Legendary folk-music singer and political activist Pete Seeger passed away last night at the age of 94. Seeger’s grandson, Kitama Cahill-Jackson, said that his grandfather died peacefully in his sleep at around 9:30 p.m. Monday night at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Born in 1919 to classical musicians, Seeger became a regular on nationwide radio in the 1940s. He also had a run of hit records in the 1950s as a member of the folk band The Weavers.
Seeger is also well known as a songwriter, having written or co-written such influential songs as “Where Have All The Flowers Gone,” made famous by both The Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary, and “Turn, Turn, Turn,” which Seeger adapted from the Biblical Book of Ecclesiastes. The song became a number 1 hit for American rock band The Byrds in the mid-1960s.
Seeger’s career was not without controversy. He was a well known political activist and, along with other members of The Weavers, he was “blacklisted” during the McCarthy Era due to his anti-war sentiments. Much of his musical career was dedicated to “protest music” in support of such issues as civil rights, international disarmament, and environmentalism. Seeger is credited with popularizing the spiritual classic “We Shall Overcome,” which became the anthem of the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
In 2009 a concert was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City in honor of Seeger’s 90th birthday. The list of performers and attendees — Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews, and Emmylou Harris, just to name a few — made it abundantly clear just how influential the legendary musician truly was. He will be greatly missed.