By Jeremy D. Larson
Pete Seeger, the genesis of folk in America who helped revolutionize the song and the story in popular music, has died. He was 94.
The New York Times reports that his death was confirmed by his grandson, Kitama Cahill Jackson, who said he died of natural causes at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Seeger’s range of influence is incalculable in folk music and beyond. Bruce Springsteen idolized him, Bob Dylan called him a saint and Joan Baez said that, “We owe all our careers to him.” Seeger wrote some of the 20th century’s most indelible songs, including “If I Had a Hammer,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” to name a few, all collected in numerous volumes throughout his life.
In total, Seeger’s albums numbered well into the hundreds.
Seeger entered the world already in the throes of traditional music. Born in 1919 in New York City, his father was a Professor of musicology and his mother was a classical violinist. Seeger learned to play the ukulele, guitar and banjo as a teenager and took a job assisting folk archivist Alan Lomax to transcribe and record the traditional music of the American South. It would be Seeger’s legacy to unearth the songs that were embedded deep within the soil of American history.
Equal with his passion for music and anthropology, was Seeger’s passion for politics and social justice. He was an ur-activist in the folk tradition, a street-fighting man in the truest sense. Wherever there was injustice, there would be the rail-thin Seeger with his 5-string banjo or his 12-string guitar.