Beloved American folksinger Pete Seeger was a maker — a music maker and a justice maker. He took joy in bending the world to his will using his favored tool, a banjo. He accomplished much in his life, but perhaps nothing more significant than teaching the song We Shall Overcome to Martin Luther King Jr, in the back of a cab in Atlanta one day.
With a willpower that would make a bulldozer seem lethargic, Pete Seeger rose each morning to beat the world into a better shape. In doing so, he inspired many around the world including a youngster living a tough life in Freehold, New Jersey – Bruce Springsteen.
Back in 2006, I got to wondering what the song We Shall Overcome would sound like played by Bruce Springsteen — with a crescendo rising rock’n’roll edge. I hacked the song, because that’s what makers do. I didn’t have any particular reason to hack the song. Makers don’t need a reason. We find out the reason for the hacking after we make something.
Here is what that recording sounds like.
Springsteen’s stage performances resonate with Pete Seeger’s vitality, perhaps none more than the 1988 performance of the song Chimes of Freedom in Copenhagen, Denmark.
It was in that city, in 1965, that my dad received a phone call from the Nobel Committee. He and his co-workers in UNICEF had been chosen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. My dad and mom were nuts about Pete Seeger, as you might imagine. They believed you can’t make a mistake by making the world more humane or more spontaneous.