Pete Seeger, who died in January at the age of 94, was a towering figure in folk music and the history of New York. He was closely associated with the civil rights movement, was a key player in the 1960s Greenwich Village scene that jump started Bob Dylan's career and co-founded an environmental organization that has spent decades working to clean up the Hudson River.
A five-day celebration of Seeger will culminate Monday in a tribute in Central Park that will feature Steve Earle, Amanda Palmer and a rare acoustic set from the political punk band Anti-Flag.
amNewYork talked with Anti-Flag singer Justin Sane.
When did you first discover Pete Seeger?
Probably before first grade. My parents liked him, and I saw him perform with Arlo Guthrie at a county park in Pittsburgh when I was probably in second grade. ... I saw him many times after that. I thought his songs were really smart and he was an amazing musician, but I was drawn to his activism.
Most people don't see the connection between his music and punk rock.
He was really the punk rocker of his time. He was boycotted for the things he wrote about. ... That he had to saddle that burden and stayed true to his beliefs is about as punk rock as it gets.
Anti-Flag is also known for its activism. How important is it that your fans do more than just buy tickets?
I think it's important that people are engaged in activism to whatever level they want to be engaged. ... I hope people will think about making the world a better place. But maybe just listening to our music and thinking about what we have to say is as much as they can be engaged. I get that too.
Do you have a favorite Pete Seeger song?
One of the songs we're going to play is "What Did You Learn in School Today?" I love that song because it's just so smart. The lyrics are brilliant. Anyone who hears that song, it would help them question whether the things that are the status quo in our culture really should be the status quo.