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COMMONS MAGAZINE

The Man Who Helped the World to Sing

Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

It’s hard to think of anyone who embodied the spirit and practice of the commons more than musician and activist Pete Seeger, who died yesterday at the age of 94.

He devoted his life to folk music— songs and tunes and lyrics that have been passed along from generation to generation, neighbor to neighbor throughout human history. No one owns the rights to this music; it’s everyone’s priceless cultural inheritance to sing, to hum, to play, to adapt to their own tastes and to share with others.

Seeger not only showcased the artistry of nameless geniuses who invented blues, country, calypso, Celtic ballads, African dances and countless other musical styles in cultures across the planet. He also showed us how much fun it is to make music together. His concerts were always collaborative affairs, where audiences were urged to sing, clap, stomp their feet, whistle and indulge in the joy of collective creativity as if we had gathered on a village green or someone’s front porch or the backroom of a pub.

Seeger’s love of people’s music flowed naturally from his hunger for justice, equality and joy among all people. He carried his banjo into protests meetings, organizing drives, environmental clean-ups and community celebrations for more than 75 years. Pete Seeger was one of the great commoners who made our world a better place.

Here’s a link to some of the outpouring of appreciation and memories about him.

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