“If I had a hammer…I’d hammer against danger…all over this world…” Here’s hoping you watched or will get a DVD or tape of PBS’s 90th Birthday Celebration Special for Pete Seeger, and will hammer against a host of dangers getting little or no hammering.
First, thank you, Daily News radio/TV critic David Hinckley for alerting me to this truly special program. Would that the chaps meeting on the White House Lawn for a brew, at what the president said was a “cordial and productive discussion,” had viewed it too. “Everybody singing” is so good for what ails us—physically, mentally and emotionally—songs that bring out the best, not the beast, in us, that is.
In introducing “Amazing Grace,” Seeger said, “There is no such thing as a wrong note, as long as you’re singing along!” And the Madison Square Garden audience did that with gusto and heart. Singing along should be part of many concerts and a “main event” in faith, learning and healing communities. But strong song leaders are essential, and for the aging voice, puhleeze, lower the key! And no amplification, which hurts hearing, nerves, neighbors and the ecosystem.
Also, what made this special so special was that at least two-thirds of the performers had lived 65-plus years. Old, middle aged and young made music together, and here’s to songs that hammer against both ageism and age apartheid, especially in mediums which so shape customs and views. Do write some, Pete, including ongoing family and friendship love songs.
And listen to my son Jeff’s “Happy Birthday to a Little Girl,” a poignant country ballad about a repentant absentee daddy who longs to be a real father again to his daughter. Very important message, and one that relates to the president’s Father’s Day message.
Incidentally, in the early 1980s, Walter Cronkite and his East 84th Street neighbors went to the 19th Precinct Community Council meeting to protest local youths vandalizing and disturbing the peace on their block. Cronkite also believed in community newspapers.
This neighborhood no longer has such threats, but the scofflaw biking danger raised at every civic meeting for decades is more ubiquitous than ever. And on May 1, 50-year-old Stuart Gruskin died of severe head trauma after being struck by a wrong-way food-delivery biker. Gruskin was crossing West 43rd Street on his way to work. I only learned of this wrongful death in the July 19th Daily News story by Dorian Block, “Family of businessman struck, killed by bicycle hope $20M lawsuit will create tougher safety laws.” Not only is his wife, Nancy, suing Call Cuisine Caterers, but she has started an all-out campaign to stop the bike lawlessness which killed her husband, the father of two 12-year-olds, this son with parents and others who dearly loved him.
And keep hammering against turning 27 occupied homes at 85 East End Ave. into classrooms for the Brearley School. Thank you, Assembly Member Micah Kellner and Rita Magier, of the 85 East End Tenants’ Committee, for your letters-to-the-editor-type hammering.
Hammer against Albany’s failing to help out the stores dying due to the Second Avenue subway construction. They need more support from all of us, please!
While there was surely hammering against the July 31 closing of the 92nd Street Y’s Buttenweiser Library, more might have helped. But hammering away at the long-term consequences of losing these cultural, educational and intellectual resource places—which are also safe, quiet and gracious intergenerational community spaces—may get them off the endangered species list.
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