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Woody Guthrie Prize Recipient Pete Seeger to be Honored by Banjoist Tony Trischka

Pete SeegerOn February 22 at Symphony Space in New York City, Pete Seeger will become the first recipient of the Woody Guthrie Prize, an award given annually to an artist who best exemplifies the spirit and life’s work of Woody Guthrie, and serves as a positive force for social change in America. Seeger was awarded the prize before his passing on January 27.

Tony Trischka will honor his friend and mentor Seeger with remarks and a solo performance of Pete’s music. The evening will also feature Arlo Guthrie.

“Transcendent ‘Blue Skies’ of Pete Seeger rendered by the great Tony Trischka…long live such memories,” tweeted Joyce Carol Oates after his recent New York album release show.

Tony's performance of "Blue Skies"

“Guard against getting too discouraged because winning the big battles seems so far off and so difficult. Pick some little struggles. Here, on the waterfront of my hometown, we’ve been teaching sailing and pulling up weeds and cooking food and singing songs. These are very trivial things, but little victories give us the courage to keep on struggling to win some bigger victories later on.”
   ~ Pete Seeger, In His Own Words

Tony remembers Pete:
When I first got serious about playing the banjo around the age of 14, I picked up Pete’s banjo book, which came out in the late '40s. It was the first banjo instruction book of the modern era, and provided me, and countless others, with lots of early inspiration. Around that time, I wrote a letter addressed to “Pete Seeger, Beacon, NY” (I didn’t have the address... kind of like writing to Santa Claus, North Pole). It went something like this: “You’re the greatest banjo player in the entire universe.” Two weeks later, I received a post card from Pete saying, “Dear Tony, Music’s not like a horse race. There’s no such thing as best, but I’m glad you like my music.” And he signed his name and drew a little banjo. The fact that he would take the time to respond to a kid like me was huge.

I visited Pete a week before he died, at his home in Beacon, New York. Though frail, he spent part of the afternoon reciting Shakespeare’s 65th sonnet from memory. This was followed by a recitation of the Gettysburg Address. Pete then instructed us on the best way to position the logs in his wood stove (which, incidentally, he’d designed himself many years before).

At this point, Pete picked up his banjo and, fingers wisping the strings, sang one song,:

“Some say that humankind won’t long endure
But what makes them so doggone sure?
I know that you who hear my singing
Could make those freedom bells go ringing
I know that you who hear my singing
Could make those freedom bells go ringing


And so keep on while we live
Until we have no, no more to give
And when these fingers can strum no longer
Hand the old banjo to young ones stronger
And when these fingers can strum no longer
Hand the old banjo to young ones stronger


 From “Quite Early Morning”
 Words and music by Pete Seeger
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