View Full Version : Pete Seeger, Songwriter and Champion of Folk Music, Dies at 94

January 28th, 2014, 05:58 PM
Pete Seeger, Songwriter and Champion of Folk Music, Dies at 94
By JON PARELES (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/p/jon_pareles/index.html)JAN. 28, 2014

Pete Seeger (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/pete_seeger/index.html?inline=nyt-per), the singer, folk-song collector and songwriter who spearheaded an American folk revival and spent a long career championing folk music as both a vital heritage and a catalyst for social change, died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 94.

His death, at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, was confirmed by his grandson Kitama Cahill Jackson.

Mr. Seeger’s career carried him from singing at labor rallies to the Top 10, from college auditoriums to folk festivals, and from a conviction for contempt of Congress (after defying the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s) to performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural concert for Barack Obama.

For Mr. Seeger, folk music and a sense of community were inseparable, and where he saw a community, he saw the possibility of political action.

In his hearty tenor, Mr. Seeger, a beanpole of a man who most often played 12-string guitar or five-string banjo, sang topical songs and children’s songs, humorous tunes and earnest anthems, always encouraging listeners to join in. His agenda paralleled the concerns of the American left: He sang for the labor movement in the 1940s and 1950s, for civil rights marches and anti-Vietnam War rallies in the 1960s, and for environmental and antiwar causes in the 1970s and beyond. “We Shall Overcome,” which Mr. Seeger adapted from old spirituals, became a civil rights anthem.

for full story and more pics:

January 28th, 2014, 08:13 PM

January 29th, 2014, 03:55 PM
He played at my uncle's tavern in New Brunswick in the early '80s. He did a lot of spoken word, some music, but the joint was jumping and everyone was busy. My grandmother and uncle were happy, so I was happy but I didn't get to see most of it.

January 29th, 2014, 03:58 PM
The last great contemporary of Woody Guthrie. Also wrote "Turn, Turn, Turn", an iconic Byrds hit.

They don't make 'em like this guy anymore.

Rest in Peace.

January 29th, 2014, 05:45 PM
A great way to honor all the good work that Pete Seeger did along the Hudson River ...

Sign the Petition:


Name the new Tappan Zee bridge for Pete Seeger!


More on Pete's work to Save the Hudson:


January 29th, 2014, 09:54 PM
Pete Seeger's greatest legacy? Saving New York's Hudson river

River close to where Seeger lived in a log cabin he built himself
in the 1940s was main focus of his environmental activism

THE GUARDIAN (http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/jan/29/pete-seeger-hudson-river-new-york)
January 29, 2014

Pete Seeger sings as he sits on the bank of the Hudson River at Beacon, New York, in 1996.
Photograph: Tim Roske/AP

Pete Seeger's greatest legacy after a long life filled with music and activism may have been saving the Hudson river, according to those who worked with him to save the waterway.

“The Hudson was saved by a lot of people,” said Robert Kennedy Jr, who has sued industry for polluting the river as an environmental lawyer for the Waterkeeper Alliance. He said he had known Seeger for 30 years.

“But for a lot of us, Pete was the first guy. He started the train, and we all jumped on the moving train.”

Seeger's environmental activism didn't stop with the river. Last September, he put in a surprise appearance with Willie Nelson and Neil Young at a Farm Aid benefit. He added an extra verse to his anthem “This land was made for you and me” by singing: “This land was made to be frack-free.”

The folk singer also campaigned for the shutdown of the ageing Indian Point nuclear reactor.

But it was the Hudson river – close to where Seeger lived in a log cabin he built himself in the 1940s – that was the main focus of his activism.

The river was a raging sewer when Seeger set out to save it in the 1960s, a liquid dump for industries that grew along its banks, full of PCBs from the electrical industry, sewage discharges, pesticides, and other contaminants. The main traffic was cement and oil barges. The public largely stayed away.

Local lore has it the chemical stew was so potent and so toxic it was seen as a cure for bore worms and other parasites feeding off wooden hulls. Sailors from the Caribbean would reportedly come up to cleanse their boats.

Seeger, with his late wife, Toshi, built his own 19th-century wooden sloop, the Clearwater, and as he sailed the river, he began asking commercial fishermen to work with him to bring the river back.

The boat would later turn into an environmental organisation (http://www.clearwater.org), which remains active today.

His genius was in recognising that the salvation of the river could come from grassroots activism, Kennedy said.

“He didn't go to Albany and lobby. He didn't go to Washington, and he didn't go to court. He used his guitar and his voice and his joyful manner to summon people,” he said.

The strategy turned on reminding people of the Hudson's history as a major water way, and an important fishery.

Seeger walked the banks of the river, talking to locals and trying to persuade them that it would one day be possible to swim in the Hudson again.

