The world lost an amazing human being this week. Pete Seeger has been called many things: a singer, a banjo player, a songwriter, an activist, a troubadour, a folk singer, "un-American," a teacher, a champion. His legacy and mark on the world will undoubtably continue for many years.
High profile deaths happen on a fairly regularly basis, but for some reason this one has stayed with me. And I've spent the week reflecting and asking myself...
For one, Pete Seeger's songs are a major part of my "go to" music therapy repertoire. Some are ones he wrote, others those he helped make part of our musical lexicon. If I Had a Hammer, This Land is Your Land, and Turn! Turn! Turn! are all standard pieces I incorporate in my session on a regular basis. But what is it about the musician and his music that makes this so? I think it boils down to two things:
Pete Seeger's music—that he composed and that he made popular—is powerfully simple. Sing-able melodies, easy-to-follow harmonies, and catchy rhythmic patterns not only make his music accessible, but it allows the poetry of his lyrics to shine. For the music therapist, this makes his music incredibly versatile. We can incorporate it in multiple types of settings for diverse situations. For example, If I Had a Hammer provides a steady and repetitive rhythmic template to help facilitate upper extremity strength, range of motion, and mobility exercises. And Turn! Turn! Turn! allows an opportunity for lyric analysis experiences to process time- and change-related themes.
Then there is the man himself. I am not a Pete Seeger scholar. I have not followed his career nor could I tell you all the ins and outs of his accomplishments. But what is abundantly clear to me is that he lived and worked in joy. I'm not sure you can watch a video of Pete Seeger singing and not smile, laugh, and leave the experience feeling a little better. He's an infectious role model for finding your passion, sharing your voice, and living compassionately.
Thank you Pete Seeger for your life and your music. The world is a better place because you lived in it.
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