Pete Seeger Dies at Age 94

 

Pete Seeger, one of the most influential musical icons of our time, died on Monday night (January 27) at the age of 94 in New York Presbyterian Hospital, following a short illness.

The New York native, who worked with Woody Guthrie during the 40s before forming the Weavers in 1948, took folk music to concert halls and college campuses, political rallies and TV shows -- and to the pop charts.

His own "Goodnight Irene" was No. 1 for 13 weeks in 1950, while artists such as the Byrds ("Turn! Turn! Turn!") and Peter, Paul & Mary ("If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?") had hits with Seeger`s material.

His politics got him blacklisted as an accused Communist supporter during the 1950s, but during the 60s Seeger was front and center again, protesting the war in Vietnam and nuclear proliferation and supporting civil rights and environmental causes.

Seeger was always modest about his achievements: he once told us that people "give me too much credit. They really do. There's hardly a song I've written that I didn't borrow from somebody else. And if people like 'If I Had a Hammer,' then thank Peter, Paul & Mary for rewriting my second-rate melody -- and the same thing with almost every other song I've written, really. That's kind of part of the folk tradition, too, I think."

During his life Seeger won three Grammy Awards as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and received a Kennedy Center Honor, a National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment For the Arts, the Harvard Arts Medal, the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal, the George Peabody Medal and the Felix Varela Meda, Cuba's highest honor.

Seeger was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Seeger`s wife, Toshi, passed away during July, just days shy of the couple's 70th wedding anniversary.

As for his legacy, Seeger told us that, "My family will remember me, and a few others. I'm one of a lot of songwriters. There'll be more important things to think about. Mostly I'd urge people, don't make heroes out of anybody. I'm sure there were mistakes that Jesus made, and that Buddah made and Mohammed and who knows who else. And I've made a huge number of mistakes with my family, in singing and in politics.

"So don't copy what I've done. Please, make your own mistakes. Don't make my mistakes over again."