Folk musician and activist Pete Seeger did many, many things during his 94 years, but there’s one thing he did just once: make a music video. That video of Seeger singing Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” has gone viral in the wake of his death Monday.
The video, for which he was joined on Dylan’s song by the Grammy-winning Rivertown Kids choir that he had mentored, has now been viewed more than 500,000 times, up from around 120,000 about a week earlier.
Additionally, the Woody Guthrie Archive and the Grammy Museum announced Wednesday that they will move forward with previously announced plans to honor Seeger as the first recipient of the new Woody Guthrie Prize in a ceremony that had already been scheduled to take place in New York on Feb. 22.
“The only thing I know for certain is that Pete would want us to gather together and make some music,” Woody Guthrie’s daughter Nora Guthrie said in a statement. “The power of song, as he constantly reminded us, can take us through everything that life, and death, throws at us. On Feb. 22nd, we won’t take a moment of silence to remember him. We will take all the moments to sing — as loudly and with as many harmonies as we can muster. If Pete heard we were going to honor him by not singing, he would be furious!”
Seeger was 92 when he made the “Forever Young” video in 2012 as part of commemorations of human rights organization Amnesty International’s 50th anniversary, and it accompanied what became his last major audio recording as well.
Although there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of film and music clips of Seeger performing live, “Forever Young” is the only bona fide music video he ever made.
Seeger was recruited to record the song and the video by Martin Lewis, one of the contributing producers of the four-CD “Chimes of Freedom” album that included Bob Dylan songs sung by dozens of other musicians for the collection benefiting Amnesty. Dylan was the focal point because Amnesty’s 50th anniversary closely coincided with the 50th anniversary of the release of Dylan’s debut album.
“Pete Seeger was an incredibly inspirational figure,” Lewis told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. “He led by example. His commitment to the causes he cared about was total. His courage in the McCarthy era was legendary. He stood up to the reactionary bullies and faced them down. It was a great privilege to get to know him and work with him on two projects for Amnesty International.
“Human rights was a cause very close to his heart,” Lewis said. “His heartfelt performance of Bob Dylan’s song captures the spirit that defined his life. And he gave us all a salutary lesson on how to live our lives. It is wonderful that so many people are reliving the humanity of Pete in this poignant video. In our hearts Pete Seeger will stay ‘Forever Young’.”