He wrote a song about the river called Sailing Up My Dirty Stream: “Some day, though maybe not this year / My Hudson river will once again run clear.”

And remarkably, the effort to save the Hudson worked. Under public pressure, PCBs were banned in the 1970s. In the early 1980s, the Environmental Protection Agency designated a 200-mile stretch of the Hudson as a clean-up site. In 2001, the EPA embarked on another monumental project to dredge the river for sediment contaminated by PCBs. That project is ongoing.

“Pete saw the Hudson as an emblem of some of the failures of our democracy because it was taken over by large corporations who were using it as a conveyor for disposal,” Kennedy said. “But he always pointed out that the constitution of New York state said the Hudson was owned by the people of New York state,” he went on. “He used to say the Hudson river belongs to all of us.”

January 29th, 2014, 10:00 PM

January 29th, 2014, 10:22 PM
That would be a very nice thing to do for a man who lived his entire life near the river.

When you live with someone for a long time, she knows what you want. My - a bit early - birthday present in 2009 was the Clearwater Concert, Pete Seeger's 90th birthday celebration at MSG.


I especially remember Richie Havens, but I can't find a video.

Everybody singing happy birthday to Pete. He looked like the same scrawny guy from the other side of my life.

January 29th, 2014, 10:31 PM
In 1963, my cousin was at NYU, and a regular at The Bitter End. Pete Seeger was there, and many others. Before the arrival of the Beatles, folk music was huge in the US. The Kingston Trio and Peter Paul and Mary were already famous.

I was a pup just in high school; my cousin and her boyfriend talked my parents into letting me go with them to the Newport Folk Festival that summer.

I remember Pete Seeger, and Phil Ochs, who sort of looked like him, singing Talking Birmingham Jam; he died way too young. I remember Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.

Most of all, I remember Mary Travers. I wish I had a better video.


Because of the HUAC stuff, Pete Seeger was out of the spotlight, but his songs were all over the 60s. He was at the March on Washington. He was in Vietnam, with Waist Deep in the Big Muddy.

And Where Have All the Flowers Gone?. It was a favorite of Marlene Dietrich, who sang it in English, French...and German during a 1962 visit to Israel, a time when emotions from another terrible was were still raw.

Pete Seeger was a unique individual. Just a simple folk troubadour who lived simply. And had an extraordinary life.

January 30th, 2014, 11:18 AM
Mary Travers had an incredible voice.

Phil Ochs is one of those long forgotten folk heros who will never get his due. I got into him shortly after he died - i remember buying an anthology album while in collage, circa 1978 or so. I can't seem to find it now, nor do I see it listed in his disography on Wikipedia, but I know I had it. It really was the definitive Phil Ochs collection and I recommend it to anyone who comes across it.

Here's to the State of Mississippi
For underneath her borders, the devil draws no lines
If you drag her muddy river, nameless bodies you will find
Whoa the fat trees of the forest have hid a thousand crimes
The calender is lyin' when it reads the present time
Whoa, here's to the land you've torn out the heart of
Mississippi, find yourself another country to be part of

What a sad story.

I never had the privlidge of seeing Seeger but I admire him greatly. Few people in the arts today, have the burning passion that Pete Seeger had. I saw a recent interview of him on PBS I think they were broadcasting the concert Zippy refers to above. It was probably shortly after that concert. Even than he was sharp and strong-minded.

Remarkable person.

February 1st, 2014, 01:27 AM
Maybe not better, Zippy, but another look --


February 1st, 2014, 01:40 AM
I was at one of the many dozens, or hundreds, of concerts Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie played together; this one was in Virginia, in the summer of 1980. A girlfriend and I heard about the concert on the same day it was to be played, but we decided to go anyway and try to get tickets. It was clear after a few minutes in line that there were no tickets to be had, but we waited anyway. In the meantime, my brother and his wife happened to show up -- we were all very far from home, so this was a nice coincidence. They wished us luck and went in without us though.

Just as we were about to give up, a man came by and asked us if we wanted two tickets. He wasn't scalping; he just gave them to us. It was one of those happy moments when everything seemed to fall into place. The concert was wonderful. These two had been playing together for some time by then, but they were never a tired act. Arlo did a reprise of *Alice's Restaurant* and Pete had us all singing.


February 1st, 2014, 02:09 AM
Richie Havens --


February 7th, 2014, 05:26 PM
Thanks for that, Hbcat.

That would be a very nice thing to do for a man who lived his entire life near the river.I've rethought this, and now think that naming the Tappan Zee replacement for Pete Seeger isn't a good idea.

Besides not wanting all the fuss, I don't think he would appreciate his legacy represented by a bridge without mass transit. Instead, a feature of the Hudson River should be named for him.