Pete Seeger died on January 27, 2014. He was 94 years old. When I listened to and read the eulogies, on NPR and in The Washington Post, and other sources online, the snippets of his music instantly took me to my childhood. Like a lotion or a perfume that your mother wears, the sound of his voice drew me to memories I had long forgotten.
His voice is familiar in the folk songs we sang in elementary school, “If I Had a Hammer” and “Turn, Turn,Turn.” Both of these were written by Seeger and then made famous by other folk singers in the 1960’s. Time Entertainment online published an article the day after Seeger’s death, “Songs of Peace and Protest: 6 Essential Cuts From Pete Seeger.” Each of the descriptions of the six songs is filled with references to major historical events and figures of the 20th Century.
His voice, like a perfume, awakened memories of singing these songs in school, in church, and in the back yard. I began to wonder if Seeger had recorded any Christmas albums.
I found a description and sample of his 1989 recording, Traditional Christmas Carols, at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution. There, I was able to listen to samples of the 13 tracks. The voice is familiar, even though many of the tunes are not. I think I hit the Jeremy jackpot! I would like him to research all of these songs and tell more about their origin and Seeger’s recordings.
I think the call-and-response style that is so ingrained into my folk song laden, liberal Catholic childhood is a part of why I find his sound so appealing.
There is no question that my favorite track is “Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow,” a song I had not heard before. I searched for performances of this song and stumbled upon an instructional video for John Jacobson’s hand motions to this song. This made the song all that much better.