An advocate for peace and civil rights, Pete Seeger helped spark the folk music revival with his five-string banjo and songs calling for justice.
Los Angeles Times
By Claudia Luther
January 27, 2014, 11:53 p.m.
Pete Seeger, the iconoclastic American singer, songwriter and social activist who did battle with injustice in America armed with a banjo, a guitar and the transformative power of song, has died. He was 94.
Seeger died Monday at New York Presbyterian Hospital, his grandson Kitama Cahill-Jackson told the Associated Press.
A veteran of the labor, peace and civil rights movements, Seeger remained relevant as an activist into his 90s. He was equally musician and revolutionary, playing a major role in the folk music revival that began in the late 1950s while helping to craft the soundtrack of 1960s protests through such songs as "We Shall Overcome," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" and "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
"At some point, Pete Seeger decided he'd be a walking, singing reminder of all of America's history," Bruce Springsteen said at the all-star Madison Square Garden concert marking Seeger's 90th birthday in 2009.
"He'd be a living archive of America's music and conscience, a testament to the power of song and culture to nudge history along, to push American events towards a more humane and justified ends," said Springsteen, who had performed Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" with Seeger at the Lincoln Memorial concert marking President Obama's 2008 inauguration.
Gifted at connecting with audiences, Seeger called his ability to inspire regular folks to sing along his "cultural guerrilla tactic." "There's no such thing as a wrong note as long as you're singing it," he told the 15,000-strong crowd at his birthday celebration.
Seeger's life of music and political activism could be summed up in "The Hammer Song," the enduring anthem he wrote more than 60 years ago with his good friend Lee Hays to support the
progressive political movement in the U.S.:
If I had a hammer
I'd hammer in the morning
I'd hammer in the evening
All over this land/ I'd hammer out danger
I'd hammer out a warning
I'd hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land.
Popularized by Peter, Paul and Mary in the 1960s, the song embodied the heart of Seeger: his musicality, his activism, his optimism and his lifelong belief that songs could and should be used to build a sense of community to make the world a better place.
"I'd really rather put songs on people's lips than in their ears," he said.
Seeger inspired a generation of folk singers and musicians that included the Kingston Trio and Joan Baez, who once said: "We all owe our careers to Pete Seeger."
As a member of two influential folk groups, the Almanac Singers and the Weavers, Seeger wrote or co-wrote "We Shall Overcome," the anthem of the civil rights movement based on an early 20th century gospel song; "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," which became an anti-Vietnam War protest song; and another political anthem, "Turn! Turn! Turn!," which turned to a passage from the Bible — "to everything there is a season" — for the lyrics.
SEEGER, Pete (Peter Seeger)
Born: 5/3/1919, Patterson, New York, U.S.A.
Died: 1/27/2014, New York City, New York, U.S.A.
Pete Seeger's western - composer: