Bruce Springsteen paid tribute to his longtime friend and mentor Pete Seeger from the stage of a gig in South Africa on Tuesday night after learning of the folk music icon’s passing.
Telling fans “I lost a great friend and a hero last night” at the show in Cape Town, Springsteen and the E Street Band performed protest song We Shall Overcome, which became Seeger’s signature tune.
He then called the 94 year old environmental campaigner and singer/songwriter “a very courageous freedom fighter” and added his We Shall Overcome was a song that made you “prepared to march into hell’s fire”.
Springsteen has been a longtime Seeger collaborator and performed at the folk hero’s 90th birthday celebration in 2009. He also won a Grammy Award for his 2006 album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. And The Boss and Seeger performed together at President Barack Obama’s first inauguration.
Obama released a statement earlier in the day, as did guitarist Tom Morello, who is currently on tour with Springsteen and the E Street Band.
Also offering up his respects on Tuesday afternoon was another superfan, Dave Matthews, who issued a touching statement, in which he revealed the first concert he ever went to was headlined by Seeger.
He wrote, “My parents took my brother, my sisters and me. I will never forget it. I was little. Dancing in a field in upstate New York while the grown-ups sat on the grass. My parents and family raised me on music of all sorts and Pete Seeger was a big part.”
Matthews added, “I met Pete Seeger more than 30 years after I first saw him play and having listened to his music over those years it was somewhat awe inspiring. We had lunch. He was so funny and charming, humble and brilliant, all at once. Full of hope but disappointed in our wasteful ways.
“He made me want to be a better person. Why don’t we lend our ears to the greatest among us? Pete Seeger fought for the working people and he fought against greed, and corruption, and war, and pollution, until the end of his life. Even though he was frail he came and performed at FarmAid just a few months ago. Thank goodness for Pete Seeger.”