Pete Seeger, a great American folk singer, died Monday at the age of 94.
He was the author or a co-author of some songs, like “Turn, Turn, Turn,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “If I Had a Hammer,” that transcend politics.
If you agreed with Seeger, you’ve probably been happy that you agreed with him. If you disagreed, and you like his kind of music, you’ve probably enjoyed the songs and tried to ignore the fact that you’ve disagreed with him. Or maybe you’ve tried to triangulate and figure out areas in which you and he may have had common ground.
I’m not a very musical or folky person. I saw Seeger perform live a few times because a friend kept dragging me to the Clearwater Festival, in a big park on the Hudson River, a little bit north of New York.
The first two years, I thought the festival was mainly a chance to camp and swim by a lake, and shop at a tent mall that was heavy on the tie dye. It gradually dawned on me that the music wafting over the food court came from live musicians, that I’d heard the songs before, and that the musicians singing the songs were the “real singers of the songs,” not amateurs who’d gotten together and decided to sing some famous songs.
For people in the long-term care (LTC) planning community, one lesson of the Clearwater Festival is that there could be worse places to try to market LTC solutions than at a table at a folk music festival. There were plenty of young folk festival attendees at Clearwater, but the average attendee seemed to be pretty much in the LTC planner’s target demographic group.
Another lesson is: Try to go out like Pete Seeger! My new long-term care plan (come to think of it: it’s also my late grandmother’s long-term care plan) is to go out singing.
But another lesson is to have a song you believe in and care about, and to do your best to keep singing it, even in the face of indifference.
Last June, Pete Seeger needed help to reach the microphone. He sometimes had trouble remembering lyrics. Then he’d get strength from his love for song and the crowd and sing out loud and clear.
At one point, he was singing “If I Had a Hammer” — one of the most famous songs of all time.
And he had a hard time holding the attention of the people in the crowd around me. Granted, it was a big crowd, and there were plenty of distractions — but there was a 94-year-old Pete Seeger up there, singing “If I Had a Hammer.”
What hope do you have, when you’re trying to tell 65-year-old, 55-year-old, 45-year-old or 35-year-old consumers, “To every thing there is a season… A time to be born, and a time to die,” when Pete Seeger had a hard time getting people who’d paid a fortune to see him listen to him singing one of the most famous songs ever?
But he kept singing his song, and some people listened.
If you keep singing, maybe some of the people who need to listen to you will listen.