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Another Man Done Gone…

January 29th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

And what a man he was!

Pete Seeger and myself at Clearwater, 2011

Pete Seeger and myself at Clearwater, 2011

Foto by Phil Jacobs

Pete Seeger passed away yesterday evening at 94. I just linked the New York Times article that pretty much tells his story so I don’t need to list his accomplishments here myself. That said, he was a great man and a noble human being. Pete figures in my story as a musician and an artist. In the early fifties, my Dad took me to see Pete at either Constitution Hall or Lisner Auditorium, I forget which. I think Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee might have been on the bill too, but it was a long time ago and I’m not going to bet the farm on it. In any case, did his thing. He Played banjo, six string guitar, 12 string guitar… he sang… he told stories.

I was mesmerized.

At that age, I was unaware of his forthright bravery and honesty in the face of political oppression. I just knew I loved what he did! I was lost in the amazing world of plucked notes and songs. Now I don’t think I was even playing the guitar yet… or if I was my skills were not even nascent. I knew that I had to meet the man. Against his will, my Dad took me backstage. Pete shook my hand… he let me touch his finger picks and his guitar. I felt as if the hand of G_d had just been run through my hair… it was that much of a blessing.

Years later I was on a benefit show at the old Lone Star in downtown Manhattan. I told Pete about our little meeting so long ago. he was gracious but nowhere near as excited about the intersection as I was. That’s OK… I got it and the honor was mine to be able to tell him how much he meant to me.

In 1996 when Jefferson Airplane was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Pete Seeger was one of our co-inductees. It was a highlight that I will remember all of my life that i was among those able to play Goodnight Irene on stage with him.

He was one of those larger than life figures to me that seemed like he would live forever. Of course this is not to be for any of us. Pete now belongs to the ages and he and Toshi will be dwelling on another mountaintop. Rest in peace brother and sister… rest in peace. May your guitar always be sweetly in tune and always at hand. May your song always be strong… Rest in peace…

Fair winds and following seas…

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  1. Patrick Tierney
    January 29th, 2014 at 03:13 | #1

    Lovely anecdote.
    Thanks for sharing it.

  2. jim hitchcock
    January 29th, 2014 at 03:47 | #2

    The voice of the common man, he stood for us and essentially chopped HUAC off at the knees, showing them that he was the true patriot, not them.

    And he did it with music.

  3. mikie
    January 29th, 2014 at 08:39 | #3

    Jorma, thanks so much for sharing your touching tribute. m

  4. anthony tedesco
    January 29th, 2014 at 09:33 | #4

    Your tribute does both you and Mr. Seeger honor.

  5. johno
    January 29th, 2014 at 09:54 | #5

    He truly was a man of peace and love. Something we can all learn from. He was marching when we occupied Wall Street a couple years ago. Glad to say he passed in his sleep. Befittingly a man of peace passed peacefully. He tried to stop the idiocy of war and killing.

  6. neil
    January 29th, 2014 at 11:02 | #6

    Jorma, your words, music and ethic are a very important part of the musical journey for many of us…but for me, I recall a very special moment in my life….probably no more than 6 or 7, at a time when Pete Seeger was still marginalized by the blacklist, he was a true troubadour, playing all over the country and one of the spots during a the summer of 192, was the Music Barn in Sharon, CT., where Pete performed a show that included many young children from the camps in the surrounding Berkshires. Pete’s performance that day was, as it always was, one which transmitted his love of song and people and inclusive for all in attendance, no matter what the age. At the end of the performance, he stood strait and tall, as he always did, and held the banjo down in a way which would allow him to allow it to sway like a timepiece on a grandfather clock and strum out his final song of the set. That sweet moment, by a man full of love despite the personal hardships he had gone thru merely for the beliefs he held and the message he was delivering, made a huge impression on me and has obviously never left me. Like you, I once recounted the event to Pete when I met him at a Clearwater Festival and he was gracious in his understanding of its meaning to me….and that is another term that applies…someone of grace and we as music lovers and citizens of this country are far better as a result of his having passed our way. May he rest in peace and his memory be for a blessing.

