On 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”
strong>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).