On the 10 of February Neutral Ground Coffeehouse gave a musical retrospective of the famous American musician and one of the fathers of the folk music movement of the 50s and 60s, Pete Seeger. I walked in with my banjo and guitar and was stunned to find it standing room only with folks of all ages.
Honoring Pete Seeger at New Orleans’ Own Neutral Ground Coffee House
Owner Philip Melancon and his cronies did a great job of advertising and packing the place. He tapped me to sing a couple of songs Seeger made famous, Gauntanamera and Where Have All the Flowers Gone, and seeing the swelling crowd I was eager to get up there and perform.
There were so many there who had grown up with this Pete singing songs about America. And here it was American music full blown and ripe, all being celebrated, our musical heritage come now back into the limelight. My Italian friend Daniele was there with his wife and friends from San Diego, so good to see him part of the shenanigans. And I was surprised that he knew who Pete Seeger was.
Now, I grew up listening to the Kingston Trio, and the New Christy Minstrels, Marty Robbins’ cowboy songs, and Johnnie Horton the master of fun American history tunes..
I did not really know who Pete Seeger was until later and mainly I heard him on TV when he would appear on talk shows. I only really only scratched the surface of who he was an what kind of musician he was.
Here was someone though, who was world class, who was compelled to bring his music and the music of others, the music of the folk, the music that said something, and that meant something and that had people feel something whether that was patriotic pride, views of social justice, or just plan old humor and an honoring of the past and a celebration of the little man, those who really had no voice.
Although at one time he was a communist sympathizer, I still believe he was a great American. As he embodied really all that’s great about this country. OK, so I might not completely agree with his politics but I bet there would be a lot that we could agree on, and probably a lot of it would be about music, or just about justice in the world and equality and all of those other things that are really near and dear to most good Americans’ hearts: Freedom and justice, personal responsibility, pursuit of excellence and generosity.
He must have been doing something right, must have lived a good life for he lived to 95 and was still performing up until the end. Which is how me as a musician would like to have it. Performing and singing and playing on the last day. My final breath in this body would be in appreciation, lifted in song in celebration of a life well lived. That is how I would have it. And I think that is how Pete went out. Singing all the way.
And now we were able to celebrate it at that little old coffeehouse in uptown New Orleans, a little escape from the cares of the world where folks young and old like to hang out over good home-roasted coffee and homemade cakes, cookies and other goodies.
And we were all there, packed to the gills to here some great American music from some great New Orleans musicians, most of whom whom live in obscurity, known only by a few in the city, but who are excellent and remain committed to their art because, well, they love it and love sharing it.
And although old Pete was world famous himself I believe that who he was deep down was someone who just loved sharing his art and his work and his soul with the world. It just so happened that he was in the right place at the right time and became famous doing it.
Here’s to you Pete, may you be part of that heavenly folk band. You will most likely be its leader. Maybe you’ll let me play and sing with you when I get there.