Pete Seeger

For about seven years from the late 1960s to the mid 1970s I knew the Seegers (Pete and Toshi) about as well as anybody. I worked with Pete Seeger frequently. He was very generous and encouraging at a time in my life when it meant a great deal to me. However, there were some things he did and said that made me sore as hell. That’s the kind of thing that was bound to happen with somebody who was controversial. Throughout the following years we remained friends and though I criticized him sometimes it was always to his face and I think he appreciated that. I never lost my affection for him and the world will be a lonelier place, for me, without him.

I would like to pass on to any young performers a few things that he taught me:

Firstly, he taught me how to perform and make a living with a guitar when I had no money and only dreams.

Secondly, he taught me how to survive success, the most important thing he taught me of all. Because I learned from him that you have to love your music and audience and everything you do, big or small, moves you forward. Everything does not have to be important and major. All the little things add up.

Finally, he said to me once, ‘If you’re going to criticize the government [which I’ve done frequently] make sure you never even spit on the sidewalk.’

Pete will become a statue now, but I remember the living man who, with all his faults had a character that was finer than anyone I ever knew.

Don McLean
February 3rd 2014


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  1. When I heard Don a few times criticising Pete publicly I must say I was surprised !!… As a loyal follower of Don through all the years,never missing his concerts in Ireland and enjoying his music,and indeed I wouldn’t be the singer or guitarist I am if it wasn’t for Don !! ….the same can be said I think about Don if it wasn’t for Pete in Dons earlier musical career ……Don would never of become the performer that he became !!! ..Pete did a lot of great things and was a brilliant musician ….but like everyone a few slips here and there….that’s life !!…….sometimes when people are ageing they say things to be controversial !!!….but for friends sake It’s better kept to themselves !!!….kind regards john Tully

  2. I find Don McLean’s comments on Pete Seeger very irksome. I’m sure Don tried Pete’s patience with his criticism; perhaps privately making him say to himself or others, “who the hell does this guy think he is?” What a fair weather friend. I had no idea Don was so haughty with his judgment of a friend.

    I read Don’s comments (on these pages) that he found Pete’s participation in certain commercial endeavors as inconsistent with his rails against capitalism. I find this criticism absurd. Must a person, including Pete, somehow disengage from the commercial world to have criticism about it?

    Pete was probably too nice to fight back the criticism. Or perhaps he did and was greeted by more high handed lectures. Pete’s resting in peace now. I think if you listen very closely you can hear Pete’s comments in the wind, he’s gleefully saying, “piss off!”

  3. Growing up in Cold Spring I enjoyed seeing you and Pete together often. Two weeks ago I watched a show about you on Pbs – the next day I heard Pete Seeger had died. I thought about “the day the music died” ……but we can cherish the songs forever.
    Thank you both

    1. Regina, do you remember Don and Pete singing at the bandstand prior to American Pie? This one night, Pete introduced Don saying “he’s from Cold Spring, NY. Yes, good ole Cold Spring NY. That was late 60’s.

  4. Very nice tribute, Don. Thanks for all of your music. When I heard Pete Seeger died, it made me think of you because I knew you worked quite a bit with him. That made me think of Austin City Limits years ago when you changed a string in mid-APie. VERY impressive and one of my great musical memories! I was really pleased to see someone posted it on YouTube. For some reason, that always stuck with me.
    Will always keep a watch on your schedule to see if you ever come to Oklahoma City or somewhere close. Thanks

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