One of the great voices of my youth has fallen silent this day. Pete Singer was the voice of the folk music movement of the early 1960s. His haunting lyrics and melodious songs called Americans whose sons and daughters were being shipped in mass to Southeast Asia to ask themselves, “Where have all the flowers gone? Gone to graveyards every one. When will they ever learn?” It would become the anthem of an anti-war movement which would galvanize America against the war in Southeast Asia over the next bloody seven years of that conflict.
Seeger led crowds across our nation fighting for civil rights - a fight that continues today for immigrants, LBGT people, working class people and the disabled – in an anthem which promised that someday, “We shall overcome.” Seeger called us to use the hammer of justice to build a new America, to ring the bell of freedom to pierce the din of discrimination and always to keep singing the songs “about love between my brothers and my sisters…all over this land.”
I did not know until this morning that Seeger was the author of what is probably my favorite song of all times. Recorded by The Byrds in 1965, “Turn, Turn, Turn” took the words of the Hebrew Scriptures found in Ecclesiastes and set them to music. Seeger had crafted them in the late 1950s but The Byrds took the song to the top of the charts.
Simultaneously mindful of our mortality and calling us to be fully present for each day, Seeger reminded us that there is “a time to every purpose under heaven; a time to be born and a time to die.” And, most characteristically, Seeger’s song ended with the exhortation, “A time for peace…I swear it’s not too late.”
I long ago decided that whatever else is sung at my memorial service, I want that service to include “Turn, Turn, Turn.” But for today, it is Pete Seeger’s time to die and I join a generation in grieving his passing and in expressing gratitude for his life, his work and the way it has shaped our own.
Rest in peace, brother. You will be sorely missed.
The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., M.Div. Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Instructor: Religion and Cultural Studies
Osceola Regional Campus University of Central Florida, Kissimmee
If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.
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