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Folk legend Pete Seeger dies aged 94

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 Pete Seeger. Photo: AP

Pete Seeger. Photo: AP

Pete Seeger. Photo: AP

Pete Seeger, the banjo-picking troubadour who sang for migrant workers, college students and star-struck presidents in a career that introduced generations of Americans to their folk music heritage, has died at the age of 94.

Seeger's grandson, Kitama Cahill-Jackson, said his grandfather died peacefully in his sleep at around 9.30pm last night in the New York Presbyterian Hospital, where he had been for six days. Family members were with him.

"He was chopping wood 10 days ago," Mr Cahill-Jackson said.

Seeger – with his a lanky frame, banjo and full white beard – was a well-known figure in folk music. He performed with Woody Guthrie in his younger days and marched with Occupy Wall Street protesters in his 90s, leaning on two canes.

He wrote or co-wrote If I Had A Hammer, Turn, Turn, Turn, Where Have All The Flowers Gone and Kisses Sweeter Than Wine.

He lent his voice against Hitler and nuclear power. A cheerful warrior, he typically delivered his broadsides with an affable air and his banjo strapped on.

With The Weavers, a quartet put together in 1948, Seeger helped set the stage for a national folk revival in the US.

Seeger also was credited with popularising We Shall Overcome, which he printed in his publication People's Song in 1948. Seeger was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 as an early influence.

 

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Ten years later, Bruce Springsteen honoured him with We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, a rollicking reinterpretation of songs sung by Seeger. While pleased with the album, Seeger said he wished it was "more serious".

A 2009 concert at Madison Square Garden to mark Seeger's 90th birthday featured Springsteen, Dave Matthews, Eddie Vedder and Emmylou Harris.

Seeger maintained his reedy 6ft 2in frame into old age, though he wore a hearing aid and conceded that his voice was pretty much shot. He relied on his audiences to make up for his diminished voice, feeding his listeners the lines and letting them sing out.

"I can't sing much," he said. "I used to sing high and low. Now I have a growl somewhere in between."

hnews@herald.ie


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