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Seeger, Pete

Pete Seeger

Singer, songwriter, banjoist

For the Record

Selected discography

Selected writings

Sources

The indomitable Pete Seeger has weathered a number of storms to become, in his eighties, the most influential folk artist in America. Seeger was instrumental in popularizing both the five-string banjo and the songs of populist America that could be played on it; his own works such as If I Had a Hammer, We Shall Overcome, and Where Have All the Flowers Gone? served as anthems in the anti-establishment protests of the late 1960s. In Best of the Music Makers, George T. Simon calls Seeger an uncanny mixture of saint, propagandist, cornball, and hero whose emotional generosity and companionship with his audiences around the world has invariably been returned affectionately by the people he has entertained and inspired.

Peter R. Seeger was born into a family whose chromosomes fairly burst with music, to quote Philadelphia Inquirer contributor Amy Linn. His father was an eth-nomusicologist and composer, his mother a classical violinist who taught at Juilliard. While Seeger was young his parents moved from university to university across the country. He grew up longing for roots but accustomed to travel, a boarding school student who dabbled in Marx, sang in choirs, and played the ukelele. In 1936 Seeger accompanied his father on a

For the Record

Born Peter R. Seeger on May 3, 1919, in New York, NY; son of Charles (a conductor, musicologist, and educator) and Constance de Clyver (a concert violinist and teacher; maiden name Edson) Seeger; married Toshi Aline Ohta, July 20, 1943; children: Daniel Adams, Mike Salter, Virginia. Education: Attended Harvard University, 1936-38.

Folksinger, banjo and guitar player, and songwriter, 1939-; assistant at the Archive of American Folk Song, Washington, D.C., 1939-40; founding member of the Almanac Singers, 1940-41; toured the Southern and Southwestern states and Mexico with Woody Guthrie, 1941-42; U.S. Army Special Services, entertained troops in the United States and the South Pacific, 1942-45; co-founder and national director of Peoples Songs, Inc., 1945; founding member of the Weavers folk quartet, 1948-52, other members were Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman, and Ronnie Gilbert; cut top 40 singles On Top of Old Smokey and Goodnight, Irene, 1950; group disbanded, 1952, and re-formed, 1955; solo performer, 1957-, appearing in concert in United States, the Soviet Union, and Europe; appeared in movies To Hear My Banjo Play, 1946, and Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon, 1970; organizer of Newport (R.I.) Folk Festivals and co-founder of Hudson River Sloop Restoration, Inc.; released Grammy Award-winning album Pete, 1996.

Awards: National Medal of the Arts, 1994; Kennedy Center Honors, 1994; induction, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1996; Grammy Award, Best Traditional Folk Album for Pete, 1996.

Addresses: Agent c/o Harold Leventhal, 250 West 57th St., New York, NY 10107.

trip to a North Carolina music festival. As Linn puts it, during the festival young Seeger took one look at a five-string banjo and fell in love. Although he enrolled in Harvard University that fall, Seeger found college much less fascinating than the banjo. He practiced relentlessly until he had taught himself to play in the various Appalachian picking styles. Seegeralong with bluegrass musician Earl Scruggsis credited with saving the five-string banjo from extinction. A line of banjos made by Vega Instrument Company bears his name.

Through his fathers friends Seeger met the finest folksingers of the Depression era, Huddie Leadbelly Ledbetter and Woody Guthrie. Guthrie became See-gers mentor, and the youth quit college to travel with him. Together Guthrie and Seeger sang for the striking workers and displaced farmers of the nation; they proudly associated themselves with the Communist Party and other left-wing groups. I knew it wasnt a quick way to get jobsto sing for the Communist Party, Seeger told the Philadelphia Inquirer. It was something that you do, because you think its the right thing at the time. And in the long run, you realize the value in doing what you think is right.

After wartime service as an entertainer for enlisted men, Seeger formed a quartet, the Weavers, in 1948. A full decade before the so-called folk revival, the Weavers placed several songs on the pop charts, including the winsome On Top of Old Smokey and a country favorite, Goodnight, Irene. The Weavers were also the first to perform If I Had a Hammer, and as the Cold War era dawned, the groupand Seeger in particularfaced a hostile government. Linn writes that as anti-communist sentiment rose, simple concerts turned into melees between a rising tide of patriots and the people who were branded as commies. Hundreds of concertgoers and singers were caught in the violence, including Pete Seeger and his family. Cars were overturned, crosses burned, a man was stabbed. It was an omen.

