In the wake of Pete Seeger's death Tuesday at the age of 94, a number of notable music artists and other luminaries have come forward to pay tribute to the beloved folk singer, songwriter and political activist. Seeger performed at the 2008 inauguration of Barack Obama, and the U.S. president has issued a statement honoring Pete and his lifelong commitment to the many causes for which he fought.
"Pete Seeger believed deeply in the power of song," wrote Obama. "But more importantly, he believed in the power of community -- to stand up for what's right, speak out against what's wrong, and move this country closer to the America he knew we could be. Over the years, Pete used his voice -- and his hammer -- to strike blows for worker's rights and civil rights; world peace and environmental conservation. And he always invited us to sing along."
The president added, "For reminding us where we come from and showing us where we need to go, we will always be grateful to Pete Seeger."
Seeger was a major influence on John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young, all of whom embraced the rootsy traditional sounds Pete helped spread around the world, and championed some of the same causes supported by the folk singer.
Mellencamp released his own homage on Tuesday, writing, "Pete Seeger always tried to make the world a better place through his music and activism. His life-long commitment to the cause of peace and to addressing the plight of the downtrodden has been an inspiration to all those who have championed society's victims and have done what they could to combat injustice."
Mellencamp also recalled some advice Seeger gave him about how to make the greatest impact with people: "Keep it small and you will make a difference."
Meanwhile, Springsteen, who released an entire album inspired by Seeger's music in 2006, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, simply posted on his official website a transcription and a video of the heartfelt speech he delivered at a 2009 concert celebrating Pete's 90th birthday.
During the speech, the Boss recalled the time he spent with Seeger before and during Obama's inauguration, at which they both sang Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land."
He went on to say, "At some point Pete Seeger decided he'd be a walking, singing reminder of all of America's history. He'd be a living archive of America's music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along, to push American events towards more humane and justified ends."
Springsteen, who currently is on tour with The E Street Band in South Africa, performed the civil-rights-era protest song "We Shall Overcome" in Seeger's honor at his show Tuesday night in Cape Town.
Neil Young also paid tribute to Seeger, posting a note on his Facebook page that reads, "Thank you Pete my friend, for all you have done for us. We sing in your voice about the things that matter, the story of the people and their struggle, with a laugh and a cry."
Woody Guthrie’s son, singer Arlo Guthrie, commented on Seeger’s passing on his Facebook page. “I usually do a little meditation and prayer every night before I go to sleep...[Monday] night, I decided to go visit Pete Seeger for a while, just to spend a little time together...So I was sitting in my home in Florida, having a lovely chat with Pete, who was in a hospital in New York City. That's the great thing about thoughts and prayers- You can go or be anywhere.”
Guthrie's post continues, “I simply wanted him to know that I loved him dearly, like a father in some ways, a mentor in others and just as a dear friend a lot of the time. ‘Arlo’ he said, sounding just like the man I've known all of my life, ‘I guess I'll see ya later.’...’Pete,’ I said. ‘I guess we will.’ I turned off the light and closed my eyes and fell asleep until very early this morning...when the texts and phone calls started coming in from friends telling me Pete had passed away. ‘Well, of course he passed away!’ I'm telling everyone...’But that doesn't mean he's gone.’”
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