Saturday, February 01, 2014

We Shall Overcome

I have been reluctant to blog about Pete Seeger's death at the age of 94, despite his powerful influence on folk music as a call to social justice. Seeger wasn't a Christian and he wasn't sure he believed in God. What might I write then, since I try to have a faith focus of some kind in every blog entry? Besides, the man played the banjo!
He was an extraordinary person, and, yes, a prophet as well as a bard. He "spoke truth to power" to employ an over-used phrase, challenging those who lay claim to privilege until the end of his long life. He hung out with the Occupy Wall St. crowd when he was in his nineties and led them in singing "We Shall Overcome." By my reckoning it was nearly 65 years after Seeger adapted the song from an old hymn "If My Jesus Wills", and decades after it became a rallying cry for the Civil Rights Movement. The man is deservedly a legend.
Andrew Revkin reminded us in his New York Times blog that Seeger also cared for the plight of the planet, not just people. He invites us to consider “'To My Old Brown Earth,' a song he wrote in 1958 that I consider one of his masterpieces — as simple and scintillating as a finely cut gem:"
To my old brown earth
And to my old blue sky
I’ll now give these last few molecules of “I.”
And you who sing,
And you who stand nearby,
I do charge you not to cry.
Guard well our human chain,
Watch well you keep it strong,
As long as sun will shine.
And this our home,
Keep pure and sweet and green,
For now I’m yours
And you are also mine.
 This Paul Halley arrangement is lovely, and this choir is in a church.

Any Pete Seeger thoughts, dear readers? Any banjo pickers I have offended?  


Judy Mcknight said...

Some very important challenges have been set for humanity by agnostics and atheists - just being - or claiming to be - Christian does not make one "The Voice to hear" (sad though that seems)

colinm said...

There are those who believe in God because they want God to smite their enemies or help maintain their privelidged status, or win the superbowl.
Then there are those who do not believe in God but who preach and live God's golden rule. We need to look at "belief" and how it presents itself in this world.

It took the ancients a long time to "identify God and many philosophers and scientists to shape our understanding.

Who knows, maybe Pete Seeger believed in God and didn't know it.

David Mundy said...

Seeger admitted later in life that it might have been his definition of God -- and the narrow definitions of others -- that got in his way.

Thanks Judy and Colin for responding.