The news this morning that Pete Seeger had died was not unexpected; the man was 95-years-old. And yet it came as a blow, for Pete's spirit was youthful until the end, and his stature and inspirational value had only grown with the passing of time.
That a February 8 Lake Worth tribute concert in his honor had already been in the works is a happy/sad coincidence. The show's subtitle is somewhat narrowly focused: "A History of the Labor Movement Through Song." But the main title could not be more apt: "Carry It On."
In addition to performances by an all-star lineup of local musicians, the show will be knit together with historical narrative, slides and video. Audio of intros by Pete himself will precede some numbers. Here's how the show's organizers describe the event:
Pete Seeger, the iconic singer, songwriter and tireless worker for the environment, peace, civil liberties and civil rights, will be celebrating his 95th birthday on May 3 of this year. Honor Pete by coming to his concert of songs based upon the book he co-authored, Carry It On. Pete and his wife Toshi withdrew all of their savings to have the book reprinted on a union press.
With his pal Woody Guthrie, Pete toured the country adapting words for the labor movement to old-time melodies.
There's a good deal one could add to that. Pete was a key figure in the folk music revival of the early '60s. At the height of the Great Red Scare of the '50s, he stood up to congressional investigators and risked jail time rather than rat on his friends. In the 1970s, he helped organize a major clean-up of the Hudson River, the Sloop Clearwater project, that became a model of environmental activism. At the first Obama inaugural, in 2009, he joined with Bruce Springsteen to sing Woody's alternative national anthem "This Land is Your Land."
Concert organizer Joyce Brown told New Times the February 8 event is modeled on a similar concert she put together in Philadelphia when Carry It On was first reissued in 1986. "We wanted to do [a Lake Worth concert] four years ago but Pete begged off," she said. "He didn't want to be seen as a hero. He saw himself as an ordinary citizen working for just causes, singing and bringing people together."
We're sure some rightwing types somewhere have already seized on the news of Pete's passing as an occasion to bash the bard once more with the tired old charges -- Communist, un-American. Pete was, for a period, a Communist Party member. But never was anyone more deeply American, with more faith in common people and the republic's egalitarian ideals. He was, finally, Lincolnesque.
Carry It On: Concert Tribute to Pete Seeger. Performers include: Anne Feeney, Cerina Anderson, Grant Livingston, Kat Mahoney, Marie Nofsinger, Mel and Vinnie, Tracy Sands. Saturday, February 8, 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m., Lake Worth Playhouse, 713 Lake Ave., Lake Worth. For tickets visit lakeworthplayhouse.com.
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