The SPC Community Remembers Pete Seeger

From the March 2014 PNL #832

compiled by Aly Wane

Editor’s Note: Pete Seeger, the legendary singer, activist and organizer, passed away on January 27 of this year at the age of 94. His impact cannot be overstated and many of us were lucky enough to have spent some time with him during his journey. Here are, in no particular order, a few testimonials from the Syracuse Peace Council community.

Andy Mager:

Pete Seeger was among the first people to join the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign’s Honorary Advisory Committee, sending us a brief handwritten note with a drawing of a banjo. A good friend of Oren Lyons, Pete looked for ways to actively support the campaign despite his flagging energy. He welcomed us at the Beacon Sloop Club, taught the crowd a Seneca paddling song at the New York City Two Row kickoff event and spoke eloquently at the Two Row Festival in his hometown of Beacon during our trek down the Hudson.
Pete appeared on Democracy Now! with Oren and I on August 9, 2013, the morning the Two Row flotilla landed in New York City. Had Pete been just a little younger, he certainly would have paddled with us at least part of the down the river he loved so deeply. Despite his fame, he remained a humble person who liked to get his hands dirty. I could feel his discomfort as the staff at Democracy Now! crowded around him after our the show, seeking autographs and photos. His shining example of creativity, passionate commitment to justice, peace and the Earth is now passed on to us. Let us carry on the work that he did so much to support in his long and full life.

Caption: Pete Seeger speaking at the Two Row
Campaign Renewal kickoff event in March of 2013.
Source: Eric Weiss Photography

Bryce Hand:

The first time I heard Pete Seeger was in the fall of 1953, when I was a freshman at Antioch College. Dorm-mates on their way out the door asked if I was going to hear Pete Seeger. “Who’s he?” I asked.  “A really great folk-singer!”
Antioch was a hotbed of liberalism and deep into folk music — as was I — so I followed the crowd to the gym. The concert was free, covered by student fees. We sat around on the gym floor, while Seeger’s “platform” was a pile of mats normally used for tumbling.
As seniors in spring ‘58 (Antioch being a five-year undergrad institution because of its work-study program), a friend and I engineered a return visit by Seeger. I made arrangements for the concert to be held in the auditorium of a local school.

The day before the concert, I received a call from the superintendent: “I’m calling to tell you you won’t be able to use the auditorium.” A Mrs. Pruitt, president of the American Legion’s Ladies Auxiliary in nearby Xenia, upset by Seeger’s left-wing activities, had demanded the concert be cancelled. I was outraged and blew up at the superintendent. He backed down and the concert went on as scheduled. Seeger dedicated his opening song to Mrs. Pruitt... to the tune of Oh Clean O Clean-O”: “Oh the Ladies’ Auxiliary is a good Auxiliary; It’s the best Auxiliary that you ever did see. If you need an Auxiliary, get the Ladies’ Auxiliary; It’s the Ladies Auxiliary!” The next day I was named in a short piece in the middle of the front page of the Dayton Daily News describing the previous night’s nefarious activities:


Gary Weinstein:


Folk singer in Manhattan coffee houses, study groups and to young Reds throughout New York City like Marvin Weinstein in the 1930s; classmate to John F Kennedy at Harvard; writer or co-writer of timeless folk gems Where have All the Flowers Gone, Turn, Turn, Turn, and If I Had a Hammer;
an early interpreter of Winoweh; a rebel member of the Weavers at the frenetic height of the McCarthy scare; early influence on Bob Dylan; one-man desegregationist movement; traveling brother to Woody; a man of unshakeable faith and principle and insurrection; a protester of singular courage who told HUAC to go to hell...

… a singular national treasure, has died.

Andy Mager was a long time staff member of SPC.  His latest stint was from 2002 to 2012. Bryce Hand is Emeritus professor of Geology at Syracuse University. Gary Weinstein was a staff member with SPC from 1979 to 1984.