Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What I Remember about Pete Seeger

The famous folk singer Pete Seeger died today at age 94.

I met Pete Seeger about 1988 when my family and I lived in Ossining, New York. Pete, as I recall, lived in Beacon, just up the Hudson River from Ossining. At the time, I was a young faculty member at The King’s College, a Christian college in Briarcliff Manor. I suspect that I might have been the only faculty member at that college who did not worship the Republican Party. I was not an activist for progressive causes at the time, but I did accompany my wife to some meetings of the Beacon Sloop Club (a sloop is a kind of boat), where you could always see Pete and his wife Toshi.

I actually don’t know very much about Pete’s musical career, nor would it be on-topic for a science blog like this one. But I do remember that Pete was always involved in making life better for the people of his local community. One time, about 1989, he was invited to address a public meeting of a municipal agency responsible for recycling and energy efficiency. While other speakers talked about technical issues, Pete sang some of his songs. To him, music was just part of what it meant to live rightly upon the Earth.

At one of the meetings of the Sloop Club, I talked to him about an annual event that the club sponsored: the Weed Wallow. Members and friends would wade into the Hudson River and remove by hand as many invasive plants as they could. I do not remember what the primary invasive species of aquatic plant was, but Pete told me that it had been introduced by a well-meaning clergyman who thought it could be used as food.

My memories may be slightly inaccurate. But it is clear to me that here was a man with a worldwide reputation but who was contented, even excited, to wade out into the mud and pull weeds. He lived rightly on the Earth, by his music and by his good ecological work.

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