Folk-music legend Pete Seeger co-wrote “If I Had a Hammer,” but Peter, Paul and Mary made it famous. Seeger – whose impending 90th birthday will be celebrated in West Seattle and other locals nationwide – is much better known for his songwriting than his singing – this classic performed by The Byrds, also from the ’60s, is a prime example:
Here’s Seeger explaining how he wrote that:
So, after those clips, are you in the mood to sing along with songs like “If I Had a Hammer” and “Turn, Turn, Turn,” along with many others? On Seeger’s 90th birthday, Sunday 5/3, a day with celebrations planned around the country, the Seattle party will be right here in West Seattle, at the historic Admiral Theater. The singalongs will be part of an evening music slate, starting at 7 pm, following a documentary screening at 4 pm. West Seattle author/historian Clay Eals is the one who came up with the idea for the historic theater to host this celebration of living history – during an interview at the Admiral last Wednesday, he explained what it’s going to be all about:
Read on for more about the celebration, more from Eals – who explains the synergy between this event and the musician-biography project he worked on for years – ahead:
First, about the documentary you’ll see at 4 pm that day: “Pete Seeger: The Power of Song” tells the story of not only his music, but also the political trouble he got into – here’s an excerpt:
Admiral entertainment director Dinah Brein-McClellan calls the documentary “a stunning summary of Pete Seeger’s long and inspiring life.” And the history of our music, the presence of music, is the essence of ALL of our lives, Eals notes:
The event at the Admiral on May 3rd, however, will not be just about watching and listening. It will be about participating – the way that Seeger so often encourages singalongs during his concerts. During the “hootenanny” starting at 7 pm, Tom Colwell and The Southbound Odyssey will play the songs you’ll want to sing.
The fact this is all happening at the Admiral Theater isn’t the only West Seattle link. Seeger visited
our peninsula in the ’40s; this HistoryLink article tells the tale, in its biography of West Seattleite Ivar Haglund, known for his folk music as much as for his fish and chips. In fact, the article says, Seeger even claimed credit at one point for teaching Ivar the famous “acres of clams” song (officially known as the “Old Settler’s Song”).
We don’t know if he visited West Seattle at the time, but we do know that Seeger was back in Seattle in 1997, performing at the Northwest Folklife Festival, which will benefit from part of the proceeds of the May 3rd event at The Admiral. Some never-before-seen footage from that concert is promised for this event, too. Whoever’s singing, whoever’s playing, when it comes to Pete Seeger, it all seems interrelated, a lot like the way this all relates to a big project Eals worked on for years:
On May 3, Seeger himself will celebrate his 90th birthday at New York’s Madison Square Garden, with an all-star lineup that includes famous folk musicians, such as Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez and Judy Collins – it’s a benefit for the Hudson River preservation/protection initiative he founded. You can be there in spirit by being part of the Admiral screening and hootenanny: “For Pete’s Sake, Sing!”
TICKETS: Admission for the film only is $8; the hootenanny is $10, with a special discounted $15 ticket including both events. You can buy tickets on the day of the event, or better yet, in advance online.