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  • Robert Jones

The Father of Community Singing

Updated: Aug 24, 2018

Matt Watroba interviews Pete Seeger about his career and his lifelong mission to put a song on the lips of the people.

Community Sings—The Inspiration

In the Fall of 2008, when Pete Seeger was in his 89th year, I was out on the East Coast doing some shows when I got a call from Mark Moss, the editor of Sing Out! Magazine. At the time, I was hosting and producing a syndicated radio show for the magazine. Mark told me that, if I was willing to drop south to Beacon, New York on my way home, Pete Seeger was available for a one-on-one interview in his hometown. I, of course, said yes. It was a rainy Friday morning when I pulled into the parking lot of the Sloop Club on the banks of the Hudson River. The sloop club is the meeting house and all-purpose shack for the hundreds of volunteers working to clean up the Hudson. I could see the sails of the Woody Guthrie out in the distance as I entered the un-locked front door and awaited the arrival of my hero. In a matter of minutes, a small old pick-up truck came to a halt outside and out jumped Pete with his banjo in tow, as he proceeded to skip into the club house. Did I mention he was 89? Pete and I sat for over an hour with the tape recorder rolling and with his banjo at the ready in case he needed to make a musical point. Pete told me that day that getting folks to sing was the most important work he did in his life—astonishing, really, when you consider the work that man did in his nine decades on the earth. It was at that moment that I decided to carry that aspect of Pete’s work on. Since then I have devoted much of my musical work to inspiring, teaching, and facilitating community singing everywhere I go. These songs. this act of singing was too important to leave just to the professionals. Much of that interview with songs is available through the Sing Out! website:

https://singout.org/product/sorm-2008-pete-seeger-special

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