Pete Seeger

Peter Seeger (born May 3, 1919), almost always known as Pete Seeger, is a folk singer, political activist and major contributor to folk and protest music in 1950s and 1960s. His father Charles Seeger was a musicologist and an early investigator of non-Western music. His siblings Mike Seeger and Peggy Seeger also had notable musical careers. Mike Seeger went on to form the New Lost City Ramblers. Peter went to Avon Old Farms in Connecticut and then to Harvard University. In 1943 he married Toshi-Aline Ohta, whom he credits with being the support that made the rest of his life possible.

He first met many important musicians such as Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly during the late 1930s and early 1940s after dropping out of Harvard, where he was studying sociology.

He was a founding member of the folk groups The Almanac Singers and The Weavers. The Weavers had major hits in the early 1950s, before being blacklisted in the McCarthy Era.

Seeger started a solo career in 1958 (see 1958 in music), and is known for songs such as "If I Had a Hammer" (co-written with Lee Hays), "Turn, Turn, Turn" (adapted from Ecclesiastes), and "We Shall Overcome" (based on a spiritual).

In the 1960s, Seeger wrote the first version of his now-classic How to Play the Five-String Banjo, a book that many banjo players credit with starting them off on the instrument.

Seeger is involved in the Clearwater group, which he helped found in 1966. This organization has worked since then to highlight pollution in the Hudson River and work at getting it cleaned up. As part of that effort, the sloop Clearwater was launched in 1969 and regularly sails the river as a classroom, stage and laboratory.

Seeger is also well known for his communist political beliefs, leading political opponents to call him by pejorative names such as "Stalin's Songbird". A classic example of Seegers pro-Stalin/Soviet attitude can be seen during the period of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. His anti-war record Songs for John Doe, released in 1941, where he calls President Roosevelt a warmonger who worked for J.P. Morgan, expressed his displeasure about FDR's increasingly confrontational attitude with Nazi Germany. Like most members of the CPUSA, Seeger was virulently opposed to any action against Hitler from the time of the signing of the non-aggression pact between Germany and the USSR until it was broken by Operation Barbarossa on June 22, 1941. After the invasion of the Soviet Union, Seeger returned to his earlier stance as a strong proponent of military action against Germany. Seeger left the Communist Party in the 1950s following Nikita Khrushchev's Secret speech which revealed Stalin's crimes. He became an anti-Stalinist but retained his belief in Marxism.

  • "I like to say I'm more conservative than Goldwater. He just wanted to turn the clock back to when there was no income tax. I want to turn the clock back to when people lived in small villages and took care of each other."
  • "My father, Charles Seeger, got me into the Communist movement. He backed out around '38. I drifted out in the 50's. I apologize [in his recent book] for following the party line so slavishly, for not seeing that Stalin was a supremely cruel misleader."
  • "I still call myself a communist, because communism is no more what Russia made of it than Christianity is what the churches make of it. But if by some freak of history communism had caught up with this country, I would have been one of the first people thrown in jail."
  • Seeger, Pete. How to Play the Five-String Banjo, 3rd edition. New York: Music Sales Corporation, 1969. ISBN 0825600243.

This biography was taken verbatim from the Wikipedia. We're providing a snapshot just in case the Wikipedia servers were temporarily unreacheable. The original page is not only much more up-to-date, it also features links to other pages and sites. This snapshot was last updated: 09/22/2004. (mm/dd/yyyy)

Home :: Authors :: Pete Seeger