The loss this past January of musician, activist, pioneer, and humanitarian Pete Seeger prompted an outpouring of tributes and appreciation from all corners of the world. So it's little wonder that his local admirers are preparing to pay homage as well. On Sunday, May 4, a group of South Florida folkies, activists, and enthusiasts will participate in an afternoon event dubbed "Remembering Pete and Toshi Seeger: A Musical Tribute" at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Lauderdale. The concert will feature the top names in our local folk circles -- among them, Rod MacDonald, Laurie Jennings, Grant Livingston, Ellen Buskel, Marie Koppelman, Tracy Sands, and Amy Carol Webb -- and will celebrate the spirit of the Seegers' visionary philosophy.
"Pete introduced a lot of important songs and stood for a powerful idea, that music is more than entertainment, but also a means of addressing the reality of our world," explains MacDonald, one of the event's chief organisers. "I think his philosophy -- that if you can get people together, anything is possible -- is what's most memorable."
That's the idea behind this event, and it's in that spirit that MacDonald, Labryrinth Cafe administrator Susan Moss, and Seeger fans and enthusiasts Bob and Patty Bender to unite in bringing this project to fruition. "I just knew everyone would want to do it," MacDonald insists. "It's a way for the musical community to come together in tribute to someone we all loved."
"How could we not respond enthusiastically when Rod initiated this event and consulted us about the involvement of South Florida activists?" Bob Bender remarks. "Pete Seeger was a role model, a brilliant folk musician, and compassionate human being." Bender recalls first hearing Seeger and his group the Weavers singing Leadbelly's "Goodnight Irene" on a late night Philadelphia radio program in 1951 and being so enamoured by the broadcast that attending Seeger concerts became a family tradition. He started it when he met his wife Patty and it continued when they began bringing their children as well. That practice reached its pinnacle in 2009 when Bob and Patty co-emceed Seeger's 90th Birthday Bash.
Asked why the Seeger legacy continues to resonate, Bender offers a ready response, or rather, several. "Pete was a brilliant musician. Pete was always a sensitive and committed grassroots social activist. Pete was a principled and courageous human being and a disciplined organiser and writer. Pete got people singing and moving. He embodied social change. Pete was eternally optimistic, with unerring political instincts."
As for Toshi, she too isn't far from his thoughts. "Toshi brought her own passion and style to social movements," he says. "She once quipped something to the effect that if only Pete's passions had involved other women instead of other causes, her life would have been simpler -- though not better -- without him."
Remembering Pete and Toshi Seeger: A Musical Tribute. 1:30 p.m., at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Lauderdale, 3970 N.W. 21 Ave, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $20 and must be purchased in advance before April 28. Call Susan Moss at 954-478-8637.