It's hard to fathom a life so long, and so well-lived. Our music is diminished, our politics made less, our connection to past times sheared.
At the heart of his journey was a very American sense of the sanctity and worth of each of us. No one was lesser, or to be passed by. We each were to be noticed and praised and raised up. The gift of melody and word was what made him stand out, and so he did for close to a century. His songs and his politics will be remembered, and talked of, and sung, for as long as the country lasts, as are those of Whitman and Woody and the unknowns and famous he lived among.
Praise to him for standing up when called on, for unifying us when he could, for making us laugh and sing, even sitting next to strangers or on a couch alone. Thanks for teaching us what we were capable of, and singing us past the darkest days.
I worked with him. My daughter sang with him twice. He helped me when he could. I baked bread for him once. He told my wife, from Montana, "That's where Woody taught me how to ride the rails." He let me pick up the banjo "This Machine Kills Fascists." I sang with him once.
He left everyone he met a little better. At least he left me that way.