Celebrating a folk music legend

  • Pete Seeger performing in San Francisco in 1978. Photo by Brian McMillen/Creative Commons

Staff Writer
Published: 4/24/2019 4:45:50 PM

Folk music giant Pete Seeger was all about using songs to bring people together, whether to push for environmental protection or an end to war, or for the simple joy of a singalong.

On Saturday at 7 p.m., the Unitarian Society of Northampton & Florence will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Seeger’s birth with a singalong concert that features a number of performers who worked closely with Seeger during his life and whose own work embodies his message of using music to transform society.

The “Rise Up and Sing” show is part of a tour the musicians are making through New England and New York state, from April 26 to May 19, to mark Seeger’s birth on May 3, 1919 in New York City. The folk legend died in 2014 at age 93.

Seeger first became known in the 1940s when he sang with Woody Guthrie in support of union and migrant workers, and he gained further popularity in the early 1950s as a member of the folk group The Weavers before being blacklisted and threatened with jail by the House Un-American Activities Committee for his refusal to testify about his political beliefs or associations.

In the folk revival of the 1960s, Seeger had a number of “hit” songs, such as “If I Had a Hammer,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “Turn, Turn, Turn” that were widely recorded by other artists. But he became a more iconic figure for lending his voice to the civil rights and anti-war movements, and he went on to inspire or mentor many other musicians, including Joan Baez, Peter Paul & Mary, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Bragg.

Performers at Saturday’s concert include Emma’s Revolution, which is the activist duo of Pat Humphries & Sandy O, whose songs have been sung for the Dalai Lama; musical storyteller and satirist Charlie King, who Seeger called “one of the finest singers and songwriters of our time”; singer-songwriter and music educator Sally Rogers; and Annie Patterson and Peter Blood, co-creators of a best-selling songbook, “Rise Up Singing.”

The concert will be a benefit for Climate Action Now of Western Massachusett, a grassroots movement to fight climate change, in recognition of Seeger’s “enormous contributions to the environmental movement,” according to concert organizers.

Tickets range from $10 to $50 and can be purchased at riseupandsing.org/events. There are two other Seeger-related musical events taking place May 3 in the Valley in Northampton and Easthampton. Details are at riseupandsing.org/seeger/100th/events.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.

 




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