Folk music legend and activist Pete Seeger died Monday night. He was 94.
Seeger came to Colorado several times during his life. Harry Tuft, founder of the Denver Folklore Center, brought him here for a concert in 1967, and later managed Seeger's visits to Red Rocks.
Tuft tells Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner that in the 1960’s, Seeger’s manager asked Tuft to get the folksinger to Denver because Seeger wanted to go skiing with his son, John. In 1967, Tuft arranged for Seeger to perform in Denver and Boulder. "Then I drove him to Aspen right before the season opened,” Tuft says.
“I actually suffer from narcolepsy and I was deathly afraid I’d fall asleep at the wheel and kill us all between Denver and Aspen,” Tuft adds. “Fortunately as you can see that didn’t happen.”
Some years later, Tuft says, Seeger’s manager suggested Seeger play at Red Rocks with Arlo Guthrie. The concert sold out.
“It was very sweet, very touching to watch the two of them,” Tuft says. Seeger was like a surrogate father to Guthrie, according to Tuft. Guthrie’s father Woody had died some years before.
Tuft says Seeger wanted to be a man of the people. “After the concert at Red Rocks, he would go into the audience and pick up trash,” Tuft remembers.
Seeger is best remembered as a songwriter and performer, but he was also an activist, lending his voice to the civil rights movement in the 1960’s; campaigns against Hitler and the war in Vietnam; and the Occupy movement a few years ago. He was also a member of the Communist Party at one time, although he renounced it in the early 1950’s.
Out of Seeger's many hit songs, Tuft says “Turn! Turn! Turn!” might best express the way the folk legend felt about the world. The lyrics are adopted from the Bible, and the song was made famous by the rock band The Byrds.
“Those words from Ecclesiastes talked about the way you live a life: You don’t go to extremes. There’s a time for things,” Tuft says. “[Seeger] worked for peace and affected millions of people that way.”