Folk-song collector and songwriter, Pete Seeger, front man of American folk revival whom devoted his career to advocating folk music as a means of social change, died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 94.
Seeger’s successful career included him singing at labor rallies to the Top 10, college auditoriums, folk festivals, and performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural concert for Barack Obama.
His social awareness activities got him in a bind in the 1950’s, when he was charged with contempt of Congress, after getting involved with the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955. The committee pressed the folk singer to reveal whether he had sung for Communists, “I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American.”
In the 1940’s and 1950’s, Seeger sang for the labor movement and in the 1960’s he participated in the civil rights marches and anti-Vietnam War rallies, and for environmental and antiwar causes in the 1970s and beyond.
“We Shall Overcome,” was a phrase that Seeger adapted from old spirituals which then became a civil rights anthem.
During his time with the Weavers, Seeger sang hits such as Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene” and “If I Had a Hammer,” both reached No. 1. Another of Mr. Seeger’s songs, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,” became an antiwar standard.
Pete Seeger displayed heroic qualities and was determined to remain positive about the future. In his address to the public in 1994 he said, “The key to the future of the world is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.”
Source: Nytimes.com/Image: Cbc.ca