Pete Seeger helped me grow in faith. As a teenager in the late sixties, I got to spend my summers working at a Mennonite Bible Camp. This is where I encountered Pete Seeger’s songs. I loved singing songs like his “Oh Freedom,”“If I had a Hammer,” “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”
They were spiritual songs that connected to my adolescent soul in ways the classic German hymns we sang on Sundays in church did not. His songs, sung enthusiastically outdoors to a strumming guitar instead of politely inside on a polished pew infected me with faith in the future of my church.
Pete Seeger may not have even known about Mennonites. As a teen, I certainly knew little of his religious life, or that he had been accused of being communist in the dark McCarthy era. But his songs conveyed a spirit that shaped my generation toward activism, ecology, and making a positive difference in the world.
Decades later, in 2002, I became the project coordinator of Bryan Moyer Suderman’s CD, “God’s Love is for everybody.” Bryan wanted to adapt the lyrics of Seeger’s song, “My Voice Alone” and include it on that CD. The included photo shows the gracious letter Bryan received back from Pete Seeger himself. His company, Sanga Music, gave us permission to use the song for ‘a song’; a mere $50, in contrast to another company that wanted $500 for similar permission. For me, this handwritten correspondence from Pete Seeger was a confirmation of the beautiful, gracious, and personable spirit I had sensed through his music as a teen.
Now that he has died, and those who knew him much better than I are helping us honour Pete with stories that reveal more of his soul to the rest of us, he is once again becoming a role model for me on how to live, age well, and die well.
Rest in peace, Pete Seeger. You and your music have been an incredible gift. They have, and are helping ‘this world come round.’ Your song goes on:
My voice alone, can’t sing a song of peace
Your voice alone, can’t sing a song of peace,
But if two and two and fifty make a million,
We’ll see this world come round, we’ll see this world come round.