Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Remembering Pete Seeger: "The Music of the Harp Which Trembles Round the World"

For Truthdig, Peter Scheer eulogizes Pete Seeger, who died yesterday:

Pete Seeger wasn’t one of those legendary performers who made the world a better place with music. He was the original. He was inimitable and unique and indomitable in his mission to bring light to the dark places.

At The NationJohn Nichols writes

So it went. Decade after decade. Singing and agitating and inspiring the children and the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren of those who had heard him singing the songs of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in 1938, or serenading Eleanor Roosevelt in 1944, or traveling with Henry Wallace’s presidential campaign in 1948.The hundreds of Occupy Wall Street activists who joined Seeger on a 35-block march through Manhattan in Octover 2011 knew that he was 70 years older than they were, but he was one of them; indeed, said his friend Gary Davis, Pete was "seeing his life come to fruition."

And as I read these and other eulogies and remember how much Pete Seeger's powerful testimony to human rights--and his music--have meant to me for years now, I think of Thoreau in the section of Walden discussing the "higher laws" that supersede laws written by human beings and enshrined in legal codes:

Our whole life is startlingly moral. There is never an instant’s truce between virtue and vice. Goodness is the only investment that never fails. In the music of the harp which trembles round the world it is the insisting on this which thrills us.

Homespun American wisdom written down by a person of conscience cranky enough to go to jail rather than pay taxes that would support the slave system--a man who, like Pete Seeger, chose to live apart from social entanglements that would, both feared, erode conscience . . . .  The music of Pete Seeger's banjo has long trembled round the world with its stirring call to defend human rights and reach out to those on the margins of society. May that music ring even louder now.

The video is from a 2009 interview with Pete Seeger by Alec Wilkinson, author of The Protest Singer: An Intimate Portrait of Pete Seeger, and uploaded to YouTube by Knopf/Doubleday.

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