No book review today. Just some music, from a voice that was part of the soundtrack of my life since childhood.

When I was still small enough to be afraid of the dark, my dad sang me and my sisters to sleep with “Hobo’s Lullaby”. When my elementary school music teacher first played Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”, I told her I already knew that music — it was from Pete Seeger’s Goofing-Off Suite. When I read Jean Little’s From Anna, I knew the song “Die Gedanken Sind Frei” and could sing along with the characters in the book. At Girl Scout camp, all of the girls who loved to sing carried Seeger songs in their mouths everywhere, as easily as carrying smooth pebbles and shells in our pockets — “If I Had a Hammer”, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”, “This Land Is Your Land”, “Goodnight Irene”.

More than anything else, Pete was all about singing. Not performing — which is something else entirely. He didn’t have the greatest of voices himself. Hearty and tuneful, but always on the light reedy side. But when he sang a song, he wasn’t there to impress us with his artistry. He was there to share the music.

Sometimes he sang by himself, so we could listen and become familiar with a new song we might not know. We would eventually start humming along, then singing snatches of the refrain, and eventually making the song one of ours, carrying it around in our heads and mouths.

Other times, when he was singing something we already knew well, he would call us all to sing out. My dad and I saw him once at Finger Lakes, about thirty years ago. A hillside full of people who had come out on a summer evening under the impression that we were to be an audience discovered to our delight that we were singers. “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” washed down the dusky hillside like a tide, then “We Shall Overcome”, “Away Out There”, “Wimoweh”, “Amazing Grace”, voices swelling and settling easily.

“Everyone can sing,” he would assure us. “Don’t hold back, don’t be afraid of mistakes. There’s no such thing as a wrong note.”

He lived over ninety years, all of them filled with music.

He taught us not to be afraid of mistakes.

There’s nothing more for me to say. Just embrace the songs.

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