Of all of his songs I thought about writing about today, the winner in my mind was a song he loved to sing for children based on an African folktale about a monster named Abiyoyo who terrorized a small town, periodically coming down from the mountain to gobble up cattle and sheep and anyone else in its path.
Now in this town there was a boy and his father who also terrorized the town – the boy with his ukulele “clink, clunk, CLONK,” and his father with a magic wand that could make things disappear, “Zoop!” Annoyed by the boy clonking on his ukulele and his father zooping things like chairs out from under folks, the people banished the pair to live on the outskirts of town.
One day, a giant monster came up over the hills and his huge frame cast a long shadow across the land. The little boy peered out of his window, having never seen this before, and said, “Hey, paw, what’s coming over the fields?” The father said: “Oh, son. It’s Abiyoyo. Oh, if only I could get him to lie down. I could get him to disappear.”
The boy said, “Come with me father.” He grabbed his father by one hand. The father grabbed the magic wand, and the boy grabbed his ukulele. Over the fields they went, right up to where Abiyoyo was.
Paying no attention to the screams of the people – “Don’t go near him! He’ll eat you alive!” – the boy started to play his ukulele, and then he started to sing: “Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo/Abiyoyo yoyoyo yoyoyo, Abiyoyo yoyoyo yoyoyo.”
Well, the monster had never heard a song about himself before, and a foolish grin spread across his face, and he started to dance. So the boy kept playing and singing and the monster, now fully taken with himself, kept on dancing. And the boy played faster, and faster, and Abiyoyo danced harder and harder to keep up until he completely exhausted himself and fell flat on the ground. And you know what happened next…
“Zoop!” he disappeared.
The story not only tips the hat to the biblical account of David and Goliath, it’s also a picture of the great monsters of injustice, inequality, poverty, oppression and bigotry that Pete Seeger continually felled across the countryside with his music. David did it with only five smooth stones; Pete Seeger did it with only his voice and his banjo. And neither of them could have done it without a big faith in God.
For 94 years, God graced us with this kind, gentle man, until, “Zoop!” He took him. But his songs will continue to fell giants as long as there is music.
Thank you, Pete, for all you gave us, and for all of yourself that we still have.