Experiments with Truth: Analysis

Pete Seeger, at 94, still telling stories in song

As of last Friday, Pete Seeger has walked the earth for 94 years. He’s been performing for 86 of them.

He was 8 when he first picked up a ukulele — a gift from his mom — and started singing to the kids at boarding school. He relates this on the phone from his Beacon home, speaking in gentle, rolling tones about his childhood and the long youth that followed. He tells stories, long ones, stories lit with humor and undimmed hope. He wonders about the future, worries about the planet, considers whether the human race will last.

And he sings. He has to. The American folk legend hasn’t much of a voice any longer — it’s a quavering wisp of what it was — and he doesn’t remember nearly as many lyrics to nearly as many songs as he used to. But he can’t tell a story without singing, just as he can’t sing without telling a story. Even over the phone, with a reporter he’s never met, he breaks into song lightly and often, as though he’s done it a million times. Because he has.

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