One year after compiling four million record sales, the Weavers found themselves blacklisted as communist sympathizers. Seeger was called before the dreaded House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955 and questioned about his communist activities. When he evoked his First Amendment rights of free speech, rather than the Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, he was charged with contempt of Congress and sentenced to ten years in prison. The sentence was overturned on appeal, but the blacklisting endured. Undaunted, Seeger continued to perform wherever he was welcome, and he wrote numerous songs and books about music.

A changing political and musical climate brought Seeger back into prominence in the mid-1960s. The younger generationmany of them rootless as Seeger had beenembraced the simplicity and passion of folk music. Seeger was one of the organizers of the prestigious Newport Folk Festival, and one of its most popular performers. Having stood his ground in the McCarthy era, he finally achieved respect for his strengthand his music.

With civil rights activists singing We Shall Overcome and anti-war demonstrators singing Where Have All the Flowers Gone? Seeger found himself compared to his former teacher, Woody Guthrie, in terms of influence. Although he did not appear on television again until 1967some 12 years after his appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committeehe was a favorite at outdoor festivals and on college campuses. Beginning in 1965 he launched a campaign to save the environment, especially the filthy Hudson River. With a cadre of friends Seeger organized a series of sloop concerts, the proceeds from which he donated to a foundation. In 1968 the sloop Clearwater was built to carry the environmental message along the Hudson, and the rivers conditions began to improve significantly.

Seeger still makes many personal appearances each year, most of them at intimate concerts in small theatres. Linn writes that the artist is as capable as ever of getting a crowd to sing along. Seeger has said that the term folk music has lost its meaning through misusehe prefers to think of his work as aurally-transmitted music, the kind learned by ear. Seeger told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he relishes the participation possibilities that folk music offers the audience. The modern world has a tendency to say, Just pay your money and let the experts do it for you. Or, let the machines do it for you, he said. My father used to tell me that one must not judge the musicality of a nation by the number of its virtuosos, but by the number of people in the general population who are playing for themselves.

Though well into his seventies, Seeger continued to win accolades during the 1990s. He was awarded the National Medal of the Arts and Kennedy Center Honors in 1994, won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album for Pete, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. [W]hen it came time for Pete to give his acceptance speech [at the Hall of Fame ceremony] he didnt say a word. He just refused. He understood that there was really nothing worth saying about an event like this, Woody Guthrie told Warren Berger about the event in Booklist Seeger also published his autobiography, Where Have All the Flowers Gone: A Singers Stories, Songs, Seeds, Robberies in 1993, as well as Pete Seegers Storytelling Book, with Paul Du Bois Jacobs, 2000.

Called Americas tuning fork and the living embodiment of native folk tradition, Seeger has certainly left a mark on music in the twentieth century. The motto etched on his banjoThis machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrenderperhaps best sums up the essence of his musical message. Hes moved a little here and there, said Seegers longtime Manáger Harold Leventhal about the folk music icons philosophy in Billboard, but the basic overall humanism remains, and hes always used his music as an exponent of that philosophy. Hes also kept up with the times, which is why he still commands a tremendous audience.

Selected discography

Singles; with the Weavers

Kisses Sweeter than Wine, Decca, 1950.

Tzena, Tzena, Tzena, Decca, 1950.

On Top of Old Smokey, Decca, 1950.

Goodnight, Irene, Decca, 1950.

Albums

Darling Corey and Goofing-Off Suite, Folkways/Smithsonian, 1950.

American Folk Songs for Children, Folkways/Smithsonian, 1953.

Birds, Beasts, Bugs and Little Fishes, Folkways, 1954.

Pete Seeger Sampler, Folkways/Smithsonian, 1954.

Birds, Beasts, Bigger Fishes and Fookish Frog, Folkways/Smithsonian, 1955.

American Industrial Ballads, Folkways/Smithsonian, 1956.

With Voices We Sing Together, Folkways/Smithsonian, 1956.

American Favorite Ballads (five volumes), Folkways/Smithsonian, 1957.

Gazette, Folkways/Smithsonian, 1958.

Song and Play Time with Pete Seeger, Folkways, 1958.

American Playparties, Folkways/Smithsonian, 1959.

Folk Songs for Young People, Folkways/Smithsonian, 1959.

