Skip to main content

Legendary folk singer Pete Seeger dies at 94

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 8:54 AM EST, Tue January 28, 2014
Legendary folk singer and political activist Pete Seeger died of natural causes on January 27, his grandson told CNN. He was 94. Pictured, Seeger performs on stage in 1970. Legendary folk singer and political activist Pete Seeger died of natural causes on January 27, his grandson told CNN. He was 94. Pictured, Seeger performs on stage in 1970.
HIDE CAPTION
Folk legend Pete Seeger
Folk legend Pete Seeger
Folk legend Pete Seeger
Folk legend Pete Seeger
Folk legend Pete Seeger
Folk legend Pete Seeger
Folk legend Pete Seeger
Folk legend Pete Seeger
Folk legend Pete Seeger
Folk legend Pete Seeger
Folk legend Pete Seeger
Folk legend Pete Seeger
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pete Seeger dies of natural causes in a New York hospital, his family says
  • His career spanned more than 70 years, often courting controversy
  • He is known for songs like "Where Have All the Flowers Gone"

(CNN) -- Pete Seeger, the man considered to be one of the pioneers of contemporary folk music who inspired legions of activist singer-songwriters, died Monday.

He was 94.

Seeger's best known songs include "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)" and "If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)."

But his influence extended far beyond individual hits.

Folk icon Pete Seeger dies at 94
Click through to see people who passed away in 2014. Click through to see people who passed away in 2014.
People we lost in 2014
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: People we lost in 2014 Photos: People we lost in 2014

His grandson Kitama Cahill Jackson told CNN that the singer died of natural causes at New York Presbyterian Hospital on Monday evening.

Familiar with controversy

In a career spanning more than 70 years, Seeger frequently courted controversy.

"He lived at a time when so many things hadn't been done yet, the idea of making music about something hadn't really been done," Jackson said. "And now people do it all the time."

Seeger's opinions didn't always sit well with authorities.

"From the start, he aspired to use folk music to promote his left-wing political views, and in times of national turmoil that brought him into direct confrontation with the U.S. government, corporate interests, and people who did not share his beliefs," William Ruhlmann wrote in a biography on allmusic.com. "These conflicts shaped his career."

Early career

In 2009, Seeger talked to CNN about the beginnings of his music career in the late 1930s.

"I come from a family of teachers, and I was looking for a job on a newspaper and not getting one," he said in the interview. "I had an aunt who said, 'Peter, I can get five dollars for you if you come and sing some of your songs in my class.' Five dollars? In 1939, you would have to work all day or two days to make five dollars. It seemed like stealing."

But Seeger said he took his aunt up on the offer.

"Pretty soon I was playing school after school, and I never did work on a newspaper," he said "You don't have to play at nightclubs, you don't have to play on TV, just go from college to college to college, and the kids will sing along with you."

Last days

Jackson, Seeger's grandson, said the singer-songwriter had heart surgery in December to replace a valve, which had gone well and had nothing to do with his death.

He said Seeger was in the hospital for six days before his death.

He couldn't speak for the last three days, Jackson said, but his mind never went away and he continued to recognize people.

"He was a second father to me, he was a friend, he was a best friend," Jackson said. "He was just this wonderful, genuine person."

People we've lost in 2014

CNN's Julie Cannold contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:08 AM EDT, Wed July 9, 2014
Click through our gallery to remember those we lost this year.
updated 3:28 PM EDT, Tue July 8, 2014
The actor who gave voice to Pinocchio in Walt Disney's 1940 animation movie has died. He was 87.
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
Eduard Shevardnadze, whose political career seesawed between two extremes, has died at age 86.
updated 9:06 AM EDT, Tue July 8, 2014
Former Real Madrid star Alfredo Di Stefano, widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time, has died at the age of 88.
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
Richard Mellon Scaife, the billionaire publisher and banking heir who financed conservative causes that included attempts to discredit Bill Clinton while he was president, has died.
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
Louis Zamperini, the Olympic runner and World War II officer who survived a horrific plane crash, a seven-week raft journey, near starvation and unspeakable torture, has died at age 97.
updated 9:23 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
Walter Dean Myers, a beloved author of children's books, died following a brief illness. He was 76.
updated 3:40 PM EDT, Wed July 2, 2014
Paul Mazursky, a five-time Oscar nominee who directed and wrote such films as "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice," "An Unmarried Woman" and "Down and Out in Beverly Hills," has died.
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Actor Meshach Taylor has died at age 67. Many may remember him from "Designing Women," where he played assistant Anthony Bouvier.
updated 7:00 AM EDT, Sat June 28, 2014
The raspy, gruff voice behind some of the most soulful songs of the past six decades is now gone. He was 70.
updated 7:16 PM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker, a one-time towering political figure in Washington who also served as a chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan, has died.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Eli Wallach, famed character actor whose work included performances in "The Magnificent Seven" and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," has died at age 98.
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Former "Survivor" contestant Caleb Bankston has died while working on a coal train near Birmingham, Alabama, a railway official told CNN.
updated 9:47 PM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Described as "one of the most brilliant Middle East scholars of our time," author, foreign policy expert and Stanford University fellow Fouad Ajami died from cancer at the age of 68.
updated 10:44 AM EDT, Sun June 22, 2014
Gerry Conlon, who was wrongly imprisoned for the IRA Guildford pub bombing in England in 1974, died in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He was 60.
updated 7:22 AM EDT, Fri June 20, 2014
Gerry Goffin, a hit songwriter and former husband of Carole King, has died. He was 75.
updated 8:27 PM EDT, Thu June 19, 2014
Horace Silver, the innovative and prolific jazz pianist best known for such pieces as "Song for My Father" and "The Preacher," has died. He was 85.
updated 8:52 PM EDT, Mon June 16, 2014
The San Diego Padres have confirmed that Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn has died at age 54.
ADVERTISEMENT