American Folk music legend and social activist Pete Seeger died on Monday at the age of 94. Seeger died of natural causes at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, according to his record company, Appleseed Recordings. In addition to his timeless Folk songs such as "If I Had A Hammer," Seeger also was well known for his liberal politics, his work as an environmentalist, and his protests against wars from Vietnam to Iraq.
Seeger and Woody Guthrie founded the Almanac Singers in the early 1940s, and in 1948 Seeger was a founding member of another key Folk group, The Weavers. By 1952 The Weavers had sold more than 4 million records, but Seeger's career was derailed when a book listed the band as Communists. The Weavers were blacklisted from radio, television and concert appearances, and when Seeger refused to answer the government's questions about his involvement with the Communist party, he was sentenced to a year in jail. The conviction was eventually overturned on appeal in 1961, and Seeger spent much of the '60s participating in the civil rights movement. He was at the Freedom Marches in Selma, Alabama, and Washington, DC, with Dr. Martin Luther King and helped bring an adapted version of the gospel song "We Shall Overcome" to the civil rights movement, where it became an anthem of hope and determination. Seeger also spent the next few decades performing at college campuses, folk festivals and political rallies.
"We deeply mourn the passing of Pete Seeger. We believe that nobody is truly gone until all those who are touched or influenced by that person are gone from the Earth, so Pete will live on in the hearts and minds of so many for years to come," stated Appleseed Recordings President Jim Musselman. "His vision of peace and justice and equality for all will live on and continue to influence. His music has been used all over the world for social justice. From the Civil Rights movement to the anti-war movements Pete and his songs have been there on the front lines. Like a ripple that keeps going out from a pond Pete's music will keep going out all over the world spreading the message of non-violence and peace and justice and equality for all. Wherever people are fighting to be free or fighting for equality Pete's songs and Pete's vision will be there with them."
In January 2009, Seeger performed at a concert marking Barack Obama's presidential inauguration. The President also released a statement about Seeger, saying: "Once called 'America's tuning fork,' Pete Seeger believed deeply in the power of song. But more importantly, he believed in the power of community -- to stand up for what's right, speak out against what's wrong, and move this country closer to the America he knew we could be. Over the years, Pete used his voice -- and his hammer -- to strike blows for worker's rights and civil rights; world peace and environmental conservation. And he always invited us to sing along. For reminding us where we come from and showing us where we need to go, we will always be grateful to Pete Seeger. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayer to Pete's family and all those who loved him."