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The spiritual side of legendary folk singer Pete Seeger

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 29 2014 4:00 a.m. MST

FILE - Pete Seeger backstage before his set at George Wein's Newport Folk 50 in Newport, R.I. on in this Aug 2, 2009 file photo. The 92-year-old troubadour is receiving a "Distinguished Service" award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Joe Giblin, File, Associated Press

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The tributes to late folksinger, songwriter and activist Pete Seeger, who died Monday, have a common theme of an always optimistic man who could rally people to a good cause through music.

But did Seeger consider himself a spiritual leader?

"I’ve had preachers of the gospel, Presbyterians and Methodists, saying, 'Pete, I feel that you are a very spiritual person.' And maybe I am," Seeger said in an interview with Beliefnet in 2006. "I feel strongly that I’m trying to raise people’s spirits to get together."

He told the interviewer that his mother was "briefly a member of the Unitarian Church" and he joined a Unitarian-Universalist church because he needed a place for his chorus to rehearse. He embraced a pantheism of sorts.

"According to my definition of God, I’m not an atheist," Seeger added. "Because I think God is everything. Whenever I open my eyes I’m looking at God. Whenever I’m listening to something I’m listening to God."

He did write one song that could be classified as a hymn.

"His enduring contribution to the American Religious Songbook is 'Turn, Turn, Turn,' an adaptation of the beginning of the third chapter of Ecclesiastes (King James Version)," wrote religion scholar Mark Silk for Religion News Service. "The song was written in 1954, when the public began to become concerned about nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific."

And Huffington Post posted a slide show of quotes that give a glimpse into the folk icon's spiritual insight.

Email: mbrown@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @deseretbrown

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