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This is another in a mini-series of archival selections from Jeff Roth, a remarkable archivist and storehouse of little known knowledge, who has not only helped with some of my projects but runs the New York Times morgue, where folders filled with clips and photographs are buried. I’ve asked him to chose five of his favorite images and tell us why. Today he reflects on the file of the great American folk singer and social activist “Pete Seeger.”
“Some of my earliest memories are of singing along with the Weavers LP’s. How could any sprite not love Pete Seeger? He spent his whole life in pursuit of Peace through participatory singing. The Seeger clan was steeped in words and song. Papa Charles, America’s pioneering musicologist, Mother Constance, concert violinist, Uncle Alan, the tragic poet of war (“I Have a Rendezvous With Death”) and of course, half-sister and brother, Peggy and Mike, the great folksingers.”
“I look up “Charles Seeger’s” name in our card catalog, pull the file and in plain sight since 1921 are two shots of that two-year old mudlark in short pants, Pete Seeger. He’s holding his Mama’s hand and then sitting on his Father’s lap.”
“I ring Pete and he tells me they were heading South of Brooklyn to find songs, got as far as D.C.,then the car died. He only has the paper clipping. We print him some 8 x 10 glossies and when he dies, almost ninety-three years after the photos last ran, the one on his Pop’s lap makes it into the obituary.”