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Pat Piper has made a career learning something new. As a journalist in the news business, “something new” occurs every hour so he’s becoming an expert at understanding stuff he never thought about. Learning became a common word in “Future Talk: Conversations About Tomorrow” (Warner Books), the popular book he ghostwrote with Larry King as […]

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A Lesson from Pete Seeger

By on February 12, 2014 in See It Here, The Way I See It, Writing

Pete Seeger was a guest on Larry King’s late night radio show in the 1980’s. He brought his banjo (of course) and played a few verses of tunes while Larry asked questions. We never screened phone calls, other than the city and everyone had a story for Pete about how his music had made them see optimism despite his songs being so well known for things that aren’t right (Where Have All the Flowers Gone-1962 is one example).

But he made the point that night, and through most of his life, that we may create problems but—we can also fix them. In an interview I later did with him for the book Powerful Prayers, he told me about a song he had written called “Arrange and Rearrange.”

“I was out one morning to get firewood to warm the house and I saw the sun coming up. I thought to myself, “Dear God, I really hope we manage to survive all the problems we’ve created for ourselves.”

And then he picked up a guitar nearby and started singing:

“Early in the morning I first see the sun, I say a little prayer for the world. I hope my little children live a long, long time, yes, every little boy and little girl. I hope they learn to laugh at the way our precious old words seem to change, Cause that’s what life is all about, to arrange and rearrange and rearrange.”

He always carried a notebook to write ideas that came to him while going about the day. His publisher had asked him to try a song similar to “Good Night Irene,” which had done well. “I need something that isn’t a protest song,” he was told.

Pete went to his notebook and found the words in Ecclesiastes about “to everything, there is a season.” He went to work and added the words, “a time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.” We were given “Turn, Turn, Turn” as a result of that moment.

Yes, he wrote protest songs. Pete Seeger believed we can do better than this.

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