The great American musician Pete Seeger died yesterday at the age of 94. Referred to by many as the father of folk music, Seeger apparently preferred “river singer.” But he didn’t just sing up and down the Hudson River, he sang across our country and beyond many times over, and he sang about issues, people and ideas that he felt truly mattered. He sang and spoke candidly about social problems and political changes that many individuals in power didn’t like very much.
Just a small exemplary tale: in 1967 he was invited to sing “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” a song critical of the American policies that led to the Vietnam war, on The Smothers Brothers variety show on CBS. Seeger said that at the time, though his label had allowed him to record the song on a record, he “knew there wasn’t time for it to get around the country. People were being killed every day in Vietnam. …The records stayed on the shelves and weren’t even sent to the stores.”
When he recorded the song for The Smothers Brothers show, it was censored by the network before it aired. After objections from the brothers and public protest, they changed their minds and Seeger was brought back to guest on the show in 1968. This time, seven million people saw it.
Take a listen in Pete Seeger’s honor.