Bruce Springsteen Pays Tribute to Pete Seeger
Bruce Springsteen paid tribute to Pete Seeger, who passed away on Monday at the age of 94, at a concert in Cape Town, South Africa, yesterday. He gave a moving speech and performed ‘We Shall Overcome,’ which Seeger helped turn into a global anthem for human rights.
Springsteen, who has begun his South Africa concerts by covering the Specials’ 1984 U.K. hit ‘Free Nelson Mandela,’ drew comparisons between the two men. “I lost a great friend and a great hero last night, Pete Seeger,” he said during the show’s encore. “Like I said last night, we’re humble to be here tonight in the land of Mandela, a great freedom fighter. We are here tonight in his grace, because he made it possible for us to be here. Pete, back home, was a very courageous freedom fighter also.”
He then introduced ‘We Shall Overcome’ by quoting Rep. John Lewis, one of the most important figures of the Civil Rights movement. Lewis said the song “gave you a sense of faith, a sense of strength to continue to struggle, to continue to push on and lose your sense of fear. . . . Once you heard this song, you took it to heart — you were prepared to march into hell’s fire.”
Springsteen concluded his speech with, “We’re going to sing this for Pete and for Mandela, who understood these lyrics all so f—ing well. Wishing for a prosperous South Africa for all of its citizens and a peaceful South Africa.” Toward the end of the encore, Springsteen performed another song popularized by Seeger, ‘This Little Light of Mine.’
In 2006, Bruce Springsteen released ‘We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Session,’ a collection of traditional folk songs popularized by Seeger. Three years later, the two men sang Woody Guthrie‘s ‘This Land Is Your Land’ at President Obama’s inauguration on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
That May, Springsteen appeared at a 90th birthday concert for Seeger at Madison Square Garden, calling him “a living archive of America’s music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along, to push American events towards more humane and justified ends” and “a stealth dagger through the heart of our country’s illusions about itself.”