That’s a play on the title of a biography — “How Can I Keep From Singing?” — of folk singer and activist Pete Seeger. As if we need further evidence that 89-year-old Pete will go to his grave still singing his heart out for peace and justice, here’s an article from the Rutland (Vt.) Herald:
BRATTLEBORO — Folk legend Pete Seeger will perform with his grandson Tao Rodriguez-Seeger and blues musician Guy Davis at 7 p.m. on Sept. 13 at the Latchis Theater in a fundraising concert to provide microloans to farmers.
The event is co-produced by Strolling of the Heifers and the microloan program will be a cooperative project between them and the Carrot Project, a not-for-profit organization based in Somerville, Mass., dedicated to providing financial assistance to small and midsize farms and those using ecologically friendly practices.
The Strolling of the Heifers — best known for the parade of the same name that takes place in Brattleboro the first Saturday in June — promotes awareness of agriculture and raises money for youth agricultural programs.
“The idea came from asking farmers what we could do to help them,” said Orly Munzing, Strolling’s executive director, of the microloan program. “The young farmers, especially, can’t get loans, and that’s difficult in an emergency.”
Munzing said the Carrot Project will handle the financial end of the program and will match farmers with lenders.
For decades, microloans have been far more common in Third World countries than the United States. In 2006, Muhammad Yunus received the Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering the practice in his native Bangladesh.
“It’s easier for farmers in India to borrow money than in the United States,” Munzing said. “These small farmers in the Northeast need the most help.”
At 89 years old, Seeger has spent the last seven decades as a folk singer and political activist. He performed with Woody Guthrie in the 1940s, testified before the House un-American Activities Committee in 1955 and participated in civil rights marches in the 1960s.
Along the way, he composed, “If I had a Hammer,” “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)” and “Where Have all the Flowers Gone?”
Today, Seeger devotes most of his time to his environmental activism group Clearwater.
Rodriguez-Seeger first performed with his grandfather in 1986 and has released five albums with his band the Mammals. Guy Davis has released 12 albums since 1978 and his 2004 CD “Legacy” was chosen as one of the best of the year by National Public Radio.
Tickets range from $30 to $50 and for an extra $15 concertgoers can attend a post-show reception with the artists. Tickets are available at the Latchis Hotel and Vermont Artisan Designs in Brattleboro, Dynamite Records in Northampton, Mass., or at www.brattleborotix.com.
Years ago, I met Pete when I interviewed him for a magazine article looking back at the violence that erupted when the legendary Paul Robeson gave an outdoor concert in 1949 in Peekskill, New York.
In the late 1990s, Pete kindly agreed to perform a benefit concert for a small, local charity I had started in western New Jersey to help local families with food and heating oil and to buy Christmas gifts for children in those families. One of Pete’s favorite slogans is “Think globally, act locally,” and this effort — unpaid volunteers helping their neghbors — fit the idea perfectly.
His first concert (which also featured Pete’s talented grandson Tao) sold out a 650-seat high school auditorium (with every cent raised going to the charity, as Pete declined any kind of compensation). And Pete had such a good time, and thought it was such a good cause, that he came back two years later and headlined another benefit concert, this one held outdoors at a park along the Delaware River in Pennsylvania. (Both of those concerts also featured performances by local singers who donated their time and talent and got on stage with Pete — including my good friend and great novelist Christian Bauman, who dueted with Pete on a Woody Guthrie song called “Do-Re-Mi”).
Anyway, that’s when I really got to know Pete and his amazing wife, Toshi, and that’s my real excuse for writing this — to help publicize his latest benefit show for his latest cause but also to declare that just being able to say I know Pete Seeger is an honor and that getting to meet him and talk with him and work him will always rank as one of the highlights of my life. The man is an American hero, a true American hero, and how could I keep from singing his praises?