Petet Seeger, the folk music singer songwriter and revivalist died Monday in Manhattan. He was 94 years old at his time of death.
Seeger was a legend within folk circles, having been a proprietor of folk music as both a cultural heritage and vessel for societal change. Seeger’s career brought him all over, from singing Top 10 hits, to college campuses and labor rallies. Most recently, he performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at President Obama’s inauguration.
Seeger is associated with the rise of contemporary folk, or politically leftist folk music; i.e. Bob Dylan types. According to CNN, “Seeger’s best known songs include ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone,’ ‘Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)’ and ‘If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song).’
In an interview, Seeger’s grandson Kitama Cahill Jackson, talked to CNN about his grandfather’s interesting career. “He lived at a time when so many things hadn’t been done yet, the idea of making music about something hadn’t really been done,” Jackson said. “And now people do it all the time.” This makes Seeger something of a pioneer within the music industry. He was one of the first musicians to recognize the political and social power of folk music. As one would expect, his voice often disgruntled folks.
“From the start, he aspired to use folk music to promote his left-wing political views, and in times of national turmoil that brought him into direct confrontation with the U.S. government, corporate interests, and people who did not share his beliefs,” William Ruhlmann wrote in a biography on allmusic.com. “These conflicts shaped his career.”
As aforementioned, Seeger was an influence on many contemporary artists who followed him. The New Yorker wrote on his impact, saying, “Mr. Seeger was a mentor to younger folk and topical singers in the 50s and 60s, among them Bob Dylan, Don McLean and Bernice Johnson Reagon, who founded Sweet Honey in the Rock.” Further along, the article discussed some more current effects Seeger had on folk music. “Bruce Springsteen drew from Mr. Seeger’s repertory of traditional music about a turbulent America in recording his 2006 album, ‘We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions,’ and in 2009 he performed Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land Is Your Land’ with Mr. Seeger at the Obama inaugural.”
With the recent re-popularization of folk music, with the rise bands like Mumford & Sons, the Lumineers, the Avett Brothers, among others, Seeger’s death seems somehow more potent. The folk music community has felt his loss, and it will likely be met with much sadness. Still, the sentiment seems to be that he lived a long and healthy life, and that he remains through his music and the impact he managed to make with it.