Feature

Pete Seeger and friends march with music

David Amram responsed to our article about him earlier this week [One for David Amram] with this account of a recent march through Manhattan with his good friend Pete Seeger and musical colleagues including Tom Chapin, Guy Davis, and Arlo Guthrie among others.

YouTube video by Schlockumentaries

Two years ago, I played for the 90th birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden for Pete Seeger, who turned 80 twelve years ago. Pete is still going strong today at 92, so we must all find a way to do the same!! At 92, he personifies dedication and devotion to music and concern for others.

Friday night  Oct 21st, 2012 Pete and a bunch of us played for a fundraiser for the Clearwater Foundation, an non-political group who have helped to clean up the Hudson River and educate people of all ages about how we can all help to preserve the enviornment.

Pete started Clearwater years ago as a grassroots volunteer organization in upstate New York’s Hudson Valley and all these years later remains the inspiration for everyone involved.  The concert was a real treat, with a sold out house at Symphony Space, located up  on 95th Street and Broadway, (in the same theater where my 80th birthday gala was held a year ago).

After the Symphony Space concert was over, Pete indicated that he wanted to march down 38 blocks to the Columbus Circle fountain and give a free surprise tribute to honor all the the people who are out of work and looking for jobs, and to encourage New York City and other cities around the country to re-hire laid off policemen, firemen and school teachers. And, to be sure that they retain the rights they have earned with their pensions, after years of public service.

I walked the hour and a half from the Symphony Space theater to the Columbus Circle fountain with Pete, his grandson Tao Rodriguez Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Tom Chapin, Guy Davis, my two kids Alana and Adam, and a bunch of young people for thirty eight  blocks from West 95th Street to the Columbus Circle Fountain on West 59th street, where we gave a second free impromptu concert at midnight in front of the water fountain, with over a thousand people gathered, all singing and many playing instruments.

We were accompanied by a mob of marchers and all the policemen who escorted us were exceptionally friendly and supportive, and there were no bad moments. It was wonderful to see picket signs from the United Auto Workers, as well as other unions, teachers groups and some of the members of Occupy Wall Street who came uptown to join us.

What Pete and all of us hoped for was that this march and the surprise midnight concert would be a peaceful message to all New Yorkers to encourage each of them to find their own way to help assure a future for our kids and restore  a world which celebrated fairness and decency for everyone.

At 92, he remains as amazing as ever, and as we marched from 95th St to 57th Street, he commented to me how the two shiny metal canes he had just purchased for the occasion were a real help in making the long trek.

And when he saw a piece of paper on the sidewalk, he stopped, bent down and picked it up. Then I saw a discarded popsicle stick on the sidewalk and doing a touch-your toes-calisthenics movement, scooped it up and kept walking. Pete leaned over and whispered in my ear, “You can put it in my jacket pocket”

I suddenly realized that the fact that the sidewalks were so clean compared to how they were in 1955 when I first moved to New City, and that we had so many trash baskets, recycling bins and even a Hudson River where fish could swim was in large part because of Pete and his now not-so-crazy idea of letting us all know that each of us could make a small contribution to cleaning up the environment and trying to look after one another.

Paying attention to everyone who crossed your path and being responsible for the small things like that lone discarded popsicle stick, were the small actions that each of us could take every day.

All of us who came up during the years of the Great Depression of the 30s had faith that the USA was a society where hard work and the possibility of finding a job was a given, and that all of us should accept equal responsibility for paying our fair share of taxes.

And that we could always have the time to be compassionate towards others who were also struggling to make ends meet.

You don’t have to be a genius to see the inequities today. They can be easily be solved by using common sense and applying it to rectify the situation.

Pete set the tone for the whole event, as he he has been doing for the past seventy years of service to the world.

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