Pete Seeger, Almanac Singers,
and Support for Communism
Pete Seeger was born in 1919 to two musical parents, Charles and Constance Seeger. His childhood was very much influenced by music. During his school years, he learned to play the banjo, guitar, and ukulele. In high school, Pete “fell in love with the old fashioned five-string banjo” and folk music that seemed to him “frank, straightforward, and honest.” Pete attended only two years at Harvard after leaving high school, preferring to follow a career in music. He then traveled around the Northeast playing his music.
In the 1940’s, Seeger began his political activism when he joined a group of other folk singers called the Almanac Singers who performed at political events supporting communism. Pete Seeger officially joined the Communist Party in 1942. In the late 1940’s, Seeger formed his own singing group, the Weavers, boosting Seeger’s success with their many hits. His successes hit a wall though when incriminating information was leaked to a newspaper, leading to the investigation of the Weavers for sedition. The Weavers were banned from appearing on television or having their music played on the radio, and they lost their contract with Decca Records. Seeger was brought to court and found guilty of contempt. He was sentenced to one year in prison, but was released after worldwide pleas. Though Seeger was cleared of his criminal charges, he continued to be blacklisted through the 1960’s.
Because Pete Seeger was not allowed to play his music on the radio, he was forced to find other means of sharing his talents with the public. Seeger performed at schools and other small events across the country. In this way, Seeger’s music was able to penetrate the heart of the nation, and was perhaps more influential than if they were to be briefly played on the radio. All the children of America came to know Seeger’s songs. Some of Seeger’s most famous songs were If I had a Hammer, We Shall Overcome, and Where have All the Flowers Gone. Now, Pete Seeger and his wife, Toshi, live in upstate New York along the Hudson River. Seeger still often performs with his grandson, Tao, despite the strain on his voice caused by many years of singing without a microphone. Through his many years of performance, Seeger has never lost his love of music.
Researched by Megan Overman
Volunteer for the Cold War Museum
Cosby High School
Patterson, Annie. Blood, Peter. “Pete Seeger Life and Music.” Quakersong.org. 28 May 2008
“Pete Seeger.” Spartacus Educational. 05 May, 2008. School Net. 21 May 2008
“Pete Seeger.” The Rock Hall. 1996. 21 May 2008
Taskin, Richard . “Seeger, Pete (b. 1919).” Buhle, Buhle, and Georgakas. 1992. University of Illinois Press. 21 May 2008
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