April 04, 2014

Delegates pay tribute to Seeger’s musical legacy

Source: RA Reporter
Pete Seeger
Caption: Photo by Marco Ferrero

In a song-filled, rousing video tribute, delegates viewed the many contributions of Pete Seeger, a dedicated social activist whose music championed the workers of the world. He died Jan. 27 at 94.

Seeger used folk songs to advance and support unions, progressive groups, environmental causes, racial equality and the downtrodden.

Caught up in the fervor of activism, Seeger left Harvard to work at the Library of Congress' Archive of American Folk Songs to catalog and preserve songs.

He used these songs as a basis for the changes he sought, singing and playing with the Almanac Singers, who disbanded when he was drafted. Later, he formed the Weavers, but his career was slowed when he was blacklisted after being investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee and convicted of contempt. After he died, the White House described him as "America's Tuning Fork."

During the 1960s, Seeger, who played banjo and guitar, hosted a folk music program on educational television and began singing with civil rights workers at rallies in the South. He joined the march from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama.

Earlier he met Martin Luther King Jr. and helped him and other activists use songs to build solidarity and approach change.

During that tumultuous decade, Seeger was politically active and participated in many labor rallies. The song "We Shall Overcome," which he adapted from old spirituals, became widely used.

To address environmental concerns, he launched the nonprofit group and the sailing vessel, The Clearwater, near his hometown of Beacon, N.Y., dedicated to calling for cleaning up the polluted Hudson River. The Clearwater is still used today to educate students and communities.

— Liza Frenette