Childhood & Early Life
Peter ‘Pete’ Seeger was born to Constance and Charles Seeger, in New York City. His father taught music at the University of California and his mother, who was also a musician, taught violin at The Juilliard School.
His sister Peggy, too, would go on to become a folk musician and his brother, Mike, became a part of the ‘New Lost City Ramblers’.
Seeger was an extremely gifted child and was very well-read, even at a young age. He studied at Avon Old Farms and then attended Harvard University on a scholarship, in 1936. However, after two years, he failed an exam and dropped out of the university.
Throughout the remainder of the 1930s, he moved around like a gypsy, hitching rides and traveling on cargo trains around the country.
Continue Reading Below
In 1940, he began focusing on writing music, during which time he organized his first folk group called the ‘Almanac Singers’, along with Millard Lampell and Lee Hays.
The group went on to record a number of albums but in 1942, the band stopped making music after he was conscripted into the Army during World War II. After the war ended three years later, he founded the magazine ‘Sing Out!’ and went back to performing folk songs.
In 1949, he worked as a vocal instructor for the liberal City and Country School in Greenwich Village, New York.
In 1950, the ‘Almanacs’ were re-formed as ‘The Weavers’. The same year, they began composing a string of major hits that topped major music charts for weeks including, ‘On Top of Old Smokey’ and ‘Goodnight, Irene’. They then released a string of other hits including, ‘Dusty Old Dust’, ‘Kisses Sweeter than Wine’ and ‘Wimoweh’.
‘The Weavers’ career was tersely wrecked in 1953 after they were outlawed. Two years later, they were briefly seen on stage and performed at a sold out gathering in Carnegie.
In 1955, he wrote ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone?’, which was published in ‘Sing Out!’ magazine. It was later made into a song by Joe Hickerson. This is largely considered the first of his anti-war verses.
During the later part of the 1950s, he formed the ‘Kingston Trio’, a spin-off of ‘The Weavers’. They continued to record and release a number of singles such as ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’ and ‘The Bells of Rhymney’. He was also politically active during the period.
In 1966, he recorded the album, ‘Dangerous Songs!?’, which was more of a ridicule album attacking the-then President Lyndon Johnson, pertaining to the arms race and Vietnam War issue.
The following year, he attracted more attention when he wrote a song about the captain who drowned while leading a legion on military exercises during World War II. The name of the song was titled ‘Waist Deep in the Big Muddy’.
Continue Reading Below
From 1965 to 1966, he hosted a ‘folk music’ series which was produced on a low budget titled, ‘Rainbow Quest’. On the show, his guests were The Stanley Brothers, June Carter, Johnny Cash, The Beers Family ad Roscoe Holcomb.
In 1966, he co-founded the environmental society, ‘Hudson River Sloop Clearwater’, which focused on emphasizing the pollution in the Hudson River and working towards cleaning it.
In 1969, Seeger wrote a song about the Hudson River and performed on it titled ‘That Lonesome Valley’. It was during this time, he was considered a leading figure of the ‘folk’ revival period.
He published a historic, bookish piece about folk music titled, ‘The Incompleat Folksinger’ 1972. Four years later, he wrote and recorded the anti-death punishment song, ‘Delbert Tibbs’, which was based on the death-row inmate, Delbert Tibbs.
In 1980, he released the album ‘God Bless the Grass’. Throughout the remaining part of the decade, he expressed his condemnation of violent revolutions and also expressed his interest in favor of incremental revolution.
From 1989 to 1992, he released a string of albums such as, ‘Traditional Christmas Carols’, ‘Folk Songs for Young People’ and ‘American Industrial Ballads’.
He wrote his autobiography in 1993 titled, ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone?’ The same year he released ‘Darling Corey/Goofing-Off Suite’.
From 1996 to 2000, he released a string of albums including ‘Pete’, ‘Birds, Beasts, Bugs and Fishes’, ‘Headlines and Footnotes: A Collection of Topical Songs’ and ‘American Folk, Game and Activity Songs’.
From 2002 to 2007, he released a string of ‘American Favorite Ballads’ records from Volume 1 to Volume 5. In 2008 he recorded the award-winning album, ‘At 89’. The next year, he performed at President Barack Obama’s inaugural celebration.
Continue Reading Below
In 2010, at the age of 91, he released ‘Tomorrow’s Children’, which he dedicated to environmental awareness. He won an important award for the album.
From 2012 to 2013, he released a number of albums including ‘A More Perfect Union’, ‘Peter Remembers Woody’ and ‘The Storm King- Stories, Narratives, Poems’. He continues to support civil rights, international disarmament and environmental causes.