Friday, January 31, 2014

The passing of Pete Seeger

The great Pete Seeger died earlier this week. Interestingly enough, this sparked some discussion among UUs in the world of social media about the tendency to have Baby Boomer nostalgia in our congregations. There's a great discussion over at Rev. Tom Schade's The Lively Tradition blog.

To paraphrase what I said over there... I'm a Gen X-er. I know it's always dangerous to generalize about the generations (though I do it all the time). I was born in 1968, slightly on the older end of Generation X. My parents, and most of my friends' parents, were actually from the Silent Generation. The Boomers were an in-between generation. We didn't hate them; we looked up to them. We felt left out - the Boomers had such a cool coming of age (or so it seemed) whereas we came of age in the era of HIV/AIDS. Plus theirs was a large and influential generation, whereas we are so tiny and a little "lost". So for me personally, and I think I'm safe in saying for many of my Generation X friends from "back home", Boomer music isn't a nostalgia thing; it's before our time. But we respect it. I have no youthful memories of the sixties. But I love the music. And that goes for Pete Seeger. I respect his music and his larger legacy. I will not devote an entire Sunday service to memorializing him, but we will sing one of his songs this coming Sunday. It seems appropriate, to me.

See the banjo pictured above? Seeger's banjo said, "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender". This is a more beautiful and peaceful variation on what his mentor Woody Guthrie's guitar said: "This machine kills fascists."

Did you know that Pete Seeger was a Unitarian Universalist? Obviously this was just one part of his life; I'm not sure how active he was.  Seeger's mother, apparently, was briefly a Unitarian (before the UU merger).  And he himself joined the Community Church of New York later in his life (that's a UU congregation).  Apparently he originally went there as a renter, needing a place to rehearse some singers.  He did perform at some UUA functions over the years.