Pete Seeger, folk legend and social activist, died on Monday. We miss him already.
Though he remained a force for positive change throughout his life — you could see him on the streets protesting the Iraq War, or marching alongside the Occupy Wall Street protesters into his 90s — Seeger was especially known for his part in the 1950s folk revival.
His was one of the most enduring voices to come out of the civil resistance of the 1960s, where protest songs like “We Shall Overcome,” “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and “The Hammer Song” became anthems for a generation.
While his wonderful music inspired legions of young people in a time of great struggle, it also had a calming, reassuring effect.
I’m proud to have had a chance to speak with the balladeer about 10 years ago. It was during a time when his wife, Toshi, had fallen ill. He was so gracious, carving out time to talk while he cared for his beloved wife — it underscored just how selfless he was.
Just last week at the Sundance Film Festival, I had the chance to see the premiere of Stanley Nelson’s Freedom Summer, his follow-up to 2010’s Freedom Riders. This powerful film revisits the tumultuous summer of 1964, when an integrated group of college students and other volunteers descended on Mississippi to protest the lack of voting rights in Mississippi.
Seeger was right there, in the thick of the protest. He appeared at a Baptist church in Meridian to play music, and galvanize the crowd.
Seeger’s influence can be seen in movies and television throughout his almost seven-decade career as a musician, and will likely continue on for countless more generations of cinema. You’ll find his music in great movies from our database, in titles as varied as Malcolm X, The Damned United, and Temple Grandin.
We also heartily recommend Jim Brown’s outstanding documentary from 2007: Pete Seeger: The Power of Song. This inspiring film does full justice to the rich and noble life of this amazing figure.
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Goodbye, Pete Seeger. And thanks for all you did and meant to all of us.
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