Pete Seeger


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At a Glance

Birthname: Peter Seeger
Nationality: American
Born: May 03 1919
Died: Jan 27 2014 (94 years old)


Biography

Pete Seeger had a long and productive career as a folk song leader and social activist.

In 1938, he settled in New York City and eventually met Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie, Aunt Molly Jackson, Lead Belly and others. Many of this group of musicians eventually formed the Almanac Singers in late 1940. The group performed for gatherings, picket lines, and any place they could lend their voices in support of the social causes they believed in.

In 1949, Pete Seeger began to perform with his old partner Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman, and Ronnie Gilbert. They called themselves the Weavers. They had ... Read more

Pete Seeger had a long and productive career as a folk song leader and social activist.

In 1938, he settled in New York City and eventually met Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie, Aunt Molly Jackson, Lead Belly and others. Many of this group of musicians eventually formed the Almanac Singers in late 1940. The group performed for gatherings, picket lines, and any place they could lend their voices in support of the social causes they believed in.

In 1949, Pete Seeger began to perform with his old partner Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman, and Ronnie Gilbert. They called themselves the Weavers. They had lovely arrangements of American folk songs, many written by old friends such as Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie. Some of their more popular songs were "Goodnight Irene" and "Tzena Tzena Tzena" which went number one and number two on the hit parade in 1950.

Later that same year the book, Red Channels, appeared. In the growing anti-Communist hysteria following World War II it named well-known Americans, many from the entertainment field, it listed as communists. Seeger's name appeared in the book and this began a seventeen year period where Pete Seeger was under the influence of the ominous blacklist.

Unable to ply his trade in all the most lucrative locations and his travel scrutinized, Seeger's music went underground. This was his period of explosive energy and creativity. Seeger supported his family during the "blacklist" by constant traveling, playing small venues; releasing numerous albums, producing documentary films, and even producing a fairly strong selling book on how to play 5-string banjo. Moses Asch, who in 1948 had started his Folkways label, was an old friend and supporter. He could care less about blacklists and published dozens of records during the 50s and early 60s by Pete Seeger. His great children's albums from this period are still best sellers including his own story Abiyoyo.

In March 1961, Seeger was tried on the contempt of Congress charge and convicted. He was subsequently sentenced to ten years in jail. Thankfully, in May 1962 the Court of Appeals decided the indictment was faulty and threw out the case (Dunaway, pg. 259). Now free to move without the cloud of prison hanging over his head, Seeger began to be involved in the Civil Rights Movement. He was one of the people at a gathering at the Highlander School in Monteagle, Tennessee who re-worked the hymn "I Will Overcome" into the great iconic civil-rights anthem "We Shall Overcome". He also was a strong voice against the Vietnam War penning great anti-war songs like "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" and "Bring 'Em Home".

During the rest of his career, Pete Seeger released the occasional album and still frequently performed for any group or cause that could use his help. In January, 2009, he was seen singing "This Land is Your Land" before hundreds of thousands on the Lincoln Memorial steps during the inauguration of Barrack Obama as President of the United States. A Kennedy Center honoree, Pete Seeger has been suggested as a worthy recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Jeff Place, March 2009
(these notes are excerpted from the notes to Smithsonian Folkways 40184)

Sources: Dunaway, David King, How Can I Keep from Singing?: The Ballad of Pete Seeger, New York: Villard Books, 2008

This biography was provided by the artist or their representative.

Pete Seeger had a long and productive career as a folk song leader and social activist.

In 1938, he settled in New York City and eventually met Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie, Aunt Molly Jackson, Lead Belly and others. Many of this group of musicians eventually formed the Almanac Singers in late 1940. The group performed for gatherings, picket lines, and any place they could lend their voices in support of the social causes they believed in.

In 1949, Pete Seeger began to perform with his old partner Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman, and Ronnie Gilbert. They called themselves the Weavers. They had lovely arrangements of American folk songs, many written by old friends such as Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie. Some of their more popular songs were "Goodnight Irene" and "Tzena Tzena Tzena" which went number one and number two on the hit parade in 1950.

Later that same year the book, Red Channels, appeared. In the growing anti-Communist hysteria following World War II it named well-known Americans, many from the entertainment field, it listed as communists. Seeger's name appeared in the book and this began a seventeen year period where Pete Seeger was under the influence of the ominous blacklist.

