Remembering Pete Seeger in Laguna Beach…


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My first wife’s family lived in Laguna Beach. Her parents had retired there, and her father died without ever being able to return to Puerto Nuevo in Rosarito and eat the lobster he loved. He had the same problem as some of my Mexican friends who could leave but the USA but not return, even though he was born in New York. He and his wife were Polish-Americans, their grandparents had fled the anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia, settled in Poland and then emigrated here. He became a union organizer and in the 1950’s he was black-listed during the McCarthy era, and his passport taken away.

I got to know Pete Seeger’s music better through this family, as Seeger had been blacklisted himself. I’d already been familiar with him, since some of his civil rights and anti-war songs had reached the political movements in South America,  especially my own Chile. The banjo, Seeger’s trademark musical instrument, was adopted by some protest singers down there as well. One of the most popular Chilean banjo players, “Payo” Grondona, also recently passed away.

Pete Seeger’s music reached many generations. My oldest daughter grew up listening to his children’s songs. He is best known for his message to make the world a better place, which meant to overcome the legacy of McCarthy’s type of politics.  As Bruce Springsteen once told him: “You outlasted the bastards, man.”

More, from the New Yorker…


About Ricardo Toro

Chilean native and Anaheim resident for several decades, who just recently got drawn into the great fray!