The day Pete Seeger passed away I found myself driving around Big Bear, California on the verge of tears. This struck me as odd because I would never consider myself a particularly passionate fan of his. I've never owned one of his recordings and I never saw him perform live. A few years ago, I did watch a documentary on the banjo and was struck by the work he did to bring American folk music to the forefront of our society in a time when it was slowly fading into the annals of history.
Perhaps the biggest reason his death struck me so profoundly is because it reminded me that as artists we have a role to play. That role is to make the world a better place to live; not only by creating beauty, but by using our voices to speak out against actions that are wrong. I admit that for the sake of diplomacy, I often keep my mouth shut about the way I feel about current issues. In the polarity of our society, one risks alienating others if his or her opinions are too strong. No matter what, there is a difference between right and wrong. When the freedoms and basic human rights of others are in peril, change is necessary. Pete Seeger - along with other artists he was able to recruit to his causes - was able to work for this change. His death reminded me that I possess this power if I choose to use it.
The truth is, we all bear a responsibility to make change in the world. Some of us have the opportunity to do this more publicly - as writers, musicians, and actors, for example; but even those who exist "behind the scenes" can have an impact by our simplest of actions. We all have a purpose - Pete Seeger's was "to show people there's a lot of good music in this world, and if used right it may help to save the planet." What's your purpose?