Another Pete Seeger Story

When I was around 15 or 16, I joined a folk chorus that had some kids in it from Camp Kinderland. Once, Pete Seeger brought us into a concert with him. We were thrilled. During intermission, we wanted to talk to him and tell him how we felt about his music and what he was doing. For reasons of his own, however, he didn’t stay on stage with us. Probably he needed more peace and quiet than a bunch of adrenaline-charged teenagers could provide.

We all felt, though, that it would be good if he came to talk to us. Since he believed in democracy, it only seemed fair that we act on our opinions. Someone came up with the idea of plucking his banjo, which we had been strictly warned not to touch. I volunteered, and we consulted about what to do if he got mad.

          “You take it to begin with,” one of the boys said, “And we’ll back you up,”

I went and plucked the banjo. It definitely did bring him back.

          “Who plucked my banjo string?” he asked.

          “I did!” I said. It was fairly obvious anyway, since I was the only one standing right next to it.

          Pete turned to me and said, “I should be an adult and tell you not to do that. But I feel more like pulling your hair.”

          I pictured my shoulder-length hair, which was always a little messy, all around my face.

          “Tell him what we said,” one of the kids whispered.

          “The banjo said I could do it,” I told him.

          Pete sat down on a stool. “Banjos don’t talk,” he said.

          “This one does,” another girl answered.

          “When did you hear it talk?” Pete wanted to know.

          It speaks to us every time you pick it up,” a boy told him. We all applauded.

          I wonder now, how much Pete was playing along with us to see what we had in
          mind, but I know he was genuinely moved. So were we.

--- Edna Garte

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