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

George Michael – The Grave

In February 2003 George Michael unexpectedly recorded Don McLean’s The Grave in protest against the looming Iraq war. George performed the song on numerous top rated TV shows including “Top of the Pops” and “So Graham Norton”. The video featured extensively on MTV.

georgemichaelIn response, Don issued a statement, through this website, praising George Michael’s recording. Don’s words were reported in the worldwide news media. Here is Don’s statement:

I am proud of George Michael for standing up for life and sanity. I am delighted that he chose a song of mine to express these feelings. We must remember that the Wizard is really a cowardly old man hiding behind a curtain with a loud microphone. It takes courage and a song to pull the curtain open and expose him.
Good Luck George-
Don McLean, March 1st 2003.

The Grave was released on Don McLean’s 1971 American Pie album but was over-shadowed by that album’s title track and the equally famous ‘Vincent (Starry Starry Night)’.

BBC coverage of Don’s statement


The Grave: Lyrics

The grave that they dug him had flowers
Gathered from the hillsides in bright summer colors
And the brown earth bleached white
At the edge of his gravestone
He’s gone

When the wars of our nation did beckon
The man, barely twenty, did answer the calling
Proud of the trust
That he placed in our nation
He’s gone

But eternity knows him
And it knows what we’ve done

And the rain fell like pearls
On the leaves of the flowers
Leaving brown, muddy clay
Where the earth had been dry

And deep in the trench
He waited for hours
As he held to his rifle
And prayed not to die

But the silence of night
Was shattered by fire
As the guns and grenades
Blasted sharp through the air

One after another
His comrades were slaughtered
In the morgue of marines
Alone, standing there

He crouched ever lower
Ever lower, with fear
“They can’t let me die
They can’t let me die here!

I’ll cover myself
With the mud and the earth
I’ll cover myself
I know I’m not brave!

The earth, the earth
The earth is my grave.”

The grave that they dug him had flowers
Gathered from the hillsides in bright summer colors
And the brown earth bleached white
At the edge of his gravestone
He’s gone

Watch George Michael perform “The Grave” on the Graham Norton Show (Channel 4, March 2003):