Toshi-Aline Ohta Seeger, the wife of folk music legend Pete Seeger, has died at the age of 91.
An activist, a skilled organizer and a creator in her own right, Ohta Seeger was a bedrock in her husband’s long and successful career. “There’s (sic) was a true partnership,” notes Sing Out, a magazine she and her husband helped co-found in 1950. “Without Toshi’s counsel and support, and always outspoken and direct opinions, it’s clear to anyone who ever met these two remarkable people that, without Toshi, Pete would never have had the foundation and freedom to do the work that made him so legendary.”
Born in Munich, Germany, to an American mother and a Japanese father, Toshi relocated with her family to the United States before her first birthday.
She grew up in New York City. There she studied High School of Music and Art, where she played piano and was a member of the first graduating class. And it was in New York where she met her future husband, who she married in 1943 at the age of 21.
Toshi would play a key programming role for the Great Hudson River Revival. She often knew about performers “long before they were on most people’s radar, even before most of the members of the Festival planning committee had heard of, say, Tracy Chapman,” notes Persimmon Tree’s Sue Leonard.
Toshi also has some important movie credits to her name. Her 1966 film “Afro-American Work Songs In A Texas Prison” was based on prisoners chopping trees and singing their traditional songs. The film is now available through the Library of Congress archives.
She passed away July 9, just nine days short of what would have been the Seegers’ 70th wedding anniversary. The pair had four children.