Hearing that Pete Seeger turned 90 today reminded me how much I like watching "The Power of Song," a documentary about Pete that is often played on PBS during fundraising drives. I’ve watched bits and pieces of it over the years and one night I watched the whole thing which is really what you need to do in order to appreciate the uniqueness of Pete Seeger. Pete has written a whack of great songs, which most of us have sung along to (no matter how cool we are), and he uses his music to unite people around causes like civil rights, anti-war and the environment. When he was blacklisted in the ’50s he sang and played in the schools where he inadvertently developed a huge audience for what was to become a folk music revival and in the ’60s, when he wanted to get the Hudson River cleaned up, he got some friends together to build a big boat so they could take children out of the classroom and onto the river to learn about ecology. In the documentary Pete’s described as a "total patriot" who cares about his country enough to speak out when things aren’t right—in contrast to the opinion, especially strong since 9-11, that the most unpatriotic thing an American can do is criticize their own country.
Pete’s voice isn’t what it used to be but he can still inspire an audience to clap, stomp and sing along to "If I Had a Hammer" and that’s, as they say, way cool.
Happy Birthday, Pete.