Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Goodbye, Pete Seeger, Goodbye

I used to be a great sleeper, could fall asleep on a dime and luxuriated in eight, even ten hours of zzzs, when I could catch them. Then children and menopause came around. So now, not so much so.

In fact, getting enough sleep is the bane of my life right now. I make a cranky insomniac, and though I tend to think of this as a new problem, every now and then I remember: I had a terrible sleep problem as a child. That was so long ago (I am OLD) and had been resolved for so many years, I'd nearly completely forgotten.

But yes, as a child of four, six, eight, ten, I would lie abed for hours, waiting for sleep to come, terrified of the night. And the one thing that would help? My record player. And my absolutely favorite album of all time? Pete Seeger's Sleep-Time Songs & Stories.

Without even trying I can instantly conjure his voice, telling me a wonderful bedtime story. There's Pete now, talking and singing of the giant Abeyoyo, conquered by a mischievous fiddling magician and his son; or of Sam, the young whaler, up high in the ship's eagles nest, ever searching, until... "Thar she blows!"

I was saddened to hear of his passing yesterday, of that chapter closing. But I also know, 94 is a good long run. And, as all the news sources said, he was chopping wood a scant ten days ago.  I also know he passed surrounded by love and loved ones. He passed making his mark on the century that was, and on the future rolling ever onward.

Pete Seeger was woven throughout my childhood in too many ways to begin to tell. My parents were lovers of folk music. In fact they met at the Music Inn in Lenox Massachussets, a wonderful place for lovers of folk music and jazz in the 1950s. A place Pete often played.

I saw Pete play numerous times in my childhood, most memorably at some of the first Clearwater Festivals. I remember the sun sparkling on the Hudson River, the majestic old sloop, and Pete serenading me with "Little Boxes" and "Roll on Columbia."

And then, many years later, I was working video production at the Philadelphia folk festival in 1991, where there was a Seeger Family reunion concert that year. It was clear his voice was starting to fade a bit, but still lovely to hear him sing again, especially surrounded and supported by his talented, musical family.

Finally, when my father died three years ago, an old Pete Seeger song kept playing in my head, over and over. At the end of their lives, my father and Pete looked a lot alike. (And I wrote all about that in a post, here: Why, Oh Why?)

I am still spooked whenever I see a picture of him pop up on the internet, my first thought being "Dad?" and then, no, just Pete.

So sorry to see you go, Pete.

“Why, oh why, oh why, oh; why, oh why, oh why?

Because, because, because, because.

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.”

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