Pete Seeger served as an inspiration and mentor to generations of American musicians from Joan Baez and Bob Dylan to John Mellencamp and Rufus Wainwright, as well as dozens more. Bruce Springsteen, who recorded an album of Seeger songs in 2006, described Pete Seeger as “the father of American folk music.”
Springsteen and many of the other musicians Pete Seeger inspired joined him on stage to celebrate the folk musician’s 90th birthday at Madison Square Garden in 2009.
On Monday, Pete Seeger passed away at age 94, at New York Presbyterian Hospital, The New York Times reports.
Springsteen accompanied Pete Seeger at the first inauguration of President Barack Obama in a performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on January 20, 2009. It was a fitting place to find Pete Seeger, who more than four decades earlier marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, in keeping with a lifelong commitment to progressive ideals and causes.
Seeger and Springsteen performed a duet of “This Land Is Your Land,” an iconic American folk song written by another giant of folk music, Woody Guthrie.
Seeger will be remembered as well for many of his own compositions, which have since entered the standard American songbook. They include, “If I Had a Hammer,” “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” and “Turn, Turn, Turn.” The latter tune became a hit for for folk-rock band The Byrds in 1965.
He also popularized many folk songs that became standards on their own, perhaps foremost among them, “We Shall Overcome,” which became an anthem of the 1960s counterculture and the civil rights movement.
“Songs won’t save the planet,” Seeger once said, a quote recalled in USA Today. “But, then, neither will books or speeches. Songs are sneaky things. They can slip across borders. Proliferate in prisons.”
Born on May 3, 1919, Pete Seeger attended Harvard University intending to enter journalism. He dropped out after two years but not before founding a left-wing newspaper and joining the Young Communist League.
Though by the 1950s he had quit the Communist Party and expressed regret that he hadn’t left sooner, his group The Weavers were effectively blacklisted for alleged Communist ties and Pete Seeger was forced to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. But Seeger refused to answer the committe’s questions, leading to a charge of contempt of congress.
Pete Seeger was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and remains the only member of the Hall with a contempt of congress charge on his record.
Seeger was married for 70 years to his wife Toshi, who died at the age of 91 this past July.
The Inquisitr celebrates the life of a gentle man who dedicated his generous spirit to the eternal struggle for freedom and justice: Rest from you labors, Pete Seeger, your songs will live forever.
[Image Via ABC News]