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The Day Pete Seeger Sang About Trickle Up

January 28, 2014


Saturday, October 23, 2010: Pete Seeger was playing a benefit at a small church in Greenwich Village, a five-minute walk from my apartment, and it was a thrill to be able see him in such an intimate setting.  Frail at age 91, he did a few songs, then turned over the stage to Theodore Bikel for about a half hour.  When Pete returned, he introduced a new song by a friend Lorre Wyatt entitled “God’s Counting on Me, God’s Counting on You.”

It was a classic Seeger ballad…and then, about a minute into the song, came this verse:

“It’s time to turn things around
Trickle up, not trickle down
God’s counting on me
God’s counting on you.”

Needless to say, I was elated.  As the concert ended, I hoped to have the opportunity to introduce myself and Trickle Up to Pete, a great personal hero of mine.  Knowing of his willingness to sing for so many important causes over the years, I had the wild idea that I could persuade him to sing at the next Trickle Up gala.

But he was exhausted by the end of the concert and left immediately.  I went home and wrote him a letter, Googled my way to his mailing address in Beacon, New York, and then mailed him my pitch.  Weeks passed with no reply.  Recalling that he’d performed a few times at the summer camp where my children had gone, I called the camp director and got Pete’s phone number.

Not expecting him to answer the phone, I was startled into near-incoherence when that unmistakable voice came on the line.   I introduced myself, burbled on about what an honor it was to talk to him (just the wrong thing to say to a man who defined humility and modesty), and asked if he’s received my letter.  “Yes, as a matter of fact, I just wrote to you. Sorry it has taken me so long,” he said.  “You have my permission to use the song any way you want, just get Lorre’s permission too, since he wrote it.”

Would it be possible for him to perform at Trickle Up’s gala?  He laughed and said his age prevented him from doing many concerts.  He wished me luck and, politely but efficiently, hung up.

You can see a video of that October concert at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8Uy8wqov4I.  But, if you want to hear a clearer rendition, try this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNKnYnmOTTg.  Or this one, with lovely video of Pete: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvnsB_kVNYI

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. V.E.G. permalink
    January 30, 2014 7:11 pm

    Goodbye Pete Seeger. He will be known forever and to the ages as a folk singer and peace movements.

  2. Marta Rainer permalink
    February 4, 2014 1:19 am

    Bill – it was my profound honor to be present for Pete’s funeral yesterday. Afterwards, it should be no surprise, people gathered to sing! And sing they did – including this wonderful song! Keep singing it, everyone. Songs have power. xox Marta

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