Peter Seeger | Filmmakers on Folkstreams

Peter Seeger

Pete Seeger, (born May 3, 1919, New York, N.Y., U.S.—died Jan. 27, 2014, New York City), U.S. folk singer and songwriter. He was the son of the pioneering ethnomusicologist Charles Seeger (1886–1979) and stepson of the composer Ruth Crawford Seeger. Leaving Harvard after two years in 1938, he hitchhiked and rode freight trains around the country, gathering folk songs and developing a virtuosity on the banjo. In 1940 he organized the Almanac Singers with Woody Guthrie and performed widely at union halls and farm meetings. In 1948, with Lee Hays (1914–81), Ronnie Gilbert (b. c. 1926), and Fred Hellerman (b. 1927), he formed the Weavers. Shortly after the group became successful, it was blacklisted because of Seeger’s previous activities in left-wing and labour politics. He fostered the growth of the hootenanny (a gathering of performers playing and singing for each other, with audience participation), and he wrote folk standards such as “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and “If I Had a Hammer.” He was also known as a prominent supporter of antiwar, civil rights, and environmental causes.