Pete Seeger Biography

3 May 1919, New York City, New York, USA. Educated at Harvard University, he is the brother of Peggy Seeger and half-brother of Mike Seeger. Pete Seeger’s mother was a violin teacher, and his father a renowned musicologist. While still young, Pete Seeger learned to play banjo and ukulele, and shortly afterwards he developed his interest in American folk music. Seeger took his banjo round the country, playing and learning songs from the workers and farmers. He served in the US Army during World War II. In addition to being a member of the Weavers from 1949-58, he had earlier been in a group called the Almanac Singers. The group included Woody Guthrie, Lee Hays and Millard Lampell. The Almanac Singers had frequently given free performances to union meetings and strikers’ demonstrations. Despite such apparent diversions, Seeger maintained a successfully high profile in his own solo career. The era of McCarthyism put a blight on many live performances, owing to the right-wing political paranoia that existed at the time. It was in 1948 that Seeger was blacklisted and had to appear before the House of Un-American Activities Committee for his alleged communist sympathies. This did not stop Seeger from performing sell-out concerts abroad and speaking out on a wide range of civil rights and environmental issues. He became known for popularizing songs such as ‘Little Boxes’, ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone’ and ‘We Shall Overcome’. He has released in excess of 200 albums, several of which are instructional records for banjo playing. In addition to these albums Seeger has appeared on the work of many other artists providing either vocal or instrumental back-up. The 1993 release Live At Newport consisted of previously unreleased recordings made at the Newport Folk Festival between 1963 and 1965. After a gap of 14 years in releasing a new album Seeger was aided and produced by Paul Winter on 1996’s Pete, which won the following year’s Grammy award for Best Traditional Folk Album.

Seeger’s most prominent environmental work was on the Clearwater Sloop project on the Hudson River, attempting to publicize the threat of pollution. He has always worked and campaigned for civil rights, peace and equality, and has never compromised his ideals, remaining one of the most important figures in the development of free speech and humanitarian causes through folk music.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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