Generations of Americans grew up knowing of and listening to Pete Seeger. Whether it was his own songs or the songs of others, he always sang them with such enthusiasm and love that it transcended mere skill and reached some sublime bond between Seeger and every listener and every audience. Folk music, in its purest form, has a real ability to go straight to the heart, and nobody used this form for that purpose better than Pete Seeger. While we physically lost him, in 2014 at the age of 94, he is still with us in his music and on film.
Now, Living Music is about to release a real gift to the millions of people everywhere who love this man and his music. The “Pete-Pak” is a combination CD/DVD. The CD is a remastered version of Seeger’s 1996 album Pete, which, amazingly, is hid only Grammy Award-winning album. The DVD, entitled Pete Seeger At the Living Music Festival, contains three concert performances by Seeger and a host of other musicians.
Pete is a treasury of some of Seeger’s favorite songs. On its 18 tracks Seeger plays banjo and 12-string guitar on traditional and original songs like “The Water Is Wide,” “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” “How Can I Keep From Singing” (which he used as the title for his autobiography), the bluesy “In the Evening,” and the joyful “Well May the World Go,” with a marvelous banjo duo with Paul Presopino. Then there is the incredibly touching and timeless “My Rainbow Race,” possibly this writer’s favorite of his songs.
Pete even contains a bit of rap in the song “Garbage!” and three songs that have never been released before, “Huddie Ledbetter,” “Natural History (Spider’s Web),” and an anthem on Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy” composed by Don West.
There are three different choral groups on Pete: the 30-voice Gaudeamus Chorus from Connecticut, the Gospel Voices of the Union Baptist Church Singers of New Jersey, and the Cathedral Singers from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.
The DVD is most important for providing old fans and younger generations the opportunity to see Seeger performing live. Tall and very gaunt, he looks like the embodiment of the generation that produced Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, and Woody Guthrie, and he sounds like it, too. He stood, always, for liberty and justice and the rights of the common man, and the songs he sings here and the people who perform with him show that unwavering commitment expressed in the most entertaining and non-preachy way.
The second film is of a picnic to celebrate the release of Pete which took place at producer and bandleader Paul Winter’s farm in 1997. The third, very short film is of Seeger performing in 2005 at the age of 85 for the Harriet Beecher Stowe Society in Connecticut. It is mainly important for historic value.
The booklets included deserve notice too. The one for Pete includes excerpts from articles by Seeger himself as well as from David Dunaway’s 1990 biography, and many rare photos. The DVD booklet also contains rare photos as well as a long article by Paul Winter about the times he shared with Seeger from 1963 to 1997, and concludes with Garrison Keillor’s introduction of Seeger at the 1994 Kennedy Center Awards Gala.
The Pete-Pak is a genuine American treasure. Anyone who loves folk music or is interested in American music history should have this pack in their collection.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B000X1AP5G]