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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger: Farewell to a Legend

Pete Seeger, legendary folk singer and political activist who influenced generations of musical artists like Bob Dylan; Judy Collins; Joan Baez; Peter, Paul & Mary; Don Mclean; Janis Ian and so many others, passed away on January 27, 2014. Mr Seeger is probably best known for his songs, "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" "If I Had a Hammer" and "Turn, Turn, Turn." His adaption of "We Shall Overcome" became the anthem of the American civil rights movement. Bruce Springsteen called Seeger a “living archive” of the Great American Songbook.

The 94-year-old Mr Seeger was to receive the Woody Guthrie Award in February 2014. Messrs Seeger and Guthrie were good friends throughout their lives and Guthrie was a strong influence on Pete Seeger's later songwriting.

Born May 3, 1919 in Manhattan, Seeger's father was a musicologist and his mother a concert violinist. They divorced when Pete was seven.

Seeger attended Harvard but dropped out to return to New York City and became part of the flourishing folk music scene. He played guitar and banjo. As part of the group The Weavers, Pete Seeger began his professional career. The band had a string of hits in the late 1940s - early 1950s, best known for their version of Lead Belly's "Goodnight, Irene."

In the 1950s, he and other members of The Weavers were blacklisted by Senator Joseph McCarthy's House on Un-American Activities Committee. Nonetheless, his political activism continued, especially his protesting the Vietnam War and his ecological concerns about the environment.

"Turn, Turn, Turn" was a hit for Judy Collins and for The Byrds; Peter, Paul  and Mary had an international success with their recording of "If I Had a Hammer."

Pete Seeger died of natural causes in New York Presbyterian Hospital. His wife, Toshi, passed away last year.

RIP, Pete Seeger. Your influence on music and on society and America's political consciousness will forever be remembered.

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