Sing to your babies

This morning I woke up to some very sad news: that Pete Seeger had died.

Credit: Annie Leibovitz. Pete Seeger, Clearwater Revival, Croton-on-Hudson, NY, 2001And I know it’s partly the fading fever at work — buh-bye H1N1, please do let the door hit you in the arse on the way out — and the fact that I’ve eaten nothing but popsicles for days, but I’ve been crying, actually crying about this on-and-off today.  Both my parents are still alive so I haven’t been hit  squarely with grief, but other family members have died without so soppy a send-off.

I think the reaction — as only one other person on the planet, my sister, will understand — is largely a result of the fact that one of my still-living parents, my dad, used to sing us Pete Seeger songs at bedtime, when we were small.  And not-so-small.  We were cute and willing to fake neediness if it got us another story or song (Note to self: be on the look-out for similar tactics coming from local anti-sleep activists).

I didn’t realize until I was much older how message-laden those songs were, how firm a foundation we were being given in the principles of equity and action, under the guise of a lullaby.

More recently, I saw a documentary about Pete Seeger on PBS.  They interviewed a person who spoke about his home; apparently he had a house on the Hudson River in an area that had since been declared a state park, so there was no further development.  The interviewee said that he used to visit his parents, who lived across the river, and he’d look out from their place, and he could see if the lights were on, and he’d “know if Mr. Seeger was home.”

Today, the lights will be dark, but they glow just as bright across all rivers, now that Mr. Seeger is home.

And tonight, if you have the exquisite opportunity to do so, sing to your babies.  They will remember it all their lives.


  1. What sweet memories you have. I didn’t realize he’d written so many of the folk songs we know and love.

    • And popularized many that he didn’t write, like The Water Is Wide. Impossible to pick a favourite (if you’re sappy old me).

  2. Beautifully written.

    I love that you remember this from your childhood. My wee one has a fondness for, uh, heavy metal, and my husband will sometimes sing her verses from his favourite (usually political) heavy metal tunes. I think I’m going to show him this post tonight. And I think I might try to get a little better at singing my own favourite (more folksy) social anthems to her.

  3. My own personal Pete Seeger story……

  4. Heartening to know that anyone of your generation feels sorrow at his passing. We ancients thought it would be only us. Thanks!

  5. Jeni, you have paid a great tribute to Mr Seeger. That his words, his music are some of your fondest memories and comforts from childhood speaks volumes. People like him are needed in this world, and it is a little sadder that we have lost him. I am proud of my daughter’s young friends (ages 20’s to 30’s) and my sister-in-law who I see establishing the good ideals I think you feel, too, in their children. It gives me hope for the future. I agree: sing to your babies. They will always remember! :)

  6. I’ve started singing to my baby even though she hasn’t been born yet. I also use Nuvo Ritmo’s baby belt to play music to her. I agree – we always remember the songs our parents sing to us or the ones they listen to all the time. My wedding dance with my dad was Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” which he played while we were growing up and is now one of my favorite songs.

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.


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