Abiyoyo and Other Story Songs for Children, Folkways/Smithsonian, 1960.

Champlain Valley Songs, Folkways/Smithsonian, 1960.

Song and Play Time, Folkways/Smithsonian, 1960.

American Game and Activity Songs for Children, Folkways/Smithsonian, 1962.

Childrens Concert at Town Hall, Columbia, 1963.

(With others) Carry It On!, Flying Fish, 1963.

Little Boxes and Other Broadsides, Folkways/Smithsonian, 1965.

Pete Seeger Sings Woody Guthrie, Folkways, 1967.

Pete Seegers Greatest Hits, Columbia, 1967.

Traditional Christmas Carols, Folkways/Smithsonian, 1967.

Waist Deep in Big Muddy and Other Love Songs, Legacy, 1967.

Pete Seeger Sings Leadbelly, Folkways/Smithsonian, 1968.

The Rainbow Race, Columbia, 1973.

Banks of Marble, Folkways/Smithsonian, 1974.

The World of Pete Seeger, Columbia, 1974.

(With Arlo Guthrie) Together in Concert, Reprise, 1975.

Singalong Demonstration Concert, Folkways/Smithsonian, 1980.

(With Arlo Guthrie) Precious Friend, Warner Bros., 1982.

We Shall Overcome, Columbia, 1989.

Pete Seegers Family Concert, Sony, 1992.

(With Arlo Guthrie) More Together Again in Concert, RisingSon, 1994.

Link in the Chain, Columbia, 1996.

Pete, Living Music, 1996.

In Prague 1964, Flyright, 2001.

Newport Folk Festival recordings

Volume 1, Vanguard, 1959.

Volume 1, Folkways, 1960.

Volume 1, Vanguard, 1960.

The Evening Concerts II, Vanguard, 1963.

Evening Concerts I, Vanguard, 1964.

Selected writings

American Favorite Ballads, Oak, 1961.

(With Jerry Silverman) The Folksingers Guitar Guide, Oak, 1962.

(With Julius Lester) The Twelve-String Guitar as Played by Leadbelly, Oak, 1965.

How To Play the Five String Banjo, Oak, c 1965.

The Incomplete Folksinger, Simon & Schuster, 1972.

Henscratches and Flyspecks: or, How To Read Melodies from Songbooks in Twelve Confusing Lessons, Berkeley Press, 1973.

Carry It On!, Simon & Schuster, 1985.

Abiyoyo: South African Lullaby and Folk Story, Macmillan, 1986.

(With Bob Reiser) Everybody Says Freedom: The Civil Rights Movement in Words, Pictures, and Song, Norton, 1990.

Where Have All the Flowers Gone: A Singers Stories, Songs, Seeds, Robberies (autobiography), Sing Out! Publications, 1993.

(With Paul Du Bois Jacobs)Pete Seegers Storytelling Book, Harcourt, 2000.

Sources

Books

Lawless, Ray, Folksingers and Folk Songs in America, Longmans, 1960.

Simon, George T., Best of the Music Makers, Doubleday, 1979.

Walters, Neal, and Brian Mansfield, MusicHound Folk: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink Press, 1998.

Periodicals

Audubon, March 1971.

Billboard, April 23, 1994, p. 10(2).

Booklist, March 2001.

Conservationist, June 1969.

High Fidelity, January 1963.

Look, August 1969.

National Wildlife, February 1970.

Philadelphia Inquirer, May 12, 1989.

Popular Science, August 1970.

Ramparts, November 30, 1968.

Rolling Stone, March 10, 1977; October 18, 1979.

Saturday Review, May 13, 1973.

Sing Out!, May 1954.

Online

Pete Seeger, All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (July 25, 2002).

Anne Janette Johnson

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Seeger, Pete

Pete Seeger

Singer, songwriter, banjo player

For the Record

Selected discography

Writings

Sources

The indomitable Pete Seeger has weathered a number of storms to become, at age seventy, the most influential folk artist in America. Seeger was instrumental in popularizing both the five-string banjo and the songs of populist America that could be played on it; his own works such as If I Had a Hammer, We Shall Overcome, and Where Have All the Flowers Gone? served as anthems in the anti-establishment protests of the late 1960s. In Best of the Music Makers, George T. Simon calls Seeger an uncanny mixture of saint, propagandist, cornball, and hero whose emotional generosity and companionship with his audiences around the world has invariably been returned affectionately by the people he has entertained and inspired.

