Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Singer/Songwriter/Activist Pete Seeger Passes Away at 94

After a short illness, folksinger/songwriter/activist and banjo extraordinaire Pete Seeger passed away at the age of 94 yesterday. Seeger was one of America’s best-loved folksingers and an untiring environmentalist, campaigning for causes he believed in well into his 90's.

His music will live on forever down the road, but equally important was his presence at the forefront of the labor movement, the struggle for Civil Rights, the peace and anti-war movements, and the fight for a clean world. His music has been the voice for millions of people all over the world. Once blacklisted from national television for being unafraid to voice his opinions, he was given the nation’s highest artistic honors at the Kennedy Center in December 1994. In January 1996 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Although he left Harvard during his second year, in the spring of 1996 he was awarded the Harvard Arts Medal, presented annually to a Harvard graduate who has made an important contribution to the arts.

He won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album of 1996 in February 1997 for his Living Music recording “Pete.” At the end of April 1999, he traveled to Cuba to accept the Felix Varela Medal, that nation’s highest honor for “his humanistic and artistic work in defense of the environment and against racism.” In April 2000, he was named one of America’s Living Legends by the Library of Congress. The recognition of Pete Seeger’s invaluable contributions to American culture and history continue in the twenty-first century. He won a Grammy Award in 2008 for his Appleseed Recording, “Pete Seeger: At 89,” and again in 2011 for his “Tomorrow’s Children” album.

The discography of Pete Seeger consists of fifty-two studio albums, twenty-three compilation albums, ten live albums, and five singles. Seeger's musical career started in 1940 when he joined The Almanac Singers. He stayed with the group for two years until he was drafted into the Army. After the end of World War II, Seeger and another former member of the Almanacs, Lee Hays, founded The Weavers. After the demise of the Weavers, Seeger released his first solo album, American Folk Songs for Children, in 1953 on Folkways Records. He continued to release albums on Folkways until he was signed to Capitol in 1961.  He would go on and record music for the rest of his days.

As a songwriter, he was the author or co-author of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" (with Joe Hickerson), "If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)" (composed with Lee Hays of The Weavers), and "Turn, Turn, Turn!", which have been recorded by many artists both in and outside the folk revival movement and are still sung throughout the world.  "If I Had a Hammer" was a hit for Peter, Paul & Mary (1962) and Trini Lopez (1963), while The Byrds popularized "Turn, Turn, Turn!" in the mid-1960s, as did Judy Collins in 1964 and The Seekers in 1966.

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