|America's Tuning Fork
I only vaguely recall Pete Seeger from the 1950s, when I was in my early-to-mid-teens; his then hit record "Goodnight Irene" when he was with the Weavers is back there somewhere in that memory-bank. Perhaps it was in 1959 when his hit Kumbaya hit the marketplace that he first came into my life on my little radio, in my little room, in my little house, in the little town I lived in back in the little world of the '50s. I had just joined the Baha'i Faith one evening in early October, and I listened to my first program of The Twilight Zone that same week.
By the '60s Pete was a big part of the public scene, and the 12 Seeger LPs someone gave me as a wedding present in August of 1967, placed him at the centre of my musical life. But it was not for long, as he slowly slipped to the periphery of my musical interests, and then right off my radar until two days ago when I heard of his passing at the ripe-old-age of 94!
So many of your songs, Pete, I played again and again and forgot they were yours. But you always seemed a humble sort of chap as you played through the heart of the protest movement of those '60s. Yes, Pete, you were right there at the beginning of my young political-religious life life using music to help others change the world, as you thought, and as I thought. And much changed, eh Pete? I'll say a few words below Pete to finish off this quasi-eulogy in appreciation for all you did for me, especially in my young life, in my teens and twenties, before life caught me by the jugular and sent me spinning far away from you and your music.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Five Epochs with thanks to Wikipedia, 29/1/'14.
After '67 you slipped to
the periphery of my life
and right off my radar
for the next half-century:
now you are gone, Pete!
All your songs will stay with
those who want to listen, and
you'll still have listeners for
some time to come, Pete, eh?
For many you were America's(1)
tuning-fork, and you certainly
sang your way into my life in
those '60s when so much came
into my life that set the stage
for the long-haul, and it was
some long-haul for you, and
your 94 years, 25 years my
senior and always leading
even when forgotten, Pete.
I heard just yesterday that
you had passed on, and I
wish you well in that land
of light from which no man
returns, and I trust you have
had enough of this old world:(2)
"goodonyer", as they say here in
this world I now live, Downunder.
(1) President Barack Obama called Pete Seeker "America's tuning-fork"
(2) Seeker lived through a great tempest: 1919 to 2014
TURN! TURN! TURN!
This morning I listened to a radio interview with singer and songwriter Judy Collins now in her late fifties. Margaret Throsby interviewed Collins on her ABC Radio National program, 6 December 2006. Collins informed listeners that her mentor Pete Seeger had written the words and the music to the song Turn Turn Turn as early as 1954. He did not release the song until 1962. The year 1962 was the beginning of my travelling-pioneering life in the Bahá’í community. Judy Collins sang the song on her 1963 album, Judy Collins #3. The year 1963 was the year of the formation of the first Universal House of Justice. There was some significant turning going on in the Bahá’í community at the time, a community I have now been associated with for 60 years.(2)
Seeger had adapted the words from chapter three of the Book of Ecclesiastes, 3: 1-8, at another turning point in the history of the Bahá’í community and my own life. The words and that book of The Bible are often interpreted as conveying a spirit of fatalistic resignation. The words of Seeger's song have also been criticized as just being a series of over-simplifications. We all see things differently in music and in most other things in life as well.
The Byrds' released a version of the same song in October 1965. Their version possessed, some felt, more optimism than previous versions. One analyst of the song said that The Byrds' release of Turn! Turn! Turn! in that October of 1965 captured the zeitgeist of the time. It was in that same month of 1965 that I decided to pioneer, to move, among the Inuit in Canada. When I arrived in my new home on Baffin Island, I played Pete Seeger songs ad nauseam from the 12 LPs someone had given me as a wedding present.
I had, indeed, in that October of 1965, at last made a decision, a specific, a directed, a difficult decision to leave my home and hearth, the place I had grown-up in southern Ontario. I had decided to make a major turn in my then young life. This anthem of the peace movement and the civil rights cause, Turn Turn Turn could have been the anthem for my own decisions and some significant turning points in the life of my spiritual community, first at the age of 10, then at 18 and then again at the age of 21, as I started my baseball career, then finished high school and entered my last year of university.
I finally had a specific direction to my future vocational career as a teacher, and to my role as a homefront and, later, international life as a pioneer in the Bahá’í community. I had done a lot of turning. -Ron Price with thanks to (1) Radio National on 6/12/'06, and "Turn! Turn! Turn!" Wikipedia, 6/12/06, and (2) this prose-poem was updated on 29/1/'14.
They were hot days back then in '65.
Depression had lifted and those initial
erotic excitements or, perhaps it was
some quite mysterious body chemistry
that had sent me into the manic phase
sufficiently below the hypomanic to
cope with life and limb, and libido.
Somewhat serendipitously, it seems,
looking back after more than 40 years,
I chanced to go to Chatham--the end of
the Underground Railway--it happens--
where they came to a world of freedom(1)
as I--looking back--was going to my world
of freedom; or, perhaps, it was a prison,
the Most Great Prison of my life, little
did I know then in '65 when I was just
starting out on the long, long, road......
(1) This town in southern Ontario was the last stop for Negroes escaping from the oppressive racism in the USA in the 19th century.
7/12/'06 to 29/1/'14.
I listened to Judy Collins 40 years ago in my late teens and early twenties--back in the sixties--but I never heard her talk as I did in the above interview this morning. I thought I might add the above personal reminiscence to the words I heard on Collins. The interview was a replay on ABC Radio National on the Margaret Throsby program. I found the interview and especially Collins' words a source of such nostalgia that I wrote the above prose-poem. Judy may never see the poem, but that does not matter. She is in no more need of accolades after more than 40 years of them. But thank you, Judy, for so much you have given me.
married for 45 years, a teacher for 35, a writer and editor for 13, and a Baha'i for 53(in 2012)