Pete Seeger: US folk singer, songwriter and activist dies aged 94

Pete Seeger, champion of folk music as a catalyst for change, has died in New York age 94. According to his grandson he passed away at a New York hospital after a short illness. Seeger rose to fame as member of The Weavers, formed in 1948. He continued to perform in his own right for many years, in a career spanning six decades. Seeger’s hits include If I Had a Hammer, Turn, Turn, Turn, Where Have All the Flowers Gone and Kisses Sweeter Than Wine. Pete Seeger will be remembered for his courageous protest songs which saw him blacklisted by the US Government in the 1950s for his left wing stance – even quizzed by the Un-American Activities Committee in 1955, which he greatly resented. During these years he was denied broadcast exposure and charged with contempt of Congress. The sentence was overturned and Seeger was able to return to television in the late 1960s. He had never given up on his ethos though, and spent this time touring US college campuses spreading his music and his ideas, a job that Seeger himself described as the most important of his career. This skinny framed, bearded, banjo-playing musician became an iconic bearer for political causes ranging from nuclear disarmament to the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. He was closely identified with the sixties civil rights movement and was an enduring champion of the folk community and its social activism. Seeger performed with Woody Guthrie in his early years, and went on to have an effect on the protest music of later artists including Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Joan Baez. His influence continued through the decades and was inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. In 2006, Springsteen recorded an album of songs originally sung by Seeger. On his 90th birthday, Seeger was feted by artists including Springsteen, Eddie Vedder and Dave Matthews in New York’s Madison Square Garden. Springsteen called him “a living archive of America’s music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along.

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