R.I.P., Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

A great artist and a great American left us today.  Pete Seeger, America's most beloved folk singer, and the father of today's vibrant folk music scene, died today in New York City. He was 94. He left his stamp on American music with songs such as "If I Had a Hammer," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" and "Turn, Turn, Turn." "Hammer" will forever be associated with resistance to Joseph McCarthy's witchhunts, and "Flowers" was the anthem of the anti-Vietnam war movement.  For Seeger, there was no distinction between art and politics. Music, he believed was a force meant to help change people's lives. He supported the labor, civil rights, and anti-war movements of the last century, and during his final years was vocal about the dangers of climate change. Bruce Springsteen called Seeger's career "a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along." Seeger stood fearlessly for his convictions. He faced racist mobs with Paul Robeson, and at a time when Americans were denouncing each other to save their careers, he refused to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committtee, knowing he could well be sent to prison. He famously said, "I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this." Recording's of Seeger's music are available throughout the network. Here at Somerville we have an acclaimed documentary about Seeger's life and work, Pete Seeger: The Power of Song, that includes archival footage of some of his most performances and interviews with Joan Baez and Arlo Guthrie. For more about the musical scene Seeger helped create, check out the documentary, Greenwich Village: Music that Defined a Generation. I leave you with a recording of Seeger singing at Carnegie Hall in 1963:

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