This Historic Day In Music: Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger is always good for a quote.

My favorite is from the introduction to his children’s book Abiyoyo (1985): “Practice may not make perfect but it sure as hell makes for improvement.”

From The Protest Singer: An Intimate Portrait of Pete Seeger (2009) by Alec Wlkinson (very highly recommended), Pete said: “People ask, is there one word that you have more faith in than any other word, and I’d say it’s participation. It’s been my life work, to get participation, whether it’s a union song, or a peace song, civil rights, or a women’s movement, or gay liberation. When you sing, you feel a kind of strength; you think, I’m not alone, there’s a whole batch of us who feel this way. I’m just one person, but it’s almost my religion now to persuade people that even if it’s only you and three others, do something. If it’s only you, and you do a good job as a songwriter, people will sing it.”

Pete’s father, Charles Seeger, once wrote a list of observations that Mr. Wilkinson included in the back of his book. My favorites are #4 and #5.

4. Every person is musical; music can be associated with most human activity, to the advantage of both parties to the association.

5. The musical culture of a nation is, then, to be estimated upon the extent of participation of the whole population rather than upon the extent of the virtuosity of a fraction of it.

Pete Seeger was born this day, May 3, in the year 1919.

Happy Birthday, Pete.

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