Peter R. Seeger was born into a family whose chromosomes fairly burst with music, to quote Philadelphia Inquirer contributor Amy Linn. His father was an ethnomusicologist and composer, his mother a classical violinist who taught at Juilliard. While Seeger was young his parents moved from university to university across the country. He grew up longing for roots but accustomed to travel, a boarding school student who dabbled in Marx, sang in choirs, and played the ukelele.

In 1936 Seeger accompanied his father on a trip to a North Carolina music festival. As Linn puts it, during the festival young Seeger took one look at a five-string banjo and fell in love. Although he enrolled in Harvard University that fall, Seeger found college much less fascinating than the banjo. He practiced relentlessly until he had taught himself to play in the various Appalachian picking styles. Seegeralong with bluegrass musician Earl Scruggsis credited with saving the five-string banjo from extinction. A line of banjos made by Vega Instrument Company bears his name.

Through his fathers friends Seeger met the finest folk singers of the Depression era, Huddie Leadbelly Ledbetter and Woody Guthrie. Guthrie became Seegers mentor, and the youth quit college to travel with him. Together Guthrie and Seeger sang for the striking workers and displaced farmers of the nation; they proudly associated themselves with the Communist Party and other left-wing groups. I knew it wasnt a quick way to get jobsto sing for the Communist Party, Seeger told the Philadelphia Inquirer. It was something that you do, because you think its the right thing at the time. And in the long run, you realize the value in doing what you think is right.

After wartime service as an entertainer for enlisted men, Seeger formed a quartet, the Weavers, in 1948. A full decade before the so-called folk revival, the Weavers placed several songs on the pop charts, including the winsome On Top of Old Smokey and a

For the Record

Full name Peter R. Seeger; born May 3, 1919, in New York, N.Y.; son of Charles (a conductor, musicologist, and educator) and Constance de Clyver (a concert violinist and teacher; maiden name Edson) Seeger; married Toshi Aline Ohta, July 20, 1943; children: Daniel Adams, Mike Salter, Virginia. Education: Attended Harvard University, 1936-38.

Folksinger, banjo and guitar player, and songwriter, 1939. Assistant at the Archive of American Folk Song, Washington, D.C., 1939-40; founding member of the Almanac Singers, 1940-41; toured the Southern and Southwestern states and Mexico with Woody Guthrie, 1941-42. Co-founder and national director of Peoples Songs, Inc., 1945.

Founding member of the Weavers (folk quartet), 1948-52, other members were Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman, and Ronnie Gilbert. Cut Top 40 singles, On Top of Old Smokey and Goodnight, Irene, both 1950. Group disbanded, 1952, and re-formed, 1955. Solo performer, 1957, appearing in concert in United States, the Soviet Union, and Europe. Appeared in movies To Hear My Banjo Play, 1946, and Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon, 1970. Organizer of Newport (R.I.) Folk Festivals, and co-founder of Hudson River Sloop Restoration, Inc. Military service: U.S. Army Special Services, entertained troops in the United States and the South Pacific, 1942-45.

Address: Home Duchess Junction, Beacon, N.Y. 12508.

country favorite, Goodnight, Irene. The Weavers were also the first to perform If I Had a Hammer, and as the Cold War era dawned, the groupand Seeger in particularfaced a hostile government. Linn writes that as anti-communist sentiment rose, simple concerts turned into melees between a rising tide of patriots and the people who were branded as commies. Hundreds of concertgoers and singers were caught in the violence, including Pete Seeger and his family. Cars were overturned, crosses burned, a man was stabbed. It was an omen.

One year after compiling four million record sales, the Weavers found themselves blacklisted as communist sympathizers. Seeger was called before the dreaded House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955 and questioned about his communist activities. When he evoked his First Amendment rights of free speech, rather than the Fifth Amendment rights against selfincrimination, he was charged with contempt of Congress and sentenced to ten years in prison. The sentence was overturned on appeal, but the blacklisting endured. Undaunted, Seeger continued to perform wherever he was welcome, and he wrote numerous songs and books about music.

A changing political and musical climate brought Seeger back into prominence in the mid-1960s. The younger generationmany of them rootless as Seeger had beenembraced the simplicity and passion of folk music. Seeger was one of the organizers of the prestigious Newport Folk Festival, and one of its most popular performers. Having stood his ground in the McCarthy era, he finally achieved respect for his strengthand his music.

