Legendary Folk Singer Dies. Springsteen Called Him ‘the Father of American Folk Music’

Jan 28, 2014  •  Post A Comment

The legendary singer whom Bruce Springsteen once called "the father of American folk music" has died at age 94.

"Pete Seeger, the singer, folk-song collector and songwriter who spearheaded an American folk revival and spent a long career championing folk music as both a vital heritage and a catalyst for social change, died Monday," writes Jon Pareles in The New York Times.

The story adds that Seeger "was 94 and lived in Beacon, N.Y. His death was confirmed by his grandson, Kitama Cahill Jackson, who said he died of natural causes at New York-Presbyterian Hospital."

Seeger’s obituary in USA Today says, "But Seeger, who popularized ‘This Land Is Your Land’ and ‘We Shall Overcome’ and wrote ‘If I Had a Hammer’ and ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ [and 'Where Have All the Flowers Gone'] never liked the term folk music. …

"Seeger, who dropped out of Harvard University in 1938 to ride a bicycle across the country, quoted his father, Charles Seeger, a musicologist: ‘My dad, the old professor, used to say, "Never get into an argument about what’s folk music and what isn’t." ‘ "

The USA Today story continues: "Seeger influenced scores of other singers, including Springsteen, Joan Baez, Dave Matthews, Rufus Wainwright, John Mellencamp and Arlo Guthrie. All performed in 2009 at Seeger’s 90th birthday party at sold-out Madison Square Garden, a fundraiser for his favorite local cause: cleaning up New York’s Hudson River.

"That night, Springsteen introduced Seeger saying, ‘He’s gonna look a lot like your granddad that wears flannel shirts and funny hats. He’s gonna look like your granddad if your granddad can kick your ass. At 90, he remains a stealth dagger through the heart of our country’s illusions about itself." In 1997 Springsteen recorded a tribute album to Seeger called "We Shall Overcome: the Seeger Sessions."

The New York Times adds, "Mr. Seeger was a mentor to younger folk and topical singers in the ‘50s and ‘60s, among them Bob Dylan, Don McLean and Bernice Johnson Reagon, who founded Sweet Honey in the Rock. … In 2009 [Springsteen] performed Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land Is Your Land’ with Mr. Seeger at the Obama inaugural.

The TImes also notes that in 2009 Seeger said, "My job is to show folks there’s a lot of good music in this world, and if used right it may help to save the planet."

"Mr. Seeger’s wife, Toshi, died in 2013, days before the couple’s 70th anniversary," says The Times, adding, "Survivors include his son, Daniel; his daughters, Mika and Tinya; a half-sister, Peggy; and six grandchildren, including the musician Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, who performed with him at the Obama inaugural. His half-brother Mike Seeger, a folklorist and performer who founded the New Lost City Ramblers, died in 2009."

pete seeger-bruce springsteen 2.jpgPete Seeger (left) and Bruce Springsteen sing "This Land Is Your Land" at the outdoor inaugural celebration of President Obama’s first term

2 Comments

  1. The only good Communist . . .

  2. Really Vladimir? Everything that this man contributed to the world of music and political awareness and you chose to leave that snarky comment? What an ass…

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