Sunday, May 3, 2009


The show (not where this picture was taken, obviously) was great. We got there a bit late and missed some performances, but it was pretty awesome. For me, the highlights were: Roger McGuinn with the guys from Band Of Horses doing "Turn! Turn! Turn!," Ben Harper with his mom, his aunt and Tom Morello doing his own "Gather 'Round The Stone" and Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello doing "The Ghost Of Tom Joad." There were other great performances by Ani DiFranco, Kris Kristofferson, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Warren Haynes... everyone was pretty great, actually. Pete's grandson Tao Rodridguez-Seeger was inspiring, and I think he will carry on his grandfather's music and message in the decades to come. Shout out to Oscar The Grouch who duetted with Tom Chapin on a song called "Garbage" (what else?). It was amazing to see MSG standing ovations to the likes of Joan Baez and Ritchie Havens.

And every time Pete Seeger was on stage was a highlight, to say the least. He is an amazing figure. It was odd to see him feted at a venue like Madison Square Garden in such a slick (but not cold) production. With him, it's not really about being a star, although he's certainly used his power to draw people. But it's about getting people to sing... more than it is about singing to them. That's a powerful thing.

The picture I've posted here (for the second time) was taken probably 35 years ago (thanks to Richard for hooking me up with it). I'm the kid in the Spider-Man shirt by the tree. I showed it to my dad, and he told me that it kind of embodies Pete Seeger. We were at some park, and Pete had a gig scheduled somewhere in the park. So he was walking to the gig, saw some kids, and grabbed his banjo and sang a bunch of songs before going on his way. None of the kids probably had much of an idea who he was.

But that's who he is. Not every artist can be like Pete, or should be like Pete. There are rare cases of artists who seem immune to temptation: Ani DiFranco is one, Ian McKaye another. If you're an artist, you don't have to try to be like that. But you should keep artists like that towards the front of your mind -- I think they act as the sort of angel on your shoulder, your conscious, to keep you from losing yourself into the "bubble" (as Tina Fey puts it) of stardom. There's being famous... and then there's being taken seriously. And if you do the latter, who knows the former may happen along the way.

OK, time for me to check in. God bless Pete Seeger.


Wandering Jew said...

well said! Did you miss Billy Bragg and Arlo? I cant remember what was where in the line up... and whatup with no Eddie Veder??? The show was great though, a lot of it really felt like being a kid again :) Bruce was awesome...

Minority said...

unfortunately, Eddie Vedder couldn't make it - it was announced on Pearl Jam's website on Friday. it was a great show, Pete Seeger is a hero in a world where there are few of them.