Pete Seeger’s Last Letter

Until the very end, Pete Seeger was thinking about music and his fans.

Last August, Sacramento music lover and self-proclaimed “jamvangelist” Kim Alexander sent the then 93-year-old folk icon a letter. In it, she described her appreciation for Seeger and his music and outlined “20 Tips for Making Music With Friends.”  “I wrote the letter on August 26, which is my late father’s birthday,” Kim explains. “I make a point of writing a letter to someone who matters to me on that day each year.”

Not surprisingly, Kim never received a reply from the constantly-busy Seeger. “When I heard the news that he passed away, I was really grateful that I had sent the letter and expressed to him what a big influence he has had on my life,” she says. “Though I was disappointed that he didn’t respond, I was glad I at least wrote to him while he was still with us.”

But the story doesn’t end here…

“I spent most of the day hearing news stories about him,” she adds, “listening to his songs and thinking about him.” And then, upon opening her mailbox that afternoon, Kim found a letter from Beacon, New York, postmarked January 25, 2014.

Yes, five months after Kim mailed him the letter and with his health in grave decline, Seeger decided to correspond one more time with a fan, replying in the margins of the letter she sent him, encouraging her to continue her efforts. He declared her missive “wonderful” and suggested that it should be printed as a pamphlet “on good paper, with good drawings on the cover.”

“At 94,” he concludes, “I can’t help much. My health is not good and I’m being cared for by my daughter Tinya.” He signed the letter simply as “94-year-old Pete” and included a sketch of a banjo.

Kim received the letter on January 28, 2014, the day after the legend’s passing.

As one of thousands of musicians inspired by Seeger, Kim is doing her part to carry on the traditions of Seeger. Every month, she hosts a folk/bluegrass jam at Sacramento watering hole Old Ironsides. If you’re ever in the area on the third Thursday of the month, you should stop by and play a tune. After all, that’s what Seeger would have done.

Related: Read our interview with Seeger from Fretboard Journal #15.