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The Man From Beacon

January 29, 2014

Down with the cult of personality!”  shouted the old bearded man.

And with that, the crowd stopped applauding him.

He had just given a free concert at South Street Seaport and we were wild with grateful appreciation and love for the man. But Pete Seeger didn’t want that. What he wanted was for us to love the songs, and the sound of our own voices singing them. To feed off the communal power they infused in us, and to channel the passion of possibility they sparked in us. He wanted us not to listen to him, but to sing with him. He wanted us to appreciate and applaud ourselves, and to know our ability and birth rite to control our destiny, to revolutionize the reality that was foisted upon us like a decree. To take over. 

In spite of his wishes to not be any kind of hero, I will never forget him, and will always love him. I will always be grateful to his spirit that still for me serves as a living inspiration to who we all are, and what we are capable of when we break out of our individual prisons and find freedom by throwing our lot in with the whole rainbow race.

Me, I’m still hopelessly an individual. And I still love the idea of the cult of personality (as long, that is, as that cult is formed around my personality!)  I will probably die never beginning to measure up to this great man. But having inhabited the same world and much of the same time as he, I’m better for it, and will always have before me the horizon he stood at like a Beacon (the name of the upstate town he lived in) , beckoning us forward to what we still, God help us, we still can do together.

He will be missed.



4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2014 2:15 pm

    Beautifully written!

  2. January 29, 2014 9:31 pm

    Pete had a place of honor in my home. I first heard him sing in 1960 when I was 5 years old. He was blacklisted then and the American Legion protested outside the concert. (My mother explained that they were there to welcome him.) For me, you can’t get more American than Pete Seeger.

  3. January 30, 2014 8:22 pm

    Great post.

  4. January 31, 2014 3:20 am

    What a breath of fresh air in a climate otherwise filled with narcissitic celebrities.

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