With civil rights activists singing We Shall Overcome and anti-war demonstrators singing Where Have All the Flowers Gone? Seeger found himself compared to his former teacher, Woody Guthrie, in terms of influence. Although he did not appear on television again until 1967some twelve years after his appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committeehe was a favorite at outdoor festivals and on college campuses. Beginning in 1965 he launched a campaign to save the environment, especially the filthy Hudson River. With a cad re of friends Seeger organized a series of sloop concerts, the proceeds from which he donated to a foundation. In 1968 the sloop Clearwater was built to carry the environmental message along the Hudson, and the rivers conditions began to improve significantly.

Today Seeger still makes at least one hundred personal appearances per year, most of them at intimate concerts in small theatres. Linn writes that the artist is as capable as ever of getting a crowd to sing along. Seeger has said that the term folk music has lost its meaning through misusehe prefers to think of his work as aurally-transmitted music, the kind learned by ear. Seeger told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he relishes the participation possibilities that folk music offers the audience. The modern world has a tendency to say, Just pay your money and let the experts do it for you. Or, let the machines do it for you, he said. My father used to tell me that one must not judge the musicality of a nation by the number of its virtuosos, but by the number of people in the general population who are playing for themselves.

Called Americas tuning fork and the living embodiment of native folk tradition, Seeger has certainly left a mark on music in the twentieth century. The motto etched on his banjoThis machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrenderperhaps best sums up the essence of his musical message. Linn concludes: For fifty of his years Pete Seeger [has] been wedding his songs to history, and making history with his songs.

Selected discography

Singles; with the Weavers

Kisses Sweeter than Wine, Decca, 1950.

Tzena, Tzena, Tzena, Decca, 1950.

On Top of Old Smokey, Decca, 1950.

Goodnight, Irene, Decca, 1950.

LPs

Cham plain Valley Songs, Folkways.

American Industrial Ballads, Folkways.

The World of Pete Seeger, Columbia.

Pete Seeger Sampler, Folkways.

Pete Seeger with Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry: Washboard Band Country Dance Music, Folkways.

American Favorite Ballads, five volumes, Folkways.

Pete Seeger Sings Woody Guthrie, Folkways.

Pete Seeger Sings Leadbelly, Folkways.

Little Boxes, Folkways.

Pete Seeger Sings American Ballads, Folkways.

Darling Corey, Folkways.

The Rainbow Quest, Folkways.

Goofing Off Suite, Folkways.

Pete Seeger and the Almanac Singers: Talking Union and Other Union Songs, Folkways.

Pete Seeger and Frank Hamilton: Nonesuch, Folkways.

Pete Seeger and Mike Seeger: Indian Summer, Folkways.

Banks of Marble, Folkways.

Clearwater Classics, Folkways.

The Essential Pete Seeger, 2 volumes, Vanguard.

Gazette, Folkways.

Pete Seegers Greatest Hits, Columbia.

With Voices Together We Sing, Folkways.

(With Arlo Guthrie) Precious Friend, Warner Brothers.

Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie Together in Concert, Reprise.

(With Jeanne Humphries) Ballads of Black America, Folkways.

(With Ed Renehan) Fifty Sail on Newburgh Bay, Folkways.

(With others) Carry It On!, Flying Fish.

With Woody Guthrie

American Folksay, 3 volumes, Stinson.

Chain Gang, Stinson.

Southern Mountain Hoedowns, Stinson.

Newport Folk Festival recordings

Volume 1, Vanguard, 1959.

Volume 1, Folkways, 1960.

Volume 1, Vanguard, 1960.

The Evening Concerts II, Vanguard, 1963.

Evening Concerts I, Vanguard, 1964.

Recordings for children

Song and Play Time, Folkways.

Folk Songs for Young People, Folkways.

American Folk Songs for Children, Folkways.

American Play parties, Folkways.

Games and Activity Songs for Children, Folkways.

Abiyoyo and Other Songs for Children, Folkways.

Birds, Beasts, Bugs and Little Fishes, Folkways.

Childrens Concert at Town Hall, Columbia.

Birds, Beasts, Bigger Fishes and Fookish Frog, Folkways.

Song and Play Time with Pete Seeger, Folkways.

Stories and Songs for Little Children, High Windy.

Writings

American Favorite Ballads, Oak, 1961.