Unable to ply his trade in all the most lucrative locations and his travel scrutinized, Seeger's music went underground. This was his period of explosive energy and creativity. Seeger supported his family during the "blacklist" by constant traveling, playing small venues; releasing numerous albums, producing documentary films, and even producing a fairly strong selling book on how to play 5-string banjo. Moses Asch, who in 1948 had started his Folkways label, was an old friend and supporter. He could care less about blacklists and published dozens of records during the 50s and early 60s by Pete Seeger. His great children's albums from this period are still best sellers including his own story Abiyoyo.

In March 1961, Seeger was tried on the contempt of Congress charge and convicted. He was subsequently sentenced to ten years in jail. Thankfully, in May 1962 the Court of Appeals decided the indictment was faulty and threw out the case (Dunaway, pg. 259). Now free to move without the cloud of prison hanging over his head, Seeger began to be involved in the Civil Rights Movement. He was one of the people at a gathering at the Highlander School in Monteagle, Tennessee who re-worked the hymn "I Will Overcome" into the great iconic civil-rights anthem "We Shall Overcome". He also was a strong voice against the Vietnam War penning great anti-war songs like "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" and "Bring 'Em Home".

During the rest of his career, Pete Seeger released the occasional album and still frequently performed for any group or cause that could use his help. In January, 2009, he was seen singing "This Land is Your Land" before hundreds of thousands on the Lincoln Memorial steps during the inauguration of Barrack Obama as President of the United States. A Kennedy Center honoree, Pete Seeger has been suggested as a worthy recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Jeff Place, March 2009
(these notes are excerpted from the notes to Smithsonian Folkways 40184)

Sources: Dunaway, David King, How Can I Keep from Singing?: The Ballad of Pete Seeger, New York: Villard Books, 2008

This biography was provided by the artist or their representative.

Pete Seeger had a long and productive career as a folk song leader and social activist.

In 1938, he settled in New York City and eventually met Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie, Aunt Molly Jackson, Lead Belly and others. Many of this group of musicians eventually formed the Almanac Singers in late 1940. The group performed for gatherings, picket lines, and any place they could lend their voices in support of the social causes they believed in.

In 1949, Pete Seeger began to perform with his old partner Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman, and Ronnie Gilbert. They called themselves the Weavers. They had lovely arrangements of American folk songs, many written by old friends such as Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie. Some of their more popular songs were "Goodnight Irene" and "Tzena Tzena Tzena" which went number one and number two on the hit parade in 1950.

Later that same year the book, Red Channels, appeared. In the growing anti-Communist hysteria following World War II it named well-known Americans, many from the entertainment field, it listed as communists. Seeger's name appeared in the book and this began a seventeen year period where Pete Seeger was under the influence of the ominous blacklist.

Unable to ply his trade in all the most lucrative locations and his travel scrutinized, Seeger's music went underground. This was his period of explosive energy and creativity. Seeger supported his family during the "blacklist" by constant traveling, playing small venues; releasing numerous albums, producing documentary films, and even producing a fairly strong selling book on how to play 5-string banjo. Moses Asch, who in 1948 had started his Folkways label, was an old friend and supporter. He could care less about blacklists and published dozens of records during the 50s and early 60s by Pete Seeger. His great children's albums from this period are still best sellers including his own story Abiyoyo.

In March 1961, Seeger was tried on the contempt of Congress charge and convicted. He was subsequently sentenced to ten years in jail. Thankfully, in May 1962 the Court of Appeals decided the indictment was faulty and threw out the case (Dunaway, pg. 259). Now free to move without the cloud of prison hanging over his head, Seeger began to be involved in the Civil Rights Movement. He was one of the people at a gathering at the Highlander School in Monteagle, Tennessee who re-worked the hymn "I Will Overcome" into the great iconic civil-rights anthem "We Shall Overcome". He also was a strong voice against the Vietnam War penning great anti-war songs like "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" and "Bring 'Em Home".

During the rest of his career, Pete Seeger released the occasional album and still frequently performed for any group or cause that could use his help. In January, 2009, he was seen singing "This Land is Your Land" before hundreds of thousands on the Lincoln Memorial steps during the inauguration of Barrack Obama as President of the United States. A Kennedy Center honoree, Pete Seeger has been suggested as a worthy recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Jeff Place, March 2009
(these notes are excerpted from the notes to Smithsonian Folkways 40184)

Sources: Dunaway, David King, How Can I Keep from Singing?: The Ballad of Pete Seeger, New York: Villard Books, 2008

This biography was provided by the artist or their representative.

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