Pete Seeger, the legendary folk musician who passed away Monday at the age of 94, was all set to receive the Woody Guthrie Prize and to perform as well at a ceremony in New York City next month. Now organizers of the ceremony say the event will go ahead — as a star-studded tribute concert to the American icon.
“The only thing I know for certain is that Pete would want us to gather together and make some music,” said Nora Guthrie, daughter of Woody Guthrie, another iconic folk musician. “The power of song, as he constantly reminded us, can take us through everything that life, and death, throws at us.”
While no specific acts have been confirmed for the February 22 gala, which is put together by the Grammy Museum and Woody Guthrie Center, there is likely to be no shortage of musical greats eager to take the stage in Seeger’s honor.
Tuesday night during a concert in South Africa, according to E! Online, Bruce Springsteen announced, “I lost a great friend and a real hero last night,” before launching into a rendition of “We Shall Overcome,” the civil rights and protest anthem made popular by Pete Seeger beginning in the 1950s.
In 2006, Springsteen recorded an album of Seeger songs, We Shall Overcome: The Pete Seeger Sessions. A video of Springsteen’s performance of the song Tuesday is viewable below.
Pete Seeger was always known as much for his political activism as for his music, and both qualities have been the subject of an outpouring of tributes since the announcement of his death earlier this week.
“He was this sort of gentle grandfather with a backbone of steel who was going to put a chokehold on the powers that be until they relented,” said Tom Morello, former guitarist for political rap-rock band Rage Against The Machine, writing in a Rolling Stone essay. “That guy was no joke.”
“He woke up my consciousness to the power of music to make people aware,” singer Linda Ronstadt told The San Francisco Chronicle. “People tried to discredit him. They tried to put him out of the limelight. They tried to say he was a communist. But while we would wring our hands, Pete Seeger would go out and change things.”
Michael Franti, leader of the band Spearhead, whose lyrics are themselves often strongly political, said that it was Seeger’s more emotional music that had the greatest effect on him.
“Although he was well-known for his political rants, Pete knew the real power came from inside of each of us and it was his gospel and spiritual songs that always touched me the deepest,” said Franti.
“Pete Seeger fought for the working people,” said singer and songwriter Dave Matthews. “He fought against greed, and corruption, and war, and pollution, until the end of his life.”
[Image Via CBC News]