Legendary New York folk music icon, Pete Seeger, celebrated what would have been his 101st happy birthday yesterday, May 3rd. Hailing from the small town of Beacon, NY, Pete Seeger is remembered for his contributions to American folk music and activism. Armed with a banjo that read “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender,” Seeger performed to numerous audiences from his first years active in the late 1930s up until his passing in January of 2014.
Seeger, the lifelong resident of New York, started playing folk music at a young age, learning from his father, Charles Seeger. Seeger went on to inspire several generations of musicians including Bob Dylan and Tom Morello who have both cited his work as an inspiration. His musical impact is far reaching no doubt, but Seeger is also remembered as an activist, often calling for social change, and as a teacher. Seeger lived his life passing down knowledge and teaching music with the upmost promising and reassuring outlook; encouraging people to do the right thing and to take a stand for what they believe in.
Seeger never showed signs of slowing down. Even one of his last performances, the 2013 Farm Aid benefit at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Seeger remained hopeful of social change. During his performance of “This Land is Your Land” Seeger added in a new verse singing, “New York is my home, New York is your home. From the Upstate mountains to the ocean foam. With all kinds of people, yes, we’re poly-grown, New York was meant to be frack free”. Not afraid to mix music with politics, Seeger always made a point to stand up for what he believed in.
Seeger will always be remembered. A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the recipient of several awards including the honorable Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award along with nine other Grammy Awards for a total of 13 nominations. Last year, in 2019, Seeger’s 100th birthday was remembered and celebrated with the Pete Seeger Centennial at The Egg in Albany, NY. With performances by Arlo Guthrie, son of bluegrass legend Woody Guthrie, and several other artists, it’s clear that the flame that Seeger ignited and the torch that he bore will continue to be carried on by generations to come.