(With Jerry Silverman) The Folksingers Guitar Guide, Oak, 1962.

(With Julius Lester) The Twelve-String Guitar as Played by Leadbelly, Oak, 1965.

How To Play the Five String Banjo, Oak, ca. 1965.

The Incomplete Folksinger, Simon & Schuster, 1972.

Henscratches and Flyspecks: Or, How to Read Melodies from Songbooks in Twelve Confusing Lessons, Berkeley Press, 1973.

Carry It On!, Simon & Schuster, 1985.

Abiyoyo, Macmillan, 1986.

Sources

Books

Lawless, Ray, Folksingers and Folk Songs in America, Longmans, 1960.

Simon, George T., Best of the Music Makers, Doubleday, 1979.

Periodicals

Audubon, March 1971.

Conservationist, June 1969.

High Fidelity, January 1963.

Look, August 1969.

National Wildlife, February 1970.

Philadelphia Inquirer, May 12, 1989.

Popular Science, August 1970.

Ramparts, November 30, 1968.

Rolling Stone, March 10, 1977; October 18, 1979.

Saturday Review, May 13, 1973.

Sing Out!, May 1954.

Anne Janette Johnson

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Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger

The American folksinger and activist Pete Seeger (born 1919) was associated with the Communist and Progressive parties in the 1940s and 1950s, but later focused on environmental issues. He was especially admired for his fight against the blacklisting of entertainers in the 1950s because of left wing political beliefs.

American folksinger, composer, song collector and five-string banjo virtuoso Pete Seeger was born in New York City in 1919 into a family of Juilliard music professors. He spent his early years in private schools and studied sociology at Harvard College. It was in 1938, when he dropped out of Harvard after two years to ride the rails and hitchhike all over the United States, that he immersed himself in folk music. He traveled all around the country collecting songs, meeting the greats of American folk music: Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie and Earl Robinson. Two years later he briefly served as an assistant in the Archive of Folk Song at the Library of Congress. He then helped organize the Almanac Singers in 1941. The group campaigned against American entry into World War II, until Germany invaded Russia. The Almanacs then sang on behalf of the Allies. Following the war Seeger worked for better relations between the United States and international Communism, most notably by campaigning for Henry Wallace for president in 1948. During these early years Seeger was closely associated with the legendary folk singer and composer Woody Guthrie. He was also the national director of People's Songs, Inc., an effort to institutionalize left-wing music.

"Goodnight Irene" Number One Hit

In 1948 Seeger organized another singing group, the Weavers, with whom he achieved his greatest popular success. They appeared on national radio and television and recorded a song, "Goodnight Irene," that was the number one hit in 1950. But with the rise of anti-Communist feeling in the nation, the Weavers were blacklisted, along with hundreds of other leftist or formerly leftist entertainers. With the mass media closed to them, the Weavers disbanded. Seeger, who composed as well as performed and had a personal following, survived the blacklist by making recordings and giving concerts. In 1964-1965 he made a world tour with his family, performing in 24 countries. In 1967, with the blacklist easing, he appeared on the Smothers Brothers television show. But Seeger had missed the folksong vogue which flourished briefly in the late 1950s and early 1960s and never recovered his earlier popularity.

Seeger was especially active in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, appearing at rallies and fund-raising concerts. The simplicity and directness of this cause were well suited to his musical talents. He customarily appeared in shirtsleeves rolled to the elbow, accompanying himself on a banjo. Seeger did more than anyone else to revive interest in this American instrument.

Without entirely abandoning his other causes, Seeger became an effective environmentalist, water pollution being his particular object of concern. Using the Hudson River sloop Clearwater as a dramatic prop, he was a leader in the struggle to reclaim that river. He also sang on behalf of similarly endangered bodies of water.

Active as an Organizer and Promoter

Though best known as a folksinger, Seeger was equally active as an organizer and promoter, not only of socio-political causes but also of purely musical events. Among these were the Newport (Rhode Island) Folk Festivals and appearances of the reconstituted Weavers. He took particular pride in having been one of the first white Northerners to recognize the value of Southern folk music, which he ardently encouraged for close to 50 years. Dubbed "America's tuning fork" by Carl Sandburg, Seeger has written more than 100 songs in addition to manuals on playing the 5-string banjo and 12-string guitars.

