Dan and Eric’s Music Appreciation Hour featuring Pete Seeger
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The world said goodbye to the one and only Pete Seeger, who died this week at age 94. Famous for his songwriting formula of “three chords and the truth,” Seeger influenced numerous generations of musicians, lyricists and activists during his long life.
“Pete Seeger wasn’t one of those legendary performers who made the world a better place with music. He was the original. He was inimitable and unique and indomitable in his mission to bring light to the dark places,” Peter Scheer of Truthdig wrote this week [visit that link for the awesome video].
An enduring influence for change, for getting people together and for solving the world’s problems — and making music — Seeger was born with the Sun in Taurus and his Moon in Gemini.
With this blend we get the enduring, deeply rooted power of Taurus expressing itself through the clever, verbally focused and multi-faceted personality structure of Gemini.
Yet that Gemini Moon is opposite the core of our galaxy, giving it a transcendent quality, as if he was channeling the supreme intelligence of the universe, translating it into language that everyone, even critters, can understand.
His Taurus Sun illustrates how he was driven by his deepest values, with passion stoked by Mars. Seeger truly lived in the “blacksmith shop of the soul” as Alice Bailey once described Taurus. Mars and the Sun together in Taurus say peaceful warrior like few things can.
His Gemini Moon lightened that presentation, gave him truly excellent verbal gifts, and a love of making contact with anyone and everyone. The Gemini Moon also afforded him many means of expression. I’ve also noticed that musicians with strong Gemini tend to be multi-instrumentalists (think Paul McCartney).
“He was an inveterate journalist and pamphleteer at Harvard, involved in a host of extracurricular activities, all of which took him off his studies, so he left in April of his freshman year. All through his life he was a student of music genres, origins, and of musicology,” said astrologer Larry Ely during our discussion of Seeger’s birth time.
Seeger had a potent alignment in the sign Aries (Mercury, Chiron, Nessus), which gave him sufficient personality struggle to seed an authentic quest for his true being; this is what he was able to express in his words (Mercury) as empathy for the human condition. In other words, this is not the chart of someone who has an ‘easy’ personality to live inside of, but he was tempered by the decades and he did the most important thing you can do if you want to grow and self-actualize, which is to express yourself.
He also had Jupiter and Pluto in Cancer, which you can think of as the golden thread weaving together all world religions. It is the aspect of “many shores, one lake” that is the basis of authentic spirituality.
Mainly, he was not afraid to use folk music as a spiritual tool, but he had the finesse to do it in a way that came across effectively. He was so effective that he was called to testify before the McCarthy hearings as a suspected communist during the 1950s.
One of our editors, Carol van Strum, recalled: “During the Vietnam war, I think it was, Pete Seeger was on some major network show with big wigs arguing about the war, pro and con. He didn’t say a word, just sat there while the talk got more and more heated. Then softly he just started strumming “This Land Is Your Land.” At first no one noticed, and then the arguing politicos’ voices dwindled, leaving just the banjo. It was a truly spontaneous, glorious moment.”
Seeger had a strong connection to the Hudson Valley of New York, where much of Planet Waves is written. He co-founded the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, an organization that has done much to call attention to General Electric’s PCBs contaminating the Hudson river, and which has hosted the Clearwater Revival for decades.
One of Pete’s last performances was at Brook Farm in New Paltz, New York, where he came to support young farmers whose land was being taken away by a corporate “environmental” organization [see Planet Waves coverage here].
The suit-and-tie environmentalists twice tried to persuade Seeger not to play that day, but he was undeterred. Even at age 94, he came out in the pouring down rain and held a house concert for a small group of people at the farming co-op.
“I have not seen my father so pleased with an afternoon of music in a long time,” his daughter Tinya Seeger wrote to Brook Farm Project’s leadership. “The afternoon was such a relief for him. He loved seeing so many local singing young people and is enthusiastically in support of all of you.”
So dust off your old banjo, tune up your guitar or tap on an old coffee can — and tell it like it is.
Now they took Pete Seeger before the law,
put him on the witness stand,
but he stood right up to tyranny
with a banjo in his hand.
Such a righteous banjo picker
watching out for me and you,
that was just a man that wouldn’t back down
on three chords and the truth
Three chords and the truth
three chords and the truth,
the only crime Pete Seeger done
was three chords and the truth.
He sang his freedom songs real good,
he’s still getting his message through,
you better check out old Pete Seeger on
three chords and the truth.
— from “Three Chords and the Truth,” by Ry Cooder