Folk Aboard
3:32 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

My Road Trip With Pete Seeger

"This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender."
"This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender."
Credit Joseph Holmes / Creative Commons

It was the 1980s and I was a busy musician in New York City. Mine was an eclectic musical life as both a violinist and singer. One day I was seated in a chamber orchestra playing classical violin, the next I was gigging on my electric fiddle and singing back-up in a folk/Latin band.

One day, Mike, the leader of a folk band I played with, called to say that he and I were going to drive Pete Seeger to a music festival in Washington, D.C.

We picked Pete up at the train station. He must have been about 70 years old. I remember he had to methodically fold his long, lanky limbs in order to fit into Mike’'s Dodge Aires.

Clearwater's Great Hudson River Revival, 2013.
Clearwater's Great Hudson River Revival, 2013.
Credit Gus Phillippas / WFUV

We hadn’'t been driving long when Pete asked Mike if we could pull into a rest stop. We did, and Pete proceeded to scarf down a full meal. Back on the road, he was talkative, friendly and warm. It may have been another hour or so later, when Pete again asked if we could stop. Again, he consumed an eye-popping amount of food. This happened several times along the way. An impressive appetite.

It was winter. When we arrived in Washington, a light snow had fallen on the sidewalk outside the venue. Pete went inside, dropped his banjo off backstage, then turned right around and headed back out to help the janitor shovel the sidewalk.

In his version of the South African chant called Wimoweh, Pete Seeger sings:

"In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight. In the village, the peaceful village, the lion sleeps tonight”."

Sleep well, Pete.

Former White House staffer Bill Curry recalls a meeting he had with Seeger and Ralph Nader, two "lions of populism."