'People's singer' Pete Seeger -- 1919-2014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Pete Seeger's musical career was always braided tightly with his political activism

Banjo-picking American troubadour Pete Seeger died on January 27 at the age of 94. In a career that spanned eight decades, he sang for migrant workers, peace activists and anti-capitalists.

Seeger died peacefully in his sleep around 9.30pm in New York Presbyterian Hospital, where he had been for six days. Family members were with him.

Seeger was an iconic figure in protest music. In his younger days he performed with Woody Guthrie and in his nineties, leaning on two canes, he marched with Occupy Wall Street protesters.

He lent his voice to fights against Hitler and against nuclear power. "Be wary of great leaders," he warned two days after a 2011 Manhattan Occupy march. "Hope that there are many, many small leaders."

His musical career was always braided tightly with his political activism, in which he advocated causes ranging from civil rights to the cleanup of his beloved Hudson River.

Seeger left the Communist Party around 1950, but was blacklisted by the media for more than a decade after tangling with the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955.

Repeatedly pressed by the committee to reveal whether he had sung for communists, Seeger responded sharply: "I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs ...

"I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours ... that I am any less of an American than anybody else."

(Read the full transcript.)

By the 1990s, still styling himself a small-c communist, Seeger had been heaped with national honours.

[Reprinted from Morning Star.]

From GLW issue 995