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…


  1. Comment made on February 1, 2014 by John L

    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”?

  2. Comment made on January 31, 2014 by Randolph Hamtil

    thanks always for sharing, you are a True Spirit

  3. Comment made on January 30, 2014 by doug mlyn

    speaking of Pete Seeger

  4. Comment made on January 30, 2014 by Tom in St. Louis

    P.S.: This guy:

  5. Comment made on January 30, 2014 by Tom in St. Louis

    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.

  6. Comment made on January 30, 2014 by Mark Kran

    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

  7. Comment made on January 30, 2014 by johno

    thanks Steve.

  8. Comment made on January 30, 2014 by Steve Levenson

    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.

  9. Comment made on January 30, 2014 by johno

    What is a mensch?

  10. Comment made on January 30, 2014 by Steve Singer

    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.

  11. Comment made on January 29, 2014 by Steve Goldston

    Great story. Thanks!

  12. Comment made on January 29, 2014 by carlo pagliano

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

  13. Comment made on January 29, 2014 by Tim from Philly

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

  14. Comment made on January 29, 2014 by Hamneggs

    Beautiful story
    Love All Ways

  15. Comment made on January 29, 2014 by cyndy consentino

    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.


  16. Comment made on January 29, 2014 by Bennett Harris

    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.

  17. Comment made on January 29, 2014 by John B

    Great post Jorma. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Comment made on January 29, 2014 by doug mlyn

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

  19. Comment made on January 29, 2014 by Robert

    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.

  20. Comment made on January 29, 2014 by Joey Hudoklin

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

  21. Comment made on January 29, 2014 by neil

    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.

  22. Comment made on January 29, 2014 by johno

    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.

  23. Comment made on January 29, 2014 by anthony tedesco

    Your tribute does both you and Mr. Seeger honor.

  24. Comment made on January 29, 2014 by mikie

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

  25. Comment made on January 29, 2014 by jim hitchcock

    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.

  26. Comment made on January 29, 2014 by Patrick Tierney

    Lovely anecdote.
    Thanks for sharing it.

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