Chicago banjo player Michael Miles had a 25-year correspondence with legendary folk musician and activist Pete Seeger, who died earlier this year. Miles tells Jay Shefsky how the cards and letters changed his life.
Read a selection of letters and postcards from Seeger chosen by Miles.
Seeger’s first letter to Miles:
Sept. 17, 1988
Dear Michael Miles,
Just a note of thanks for keeping me on your mailing list, and congratulations on the widening range of material that the Old Town School presents, I especially like the idea of a workshop on African music. You might consider sometime having a workshop on how to play gospel piano. The type of piano playing known in African-American gospel churches is a great folk art, and I’m not sure if it has ever been written down properly.
Seeger’s second letter to Miles:
Nov. 13, 1988
Dear Michael Miles,
Only today I was able to get to listen to your tape of clawhammer banjo duets, and I hasten to write again to let you know it is one of the most beautiful tapes I ever listened to in all my 70 years. It is enough to make me want to start learning how to play the banjo all over again.
A letter of encouragement from Seeger to Miles:
Dear Michael – If a plane can take me from Nashville to Chi. on Nov. 8 I can make it!...Congrats on growth, and even more congrats on broadening the words folk music to include traditions of African-Americans, Latin-Americans and others.
Seeger’s last letter to Miles:
Congrats on your extraordinary CD. I sent it to Sing Out & I'm sorry this answer to your letter is so brief. Toshi & I sit across a table piled high with letters. In several boxes are recordings I’ve no time to listen to. Against a window are several hundred books sent to me which I’ve had no time to more than skim. We usually read for an hour or two before sleep – and some books I so admire that I order extra copies to give away. Like “Granny D.-Walking Across America in my 90th Year” by Doris Haddock & Dennis Burke.”
Read a selection of postcards by Seeger.
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