Who is Pete Seeger?

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  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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Pete Seeger is an American folk singer, song writer, political activist, and banjo player, whose given name was Peter R. Seeger. Pete Seeger was born in Patterson, New York on 3 May 1919, the son of musicologist Charles Seeger and violinist Constance Seeger, both of whom taught at Juilliard. In addition, Pete Seeger’s stepmother Ruth Crawford was a noted composer.

Having planned to become a painter, Seeger’s first occasion of hearing the five-string banjo was the catalyst for his music career. After two years at Harvard University as an undergraduate, he left to roam the Southern United States with musicologist Alan Lomax, collecting field recordings of folk songs.

Although his career was hampered at times by the blacklist of leftist entertainers, Pete Seeger managed to craft a multi-faceted career that included performance as a soloist, with groups, such as the Almanac Singers and the Weavers. He also wrote songs and instructional material for the five-string banjo and the twelve-string guitar, and worked to preserve the nation’s folk song heritage, as well as to draw attention to political and ecological issues.


Pete Seeger’s best-known songs include a mix of his own work, collaborative ventures, and covers, notably the Weavers’ recordings of Leadbelly’s “Goodnight, Irene,” Woody Guthrie’s “So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You,” Jose Martí’s “Guantanamera,” and Leadbelly and Campbell’s “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” as well as “Where Have All the Flowers Gone ” with Joe Hickerson, “If I Had a Hammer” with Lee Hays, “Turn, Turn, Turn” based on the Book of Ecclesiastes, and “We Shall Overcome,” based on a spiritual. Many times his collaborations are credited solely to him, but this is a mistake.

Pete Seeger’s songs were recorded by many artists, including the The Byrds, Judy Collins, Ani DiFranco, Indigo Girls, the Kingston Trio, Odetta, Peter, Paul & Mary, Bonnie Raitt, and Bruce Springsteen. Seeger has been awarded a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album of 1996 for the album Pete, as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993. He received the Kennedy Center Lifetime Achievement Honor in 1994, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.


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