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Seeger Remembered

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AP Photo / FRANK FRANKLIN II

So many people have stories about Pete Seeger. Here's mine. In 1986, I was in Iowa, halfway across the country on the Great Peace March, a nine-month anti-nuclear weapons demonstration. I wasn't having a good morning. After ten or so miles of walking I arrived at the lunch stop to discover a plastic bin of cold, broken hot dogs, a few bags of hot dog buns, and a big bowl of ketchup. As I stared at the mess, feeling sorry for myself, I heard a little sound behind me. Pete ambled up, took a hot dog, put in in a bun, and rejoined the march.

That night, on the shore of some lake, in the midst of what seemed like a swirling moth storm, Pete sang for us, as he did many times that year. I remember him dancing through the moths singing "Abiyoyo," but mostly I remember his reworking of the hymn "Old Hundred":

The fish that swim, the birds that fly, The deepest seas, the stars on high, Bear witness now that you and I Sing peace on earth and sea and sky.

I've always sung somewhat out of tune, so had never been fully comfortable singing with others. That night, as he did countless times at all types of gatherings, Pete transformed us into a multi-part choir. I could make out my voice in the harmonies, and it sounded, really for the first time, like it had found its place.

At another massive sing-along, in Youngstown, Ohio, Pete stopped to suggest that when the march ended, each of us might want to think about finding a home and digging in there. Those words, like the harmonies on the Iowa lake, rang in my ears and would influence my later decisions immeasurably. ...

I'll forever be grateful for Pete Seeger's songs, and for the chance to join his ever-widening circle of singers.