When Pete Seeger was blacklisted, he was always singing in our house. Pete was the soundtrack to my childhood. My sister and I would beg our father to play his records. We were especially fond of “Big Rock Candy Mountain” and “Little Houses.” At first the politics went over our head but soon we couldn’t separate the politics from the music.
rtb once said that my phrasing is similar to Pete’s. What a wonderful compliment.
I saw Pete on stage several times and, when I was working as a live sound engineer, I got to do sound for him a few times. Watching Toshi taking care of him was to be in the presence of one of the greatest love stories of our time.
One of my greatest moments was when I sang with the NYC Streetsingers and we performed on stage with Pete. The Streetsingers was one of many choruses that Pete started and then left to take care of itself. Each chorus had a purpose and the Streetsingers celebrated diversity. While on stage he said that Woody always said that he rehearsed on stage. It was true with us also as he fiddled around until he decided what we were going to sing or where we were going with the song.
One of my last live sound gigs was for Pete. His voice was creaky and weak. The audience filled in for him a lot of the time. But the joy that performing brought him came through loud and clear and that joy was so strong that it sounded like Pete’s voice filled the auditorium. I decided then and there that if what I was doing wasn’t bringing me joy then I needed to stop doing it.
His politics, his music, his love, his joy, his celebration of life, his fight against injustice – all of that influenced my life. I hope in some very very small way I am continuing his legacy.
By Carene Lydia Lopez