Pete Seeger, the legendary folk musician and flag-bearer for social justice, has died. According to The New York Times, he passed away from natural causes at New York–Presbyterian Hospital on Monday. He was 94.
Born in 1919 to a musical family, Seeger began his musicianship learning the ukelele before moving on to the five-string banjo. Attending Harvard to study journalism, he joined the Young Communist League and developed a deeply political-inclination to his life he would never shake. He recorded his first albums in the 1940s with The Almanac Singers (featuring Woody Guthrie). Later, Seeger would become integral to the American folk-revival the 1950s. He was a mentor to Bob Dylan, the Newport Folk Festival, and years later to Bruce Springsteen, who would release We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions in 2006.
During his tenure performing with The Weavers, Seeger reached No.1 on the charts with Huddie Ledbetter’s “Goodnight Irene” in 1950. Later, many of his own songs would become charting hits. The Kingston Trio’s rendition of Seeger’s “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” reached the Top 40 in 1962 while his song “If I Had A Hammer (The Hammer Song)” entered the Top 10 with Peter, Paul, and Mary’s popular cover. Also, The Byrds struck No. 1 with Seeger’s reading of the Book of Ecclesiastes with “Turn! Turn! Turn!” in 1965. But perhaps his best-known and most influential song was 1963’s “We Shall Overcome”. It was a civil rights standard, speaking truth to power and becoming an icon of the ’60s. This, along with the anti-war anthem “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” single-handedly solidify Seeger’s legacy as an icon.
Seeger was a four-time Grammy Award winner, receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993, winning Best Traditional Folk Album in 1997 for Pete, as well as in 2009 for At 89, and also in the children’s music category for 2011’s LP Tomorrow’s Children. He was nominated this year for Best Spoken Word Album with The Storm King. Additionally, Seeger was awarded the National Medal Of Arts by President Bill Clinton in 1994.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. His vast contributions to American music is undoubtedly akin to his striking ability to speak for and represent the working man. Seeger was undoubtedly one of the most if not the most important musician in the revival American folk revival. His talent, influence, and songcraft were only rivaled by his own humanity.
Seeger is survived by his son, Daniel, his daughters, Mika and Tinya, his half-sister, Peggy, and his six grandchildren.
Revisit Pete Seeger’s astounding career by watching the videos below.
Pete Seeger “Where Have All The Flowers Gone”
Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger sing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” at Obama’s Inauguration
Pete Seeger on The Johnny Cash Show 1970