Pete Seeger, the singer, songwriter and political activist who gained national prominence during the 1960s Counter Culture Movement died on Monday in Manhattan at the age of 94. His death came just one day after the music industry celebrated the year’s most important awards event.
Once known as “America’s tuning fork”, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame hailed the bandjo-playing singer by writing “with the possible exception of Woody Guthrie, Seeger is the greatest influence on folk music of the last century”.
Among the well- known performers who credit Seeger as an inspiration include Bob Dylan, the Byrds, Peter, Paul and Mary, Emmylou Harris, Bruce Springsteen, who once praised him by saying “ a living archive of America’s music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along” and Joan Baez who once said “We owe our careers to Pete Seeger”. In another tribute, Woody Guthrie’s son, Arlo once said “Every kid who ever sat around a campfire singing an old song is indebted in some way to Pete Seeger”.
The recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, National Medal of Arts, Kennedy Center honoree and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Seeger wrote or co-wrote a number of enduring songs, including“Where Have All The Flowers Gone”, “If I Had A Hammer””Turn, Turn, Turn”, and “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine”. He also helped popularize “We Shall Overcome”, the ant hemic song during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.
During Seeger’s illustrious career, Seeger performed with his band, The Weavers, with Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays and Fred Hellerman, collaborated with Woody Guthrie, was a popular fixture on public radio and during the 1940s blacklisted during the McCarthy Era for his socialist philosophy, appeared in full length movies and documentaries and more recently, performed at the Presidential inauguration for President Barack Obama at age 91 and marched with Occupy Wall Street in 2011.
Seeger also won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album in 1997, another in 2008 for Best Traditional Album and again in 2010 for Best Children’s Album. In all, Seeger recorded 85 albums, and five singles with his first album “American Folk Songs For Children” released in 1953.
Although Seeger was convicted by for contempt by Congress in 1961 for refusing to answer questions before the House Committee on Un-American Activities and censored from commercial broadcasting for 17 years, he defended himself by saying
“I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent the implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, make me less of an American.”
Pete Seeger is survived by his son Daniel, and daughters Mike and Tinya. His wife of 60 years, Toshi Aline Ohta Seeger, an acclaimed filmmaker, passed away last July.