Singing Seeger’s praises

Pete Seeger
Folk music legend Pete Seeger performs during a concert marking his 90th birthday at Madison Square Garden in New York in 2009. Seeger died this week died at the age of 94.
(Timothy A. Clary / AFP/Getty Images)

Letters written in response to an obituary rarely number more than a few. The Times’ article this week on the life and passing of balladeer Pete Seeger, by contrast, drew nearly two dozen letters.

Most who wrote reflected on Seeger’s music, but some shared their personal experiences with the folk singer. One reader sent us a lengthy letter she received from Seeger in 1962 in response to her fan mail. “Take it easy, but take it,” Seeger ended his response.

Here is a selection of the letters on Seeger.

-- Paul Thornton, letters editor


Stefani Rosenberg of Los Angeles, who received the letter from Seeger, said she didn’t expect a reply:

“In 1962, my cousin and I were teenagers and admirers of Seeger — so much so that we wrote him a letter, never expecting a response. To our surprise, he did reply. We have cherished this letter all these years.

“Here was a man who took the time to respond to two young impressionable girls. He shared his personal stories with us and expressed interest in our lives. He even discussed his plans to learn to sail.

“Reading it today, my cousin and I are just as moved and touched as we were more than 50 years ago.”


Ventura resident Marianne Coffey said Seeger’s music was a positive influence on her children:

“My children attended Seeger’s concerts from a young age. He brought melody and verse to social justice, and embodied everything we seek from music. Most of all he taught my children we need to build a world with more musicians and fewer soldiers.

“We have lost a gifted musician, a great American, a cherished humanitarian. His music touched so many, rich and poor alike, and his joyful spirit will remain in our hearts forever.”

Fred Janssen of Long Beach recalls one of Seeger’s stirring performances:

“In the early 1970s, I saw Seeger on ‘The Tonight Show’ singing his antiwar track, ‘Last Train to Nuremberg.’ The lyrics examined responsibility for atrocities in Vietnam. Seeger sang, ‘Tell me, is this blood upon my hands?’

“It was a searing performance that challenged the viewing audience with a very uncomfortable question. The fact that he was brave enough to even ask it made for a moment unlike anything I’ve seen before or since on network television.”

Kagel Canyon resident Katharine Paull commends Seeger for a life well lived:

“How wonderful that Seeger kept his indomitable, forward-thinking spirit throughout his long life as he crossed generations and cultures yet always remained true to his convictions that espoused the rights of all.


“I, for one, am thankful for the legacy he preserved and left us.”


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