The autumn of his life turned into an awards season for Seeger, as he received honors from places where he was once denounced. In 1955, after refusing to answer questions from the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Seeger was branded unpatriotic and blacklisted from television and major concert halls for 17 years; but in 1994 he returned to Washington to accept the National Medal of the Arts from President Clinton. In 1965, Seeger was accused of threatening to stop Bob Dylan's electrified rock performance at the Newport Folk Festival; in 1996, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In the late 1930s, Seeger had dropped out of Harvard after losing a partial scholarship; just before his 77th birthday, he was honored as a distinguished alumnus at that university's Arts First festival.

Further Reading

Seeger can be seen in a film of the last concert of the Weavers that is often aired on public television. A fine biography is David King Dunaway's How Can I Keep from Singing (1981). Seeger is a walking history book of American music. Songs he wrote and popularized like "If I Had a Hammer," "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine," and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" have become standards, and many of them are available on CDs and other sound recordings, such as The Almanac Singers: Their Complete Recordings. Seeger (along with Blood Seeger) authored Where Have All the Flowers Gone: A Singer's Stories, Sings, Seeds, Robberies in 1993. Seeger has been featured on the Arts & Entertainment (A&E) television program Biography (www.biography.com). □

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"Pete Seeger." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pete-seeger

Seeger, Pete

Pete Seeger (Peter Seeger), 1919–2014, American folksinger, composer, and environmentalist, b. New York City. Seeger, a son of musicologist Charles Seeger and violinist Constance Edson Seeger, stepson of composer Ruth Crawford Seeger, and nephew of poet Alan Seeger, left Harvard in 1938, met Leadbelly in New York City, and subsequently archived folk songs for the Library Congress and met and traveled with Woody Guthrie. Seeger cofounded the Almanac Singers, a folk trio, in 1940, and the Weavers, a popular and influential folk quartet, in 1948. Most often he played the 12-string acoustic guitar or five-string banjo, and he was a particular master of the latter. He was intimate and casual as a performer, often encouraging the audience to sing along. Among the many songs he composed are "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," "Turn, Turn, Turn," and "If I Had a Hammer" (co-written with Lee Hays). He also contributed to "We Shall Overcome," which was reworked from a gospel hymn and became the anthem of the civil-rights movement. Seeger, who recorded more than 100 albums and was (1959) one of the founders of the Newport Folk Festival, played a major role in reviving national interest in folk music in the 1950s and 60s, and influenced many later singers, including Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen A four-time Grammy winner, he also was awarded (1994) the National Medal of Arts.

A leftist activist who had been a Communist in the 1940s, Seeger was charged (1957) with contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions posed by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Blacklisted from the 1950s to the late 60s, he was barred from network television but continued to record and to perform. Throughout his life, Seeger actively supported labor, civil-rights, antiwar, environmental, and other causes, and raised money for the Clearwater, a sloop that has plied the Hudson River since 1969, working to rejuvenate the river and advocating for environmental issues generally.

See R. and S. Rosenthal, ed., Pete Seeger: His Life In His Own Words (2012) and R. D. Cohen and J. Capaldi, ed., The Pete Seeger Reader (2014); biographies by D. Dunaway (1981, repr. 2008) and A. Wilkinson (2009); A. M. Winkler, To Everything There Is A Season: Pete Seeger and the Power of Song (2009); J. Brown, dir., Pete Seeger: The Power of Song (documentary, 2007).



His half-brother, Mike Seeger (Michael Seeger), 1933–2009, was an American singer, instrumentalist, and folklorist, b. New York City. A son of Charles and Ruth Crawford Seeger, he played the guitar, banjo, dulcimer, mandolin, harmonica, and several other instruments. He collected songs from old records and from fellow musicians. In 1958 he founded the New Lost City Ramblers, a three-member string group that specialized in music of the 1920s and 30s. He recorded dozens of albums with this group, with other musicians, and as a soloist.

Mike's sister Peggy Seeger (Margaret Seeger), 1935–, is an American-British singer and songwriter who plays the piano, guitar, banjo, concertina, and other instruments. From the late 1950s, she lived in London with English singer-songwriter Ewan MacColl (1915–89), who also became her performing and recording partner; they married in 1977. Seeger has performed and recorded as a soloist and with many others, singing both traditional and new songs (many of those her own). Among her songbooks is The Peggy Seeger Songbook (1998).

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"Seeger, Pete." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Seeger, Pete." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/seeger-pete

"Seeger, Pete." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/seeger-pete