No one counted noses but it is fair to estimate that millions joined in the “For Pete’s Sake, Sing” celebrations of Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday Sunday May 3. The birthday parties ranged from a sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden featuring Bruce Springsteen, other superstars and Pete Seeger himself, to local hootenannies in cities and towns all across the country and around the world.
Pete Seeger has reached his ninth decade of life still in the thick of the struggle for world peace, protection of the environment, racial equality and union rights for workers.
He has never wavered even when J. Edgar Hoover and the other anti-communist witch hunters placed him on the blacklist during the 1950s. His singing career, with songs that made it to the top of the Hit Parade plummeted. He was banned from concert halls and the airwaves by the self-appointed guardians of “national security.”
He made his way back by becoming a troubadour of the rising mass movements of the people, in the first place, the freedom movement of the African American people and later the surging movement against the Vietnam War. Earlier, in the late 1930s and 1940s, Seeger’s voice trumpeted the CIO struggles to organize the mass production industries with defiant songs like Florence Reese’s “Which Side Are You On.”
Pete Seeger sang to millions at Barack Obama’s pre-inaugural celebration at the Lincoln Memorial. Isn’t it time to give the highest possible honor to this man, the Nobel Peace Prize? So far, more than 21,000 poeople have signed petitions urging a Nobel for Seeger. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), herself a tribune of world peace, has agreed to carry the petitions to Stockholm. This would not be simply an honor for Seeger as an individual. It would also honor the many millions of working people who stood along with Seeger creating a broad cultural movement that has played a huge role in opposing war, racism, the exploitation of human beings and the degradation of planet earth by giant banks and corporations.