Happy Birthday, Pete Seeger.
If you’re in New York City today, you can swing by Madison Square Garden and help celebrate his 90th birthday.
Pete Seeger has been presence in my life since childhood with his records, and I still recall one marvelous autumn day when we got to meet him and listen to him sing at South Street Seaport (I think I remember a pier covered with pumpkins, and while I don’t remember the sloop Clearwater think it must have been there as well), well before it was fixed up and turned into a “destination”. We were also fortunate to live down the street from Pete Seeger’s old friend, Brother Kirk (the Rev. Frederick Douglass Kirkpatrick, who died in 1987), who would sit on the sidewalk with his guitar and give impromptu sidewalk concerts. Together the friends collaborated on a 1974 children’s album, “Pete Seeger & Brother Kirk Visit Sesame Street”.
As fascinating as Pete Seeger’s life story and career is his family. He is the son the musicologist and composer of Charles Seeger and violinist Constance Edson; his stepmother was the noted composer Ruth Crawford Seeger; his uncle Alan Seeger was the celebrated poet killed in World War I; his eldest brother Charles was a pioneering radio astronomer; his brother John, a longtime teacher at New York’s Dalton School also founded Camp Killoleet in the Adirondacks; his half-sister is the singer Peggy Seeger; his half-brother is singer Mike Seeger.
No childhood should be complete without Pete Seeger — for the music he has sung and written, his family’s place in the history of American music, for his sense of history, and his environmental and political activism. You can listen to his music and listen to songs about America as it was, and America — and the world — as it should be. Here’s a list, not nearly complete or comprehensive, of some of our favorite Pete Seeger records, books, and more.
Music especially for children:
Pete Seeger’s “Children’s Concert at Town Hall”
Music for the entire family:
A Pete Seeger discography at Smithsonian Folkways. By the way, SF has a new publication, “Folkways Magazine”, just debuted with the Spring 2009 issue, and the main article is “Pete Seeger: Standing Tall”
A Pete Seeger discography and biography at Appleseed Records
Books (many of which are children’s picture books based on his songs):
Turn! Turn! Turn! with accompanying CD
The biography How Can I Keep from Singing?: The Ballad of Pete Seeger by David King Dunaway, the companion volume to the radio series produced by Dunaway (see below)
Audio and Video:
How Can I Keep from Singing?, the three-part radio series produced by David King Dunaway
“To Hear Your Banjo Play” (1947)
At NPR; and today’s NPR appreciation, “Pete Seeger At 90” by Lynn Neary and Tom Cole. At the latter link, you’ll find a little orange box on the left with The Pete Seeger Mix, a “five-hour mix of Pete Seeger classics and covers” put together by NPR Music partner Folk Alley
Pete Seeger at the pre-inaugural concert for Barack Obama
Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress, where Pete Seeger worked as an assistant in 1940
Clearwater, the organization Pete Seeger established in 1969 to preserve and protect the Hudson River
Bits and bobs:
Pete Seeger’s biography at the Kennedy Center, where he was a Kennedy Center honor recipient in 1994
Filed under: American history, Art & Culture, Books, Celebrations, Children's Books, Civics, Commemorations, Education, History, Knowledge & Wisdom, Movies, Music, Onward & Upward, Raising Children, World history