Unable to carry his beloved banjo, Pete Seeger used a different but equally formidable instrument, his mere presence, to instruct yet another generation of young people how to effect change through song and determination two years ago.
A surging crowd, two canes and seven decades as a history-sifting singer and rabble-rouser buoyed him as he led an Occupy Wall Street protest through Manhattan in 2011.
"Be wary of great leaders," he told The Associated Press two days after the march. "Hope that there are many, many small leaders."
The banjo-picking troubadour who sang for migrant workers, college students and star-struck presidents in a career that introduced generations of Americans to their folk music heritage died Monday at age 94. Seeger's grandson, Kitama Cahill-Jackson, said his grandfather died peacefully in his sleep around 9:30 p.m. at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, where he had been for six days. Family members were with him.
Here's how others are reporting his death:
He wasn't just the Forrest Gump of his time. He wasn't just ubiquitous on the national scene by happenstance. He was purposely so—from the late 1930s until a few weeks ago he actively sought out the suffering he saw and tried to ease it. He did this for three quarters of a century.
He loved the land and the water and the air. How could anything be more American than that? He loved the country and its people and the idea of it that outlasted so many attempts to hijack it for other purposes. Pete Seeger was a great American because he dared to be thought otherwise. That is the only real qualification. It gets more dear as the years go by.
Long live the magnificent heritage of Pete Seeger! And if his heritage is not entirely magnificent, all the better, say I. His failings will remind us that everyone has failings, and let us tread carefully, and let us support the cause of equality and justice, even so.
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