Pete Seeger, along with his friend Woody Guthrie one of the key fathers of folk music, died in New York Monday of natural causes. He was 94 and had been staying at NY's Presbyterian Hospital. Here's his performance of Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" during Obama's inauguration in 2009.
He was a champion of the underdog, a man who first earned fame with the Weavers in the early 1950s until being silenced by McCarthysm, but he never stopped—he continued writing songs and was key in the folk revival of the early 1960s, mentoring young faces like Peter, Paul & Mary, Joan Baez and, of course, Bob Dylan. His songs where instrumental in the Civil Rights movement, the opposition to the Vietnam (or any) war and the environmental battles of the 1990s.
"Pete Seeger's music was the light during a dark time in American history and I leaned on many of his songs for comfort in the dark days after May 4," Dean R. Kahler, who was paralized by a National Guard bullet during the Kent State University shooting of May 4, 1970
, told the Current
. "His songs still inspire as we struggle with the inequality in our society. I got the chance to shake his hand a few times and he [had] a special light around his being that let me know the fight is worth never giving up. Today is a day to remember a great man."
Besides his well-documented, key contribution to American socially conscious music (not just folk), Seeger was the personification of an artist who understood the struggle didn’t just happen within the limits of the United States. He performed with some of the greatest exponents of the Nueva Canción Latinoamericana, including folk-rock singer-songwriter León Gieco (a self-proclaimed Seeger devotee) and chamamé
legend Antonio Tarragó Ros, both from Argentina. All three of them are seen below in a 1990 performance.
Go to the following pages to see key moments in Seeger’s life, starting with a conversation with Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!
) about whether he wanted to “pull the plug” on Bob Dylan during his controversial Newport ’65 performance.
Go to the following page to see Seeger and the Weavers perform "Goodnight, Irene," which topped the charts for 13 weeks in 1950.
Go to the next page to see two version's of Seeger's "Turn, Turn, Turn."
The song was was covered by a long list of artists, most notably English rock band the Byrds, who took the song to the top of the charts in 1965.
Go to the next page to hear Seeger speak about the history of “We Shall Overcome.”
Go to the next page to see the trailer of the PBS documentary Pete Seeger: The Power of Song