In honor of the 94th birthday of America's arch-druid of folk music, here are videos of some of the songs that are the gift of of this master performer to his land and people.
Even granting the enormous importance of countless others - the Lomaxes, Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, and so many more - without Seeger's tireless energy and 70+ years of performing and activism, all those ballads and songs and hummable folk tunes would likely be gathering dust in obscure corners of university libraries or on crackling recordings on small record labels instead of being the significant element of our cultural fabric that they have become.
Virtually every performer in the pop-folk world during the revival era acknowledged Seeger as a major influence and inspiration.
I might well title this post "Songs We Owe To Pete Seeger."
"If I Had A Hammer" - Original Weavers Version
Seeger later acknowledged that he thought Peter, Paul and Mary improved his song.
"Wimoweh" and "Flowers"
From the Smothers Brothers show. Seeger discovered Solomon Linda's "Mbube" in a stack of discarded 78rpms given to him by Alan Lomax and transliterated the title into what he thought he heard on the recording.
"Turn! Turn! Turn!"
Of the dozens of video versions of Seeger performing the song, this one from the mid-1960s Rainbow Connection show with Pete supporting Judy Collins is my favorite.
"We Shall Overcome"
A song in whose dissemination Seeger was an important element, as he explains below. From the 1963 Carnegie Hall Concert.
That Carnegie concert LP was one of the treasures of my boyhood, and this was my favorite track on that fabulous record. As with many, many other songs - most Anglophone Americans had never heard this surpassingly beautiful song in both words and music until Seeger introduced it. Pop music fans may note that the massive commercial hit by The Sandpipers simply adapted Pete here word for word, down to and including the narration and translation.
Seeger in 2006 With The History Of "We Shall Overcome"
Seeger in 2009 Talking About "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
Jim/Roger McGuinn Performs "Turn! Turn! Turn!" At The Kennedy Center Honors For Seeger" (1994)