Pete Seeger died recently, and as my friend Patricia Shreenan pointed out at the Living the Enneagram Conference, not one bit of dirt has turned up about him in all of the media coverage of his life.
I believe he was a shining example of an Enneagram One – the Reformer, the Crusader, the Idealist. He had high principles for the world and for himself, and he lived by them.
In the early 1950s, he quit the Weavers – one of the most popular bands in America – because they’d decided to do a cigarette commercial.
He was engaged in more activist movements than there’s room to name here, but they include civil rights, human rights, and environmental justice. He was active with these causes for his entire life.
He stood up to the House of Unamerican Activities, respectfully refusing to answer their questions, deeming them inappropriate (a buzzword for Ones) for a country that guarantees freedom of speech and thought. Prevented from performing in cabarets and concert halls, he played summer camps instead, planting the seeds for a massive folk revival in the ‘60s.
He was a magnificent musician, and yet made the focus of his performances leading others in song. He could get any crowd singing in multiple parts and harmonizing to a song they were hearing for the first time, with the simplest of prompts.
This ability to reach people indicates he was probably a Social type. His commitment to activist causes reflects this as well. Social Ones are political crusaders, the stereotypical image of Ones. They want what’s right for everyone.
He displayed the characteristic One’s love of nature, living in a log cabin he built in upstate New York, going without indoor plumbing for more than twenty years. The 2007 documentary Pete Seeger: The Power of Song opens with him chopping a fallen tree on his property with an ax, smiling, singing a worksong. He was 89.
He showed the connection to Type Seven – the Enthusiast, seen in healthy Ones. When a group of activist singers asked him what the most important thing was for them to know, he surprised them all, telling them to remember to take time for themselves.
In the liner notes to his aptly named Goofing-Off Suite (later used in Raising Arizona), he describes playing for the simple of pleasure of it. Not practicing, but exploring, having fun with it. And that goofing off fed his writing and playing songs that inspired millions, and continue to inspire.
It’s no wonder he lived so long, and did so much good. He was a healthy One, a morally upright person, a beacon of integrity, a crusader for justice, radiating warmth, curiosity and joy.
My favourite album of his is We Shall Overcome – a concert at Carnegie Hall in 1963. He plays traditional songs, new songs (including three by a then unknown Bob Dylan), civil rights songs, and many sing-alongs. Pete Seeger’s Greatest Hits is also worth getting. The documentary Pete Seeger: The Power of Song is incredible. And his book The Incompleat Folksinger collects his journalism over the years – a wonderful read.