend a lot of the time. I'd grown up that way - loving the Seegers - Pete & Toshi and all their family.

    I let him know I was having trouble writing his obituary (as I'd been asked) but it seemed just so silly and I couldn't think of anything that didn't sound trite or plain stupid. "They'll say something appropriate in the news," we agreed. We laughed, we talked, and I took my leave about 9:30 last night.

    "Arlo" he said, sounding just like the man I've known all of my life, "I guess I'll see ya later." I've always loved the rising and falling inflections in his voice. "Pete," I said. "I guess we will."

    I turned off the light and closed my eyes and fell asleep until very early this morning, about 3 AM when the texts and phone calls started coming in from friends telling me Pete had passed away.

    "Well, of course he passed away!" I'm telling everyone this morning. "But that doesn't mean he's gone."

    "But that doesn't mean he's gone."—a comforting phrase often used to ease the heartache of a loved one's passing. But unlike the typical 'angel watching over you' implication, Guthrie's closing line is far more palpable. Through both his music and his messages, Pete Seeger's legacy will continue to embody itself in the world around us.

    Looking at a musical family tree, atop the list of influential folk artists sits Pete Seeger. Without Seeger and his iconic five-string banjo, we likely would never have heard the music of names like Dylan and Baez. And similarly, his positioning at the front lines of major 20th Century social movements influenced future musical activists from Joe Strummer to Tom Morello.

    Seeger penned many of the original protest rallying cries, whose words are still echoed at contemporary demonstrations. Not only do his songs still circulate, but up until his passing, Seeger himself was a prominent figure at major rallies. As seen during a march in New York City at the height of the Occupy Movement:

    And his ability to be a voice for the voiceless stretched into his final days. During his Farm Aid performance last September, Seeger joined John Mellencamp, Neil Young, Willie Nelson, and Dave Matthews to perform "If I Had a Hammer" and "This Land Is Your Land", into which he slipped a new verse against fracking. Seeger was radical til the very end.

    "Nobody living can ever stop me as I go walking my freedom highway. Nobody living can make me turn back. This land was made for you and me."

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