  7. Joey Hudoklin
    January 29th, 2014 at 12:41 | #7

    Thank you for sharing that very touching piece of personal experience Jorma.

  8. Robert
    January 29th, 2014 at 13:29 | #8

    The influence of Pete Seeger has certainly shown in you work Jorma; integrity in music, giving back to the community and using what Pete called the “folk process”.
    Having grown up in the SF Bay Area, I distinctly remember watching Pete’s ‘Rainbow Quest’ TV program on local PBS station KQED. Being introduced to many of the same musicians that you would later do also was quite a teachable moment. Enriching our lives through music on many levels, socially, culturally as well as entertainment, is a legacy that any musician would be honored to have achieved.

  9. January 29th, 2014 at 13:50 | #9

    Jorma: I have heard you many times say that you weren’t qualified to do anything else but play music.. I have to disagree!

  10. John B
    January 29th, 2014 at 14:28 | #10

    Great post Jorma. Thanks for sharing.

  11. January 29th, 2014 at 19:03 | #11

    It’s nice to know that you fully understand how special our heroes are to us. It was very touching to read your tribute to Pete, and good for you to preserve the legacy in words and action.

  12. cyndy consentino
    January 29th, 2014 at 20:55 | #12

    Dear Jorma,

    A beautiful eulogy written by you for an American Treasure, Pete Seeger!

    RIP, Pete, the world was a better place because you were in it!

    Stay well, Jorma.


  13. Hamneggs
    January 29th, 2014 at 21:27 | #13

    Beautiful story
    Love All Ways

  14. Tim from Philly
    January 29th, 2014 at 21:33 | #14

    Neat story Jorma. Curious how your dad got you backstage, do you remember? Maybe it was just easier back then…

  15. carlo pagliano
    January 29th, 2014 at 22:10 | #15

    G-d Bless my children received the same caress from Jorma and Ness.

  16. Steve Goldston
    January 29th, 2014 at 23:37 | #16

    Great story. Thanks!

  17. Steve Singer
    January 30th, 2014 at 10:50 | #17

    Jorma, I appreciate how you open up to your fans. So many musicians we only know their music, but you allow us to know Jorma the man- or should I say mensch.

  18. johno
    January 30th, 2014 at 11:30 | #18

    What is a mensch?

  19. Steve Levenson
    January 30th, 2014 at 11:50 | #19

    A person of integrity and honor. Kind, decent, thoughtful and respectful. If you are around little ones, look at “Raising Your Child to Be a Mensch” by Neil Kurshan. I don’t agree with all of it, but its a good read.

  20. johno
    January 30th, 2014 at 12:11 | #20

    thanks Steve.

  21. Mark Kran
    January 30th, 2014 at 13:36 | #21

    I remember seeing Pete Seeger play for the first time in Central Park NY in 1974 on his Birthday..He was in great form that day and brought the “Good Stuff” that day. I was previliged to see him play numerous times and am glad for it
    The world was a better place with him in it and is deminished with him gone. He was certainly one of a kind

  22. Tom in St. Louis
    January 30th, 2014 at 14:31 | #22

    I got to meet Pete in…1971? Tulsa, Oklahoma.
    Many thanks to Guy Logsdon, who taught my Folklore class and ran the U of T Library. He promoted the show, and so we got to talk to Pete for a few minutes. He made a big impression on all of us. What a guy!
    I later learned that Logsdon was one of the foremost Folk music scholars in the world.

  23. Tom in St. Louis
    January 30th, 2014 at 14:33 | #23

    P.S.: This guy: http://guylogsdon.com/

  24. Randolph Hamtil
    January 31st, 2014 at 05:58 | #25

    thanks always for sharing, you are a True Spirit

  25. February 1st, 2014 at 15:21 | #26

    Lisner Auditorium?? Well, we saw Hot Tuna Electric there May 4, 1976 and it made quite an impression on our gang. Thirty-eight years later and we’re still talking about it! Some say this was one of the best shows of the Metal Years. Re Pete Seeger: wasn’t “Bells of Rhymney” an inspiration for the creation of “Embryonic Journey”?