Pete Seeger’s death at 94 leaves a huge hole in America’s moral conscience. The folk singer was a fixture in music, politics and American life for the latter half of the 20th century, and he continued performing and speaking in public -- including at President Obama’s 2009 inauguration and during the Occupy Wall Street protests -- until his death on Monday.
The outpouring from fellow musicians, writers and activists was immediate.
The White House released a statement describing Seeger as “America’s tuning fork,” and said that "[o]ver the years, Pete used his voice -- and his hammer -- to strike blows for workers’ rights and civil rights; world peace and environmental conservation. And he always invited us to sing along.” Seeger and Bruce Springsteen performed Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” at the Obama inauguration ceremony.
Springsteen directed fans to a video of his introduction of the legend at the concert celebrating Seeger’s 90th birthday. In 2006, Springsteen collaborated on an album of songs popularized by Seeger, and remains perhaps the most high-profile musical champion of Seeger’s songs and political messaging.
Willie Nelson sent a link to Seeger’s surprise set at Farm Aid in 2013.
Tom Morello, the Rage Against the Machine guitarist and an heir to Seeger’s union-song legacy as The Nightwatchman, directed fans to “Seeger’s uncompromising badass testimony before The House Un-American Activities Committee,” which is indeed an excellent way to remember his legacy of resistance.
Colin Meloy of the Decemberists described Seeger’s questioning before the HUAC as “a stain on our history and Pete was there to kick it in the shins.” Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros wrote that "[w]e will miss but never forget Pete Seeger. Thank you for all that you gave.”
Jay Sweet, a producer at the Newport Folk Festival (where, according to apocryphal tales, Seeger once wanted to cut the cable to Bob Dylan’s newfound electric guitar with an ax), wrote that “Pete’s advice to me was always pretty simple, “You need old folk’s music AND young people’s music. You see, without one you can’t have the other. ... [I]f asked how to pay tribute, my guess is Pete would say support a cause, join a movement, sing a song or just go chop some wood.”
Michael Moore, the filmmaker and left-leaning activist who worked with Seeger during the Occupy movement, wrote: “Pete Seeger. What can I say. He said it and sang it and lived it all. Our paths crossed many times, and I am the better for it. RIP.”
More remembrances will be added as they come in, but Seeger’s own “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” song censored from his performance on CBS’ Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967" is self-evident of his power.