In rememberance of Pete Seeger, renowned folk musician, activist and humanitarian, who passed away this week, we searched the Billboard archives for clips of some of his defining moments.
"Seeger is a clean-cut lad, instantly appealing with a fine voice which, glory be, had no trace of the nasal tone so often found in top people's songsters," reads a December 1947 Billboard review (center above) of Pete Seeger, a "tall, slim Sinatra of the folklore clan," at the Village Vanguard (just a $2.50 minimum to attend).
"Most of the world, I'm afraid, only knows the Coca-Cola side of American, and we, are a family musical Peace Corps, hope to show them a little more about all of us," so said Pete Seeger told Billboard on June 22, 1963 as him, his wife Toshi and their three children Danny, Mika and Tinya, then 17, 15 and 8, respectively, prepared for a world tour. "I don't think we can leave everything to the diplomats" Seeger continued. "If they know only the things they see in their newspapers, I want to tell them of the miners and the freedom fighters through the fold songs." Seeger went on to say he wished "people like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Odetta and the Weavers" should also travel the world to "learn about others and teaching them about us."
Though he'd left the Communist Party, Pete Seeger was blacklisted from venues and performances in the 50's and 60's. He was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955 and indicted in 1957 on ten counts of contempt of Congress, convicted in 1961 and sentenced to a year in prison. However, as the excerpt from a 1962 issue of Billboard above reads, an appeals court dismissed the indictment as faulty.
In 1963 Billboard reported that ABC requested Seeger sign a loyalty oath before appearing on the folk variety show "Hootenanny," from which he'd previously been banned. Seeger refused to sign the oath. Another frequent Hootenanny performer Theodore Bikel commented, "I have never seen any evidence that Pete Seeger has tried to overthrow the government with his banjo."
"The fact that I was blacklisted didn't hurt me one bit," Seeger told Billboard in a 2008 interview (above), "I felt it was a great victory, going where they didn't want me." When asked what he thought his legacy would be, Seeger remarked, "I'd urge people, don't make heroes out of anybody."