Thanks, Pete Seeger

Our stories and our environment spin each other reflexively. Both change endlessly in an intimate dance of culture. I have been reminded of this fact by a recent notification from Twitter about a storyteller with a banjo.

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Photo by Anthony Pepitone - 2007

When I was a teenager, I the good fortune to be able to hear live music on a regular basis. I lived outside of Washington, DC so attending concerts by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Andres Segovia, Arthur Rubenstein, Steve Goodman, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, and Peter, Paul and Mary was as simple as buying tickets. I thought I was just hearing good music, impressing my dates and tending to my libido. It never occurred to me that interacting with culture was shaping me as a storyteller or that I had the ability to alter my culture and environment.

One of the concerts I remember had me sitting in the Lisner Auditorium on the campus at George Washington University listening to Pete Seeger. He went through an amazing array of songs, instruments and languages continuously accompanied by his toe tapping that could be heard through out the hall. Of course, it was the 60's and Pete Seeger, so the number of times that the audience was called on to sing harmony was quite high, but with Pete, that seemed natural and it was easy to join in.

The amazing part of listening to his music was the joy he felt in telling the stories he had collected and written. His love of life and people lifted his music beyond performance into sublime flights into hopes for tomorrow and people he had not had the chance to meet. When I heard him that first time, he was still suffering the effects of “blacklisting” on radio and television. For nearly 20 years, the paranoia of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee severely limited his career. At the same time, his story became a model for courageous aspirations.

The First Amendment battles following WWII form the shading for the tapestry of my stories. I cannot remove Pete Seeger's story from mine as it is a part of the culture, the environment we both share. He said, “Technology will save us if it doesn't wipe us out first.” Story Chip is a project that springs from this environment. We are all storytellers and we all have stories to share using the technology to save our stories.

Seventy years ago, Pete Seeger began singing stories of activism. Fifty years ago, I brought that environment into my story. One day ago, Pete Seeger started following Story Chip on Twitter. The environment and the story spin each other reflexively. I am humbled.

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