Photo: Aaron Defourneaux
OpEd: Richard Paul Harper, Jr.
It is on the night after the death of the great Pete Seeger and upon streaming Henry Mancini’s “Best Of” that I write this.
The duel purpose with which the occasion compels me to jostle my thoughts down can also be revealed in the opening sentence. I awoke this morning to read of the news that Pete Seeger – the legendary folk singer and activist – had died peacefully at the age of 94. This is the first monolithic musical figure that has passed this year, but in 2013 the world lost Lou Reed, Donald Byrd, Phil Everly and Ray Price, to name the smallest amount. All major figures, both in the music community and in the popular landscape as well. But none illicit nearly as much of a reaction from me as Pete Seeger’s death did. My initial thought was that stating he died peacefully seemed a bit ill-fitting, given that the current climate in which we live (double meaning intended) can hardly be navigated in a “peaceful” manner. As such, Mr. Seeger appeared to gracefully let go of the torch he (once) carried, while still maintaining his fervor for life. Either that or he probably asked himself every day upon waking, “are you fucking kidding me?”
My next thought immediately went to the onslaughts of tributes that were about to be poured out for the righteous man. A mental rolodex began to spin of all the people who claimed Seeger as inspiration or in his lineage: Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, John Mellencamp, The Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, etc. etc. and I vowed to skim everyone of them with a dull-attention span and to not go and do likewise. In fact, en route to my relatively yuppie job bar-tending at a locally-sourced burger joint (where I also am in charge of the music during the shift), I said to myself that I wouldn’t so much as even mention his passing to anyone and would play only a few of his tracks – exclusively deep cuts – as I queued up whatever jams for that morning shift. Yet here I am. Human beings are fickle, malleable beasts.