January 28, 2014


Folk Pioneer Pete Seeger Dead at 94

Mike Coppola/WireImage
Mike Coppola/WireImage

Pete Seeger—an incalculably influential folk singer and political protest figure—has passed away at age 94 from natural causes, according to the New York Times.

President Obama himself lauded the deceased folk music/protest movement icon in a statement. "Pete used his voice to strike blows for worker's rights and civil rights; world peace and environmental conservation," Obama said. "We will always be grateful to Pete Seeger."

"Pete was absolutely the best that humans can aspire to be," Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello, a longtime fan and disciple, wrote on Twitter. "A courageous, kind, fearless soul."

Influencing everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Bob Dylan to Joan Baez to Billy Bragg over a career that started in 1940 (!) and continued up until his death on January 27, 2014, Seeger performed at rallies for everyone from Eleanor Roosevelt to Barack Obama. He served in World War II and was a key musical figure in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.

As a musician, he scored numerous hits with the folk group The Weavers before they were blacklisted during the McCarthy Era for socialist ties. But even social and economic blacklisting didn't dampen his influence: Seeger was the most important figure in the 1950s folk music revival that has set the tone of political protest music up until today. Seeger helped popularized "We Shall Overcome" as a protest anthem during the Civil Rights Movement and co-wrote timeless songs like "Turn, Turn, Turn!" (made famous by the Byrds) "If I Had a Hammer" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"

Springsteen showed his undying love for Seeger in 2006 with an all-covers album of songs written or made popular by the folk giant, and RATM guitarist Tom Morello cited Seeger as one of his major inspirations for creating fearlessly political music. Watch Seeger playing with Johnny Cash back in 1970 below.