Monday, May 4, 2009

Legendary Folk Singer & Activist Pete Seeger Turns 90, Thousands Turn Out for All-Star Tribute Featuring Bruce Springsteen, Joan Baez, Bernice Johnson Reagon and Dozens More
Legendary folk singer, banjo player, storyteller, and political and environmental activist Pete Seeger turned ninety on Sunday. More than 18,000 people packed New York’s Madison Square Garden Sunday celebrate the man, the music and the movement. The all-star lineup included Bruce Springsteen, Joan Baez, Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, Ani DiFranco, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Billy Bragg, Ruby Dee, Steve Earle, Arlo Guthrie, Guy Davis, Dar Williams, Michael Franti, Bela Fleck, Tim Robbins, Dave Matthews, Rufus Wainwright, John Mellencamp, Ben Harper, and Ritchie Havens.
Take his 90th birthday concert May 3 at Madison Square Garden, for example. The only reason he agreed to such a huge celebration is because all proceeds benefit the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, his non-profit organization created in 1969 to protect and restore the Hudson River. The concert's lineup was chosen by a committee, but Seeger had input, bringing in the New York City Labor Chorus.
"They'll back up someone and I'll sing one song, fairly early in the program to show folks what fun it is to harmonize," he says. "I'm not telling you what it is, though. It's an old song that a lot of people know and it's fun to harmonize it. I'll lead with my banjo and I hope all 20,000 will sing along."
Whether leading thousands in a sing-along or leading others to do the right thing through song, Seeger has always been a man who speaks his mind.
Since as far back as his teens, Seeger has advocated. He supports civil rights. He protested in the peace and anti-war movements and is an outspoken environmentalist.
As a member of the folk quartet the Weavers, Seeger was blacklisted in the early 1950s for singing songs that defended labor unions. He even went to jail for a short time for asserting his First Amendment rights when subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.
His goal was to inform, cite injustices within the system and right wrongs. When the government prodded, he stood his ground. He knew if people worked together, their unity would effectively and peacefully show.
His songs were sung by the masses, with many recorded by other artists. Seeger has seen a financial bounty from "Turn! Turn! Turn!" and "If I Had a Hammer," among others.

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