I spent yesterday evening tucked into the corner of the third tier at Madison Square Garden. I was one of about 18,000 people there to wish Pete Seeger a happy ninetieth birthday, to contribute to his Clearwater Project which, since 1969 has cleaned the Hudson River (or at least keeps it from getting any filthier) and to participate in an event filled with hope for the future and memories, fond and otherwise, of the past.
Among the attendees there was a lot of grey hair, middle-aged spread and walkers and canes, but on the whole, the folk generation has aged well, and no one had to be carried downstairs when the escalators broke as the audience was leaving. To be fair, there were quite a number of younger people attending, too.
The people on stage spanned the generations, too, but the sense of history hovered over the heads of the older performers. In a concert devoted in part to songs of protest, how can you have Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, and Ruby Dee on a stage together without thinking about their political struggles, reflecting on the frightening state this country has come to in recent years, and wondering who will be the ones to spur us on to make sure that there are better times ahead?
Ordinarily, I do not have the attention span for a four and a half hour concert, but this was more like a singalong sprinkled with performances. A Family Human seated beside me noted how this occasion made her realize how much she missed sitting around with a bunch of people and singing. Maybe the time has come to break out the guitars and dust off the songbooks.