Convalescing from my very successful surgery with no pain and very little discomfort, I find it difficult to keep sitting quietly and letting my body heal. Yet last night I found myself glued to the television watching a documentary on PBS about folk singer Pete Seeger. Although I didn't know it at the time, the music of Pete Seeger had a tremendous influence my own love of music.
My earliest recollection of listening to music was my parents collection of Sinatra, Perry Como, Rosemary Clooney, and big bands. Then in the summer of 1962 I began to attend CYO Day Camp in Coney Island, where I was introduced to folk music by a beautiful blond music and art counselor whose name I do not remember. She played guitar and over the five summers I attended the camp, she taught us songs she heard in Greenwich Village by rising folk singers by Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, and others. I was immediately captivated by the songs, This Land is Your Land, If I Had a Hammer, This Little Light of Mine, Puff the Magic Dragon, Leaving on a Jet Plane and many more.
Folk music is still around, but it is not as popular as much of the noise that masquerades as music today. Folk music had, has heart. It speaks of the struggles of humanity, and it also speaks of hope and the perseverance of the human spirit. It brings to my mind the Psalms of the ancient Israelites. The longer I pray the Psalms, the more I come to appreciate their importance in the Judeo/Christian tradition The Psalms are like folk songs. They come from the oral tradition of a people who were oppressed, who suffered, they are songs of lament and of sorrow. But they are also songs of joy and of hope in the Lord. They speak of a common tradition, culture and history. They are songs that have endured by a people who have endured, and they will continue to be sung where and whenever there are men and women who have faith and a need for God. They are the songs who define the People of God.