Pete Seeger's 90th Birthday Celebration from Madison Square Garden
In Memoriam to Pete Seeger. Watch Pete Seeger's 90th Birthday Celebration from Madison Square Garden

In memoriam to Pete Seeger (May 3, 1919 – Jan. 27, 2014), Great Performances looks back to his milestone birthday concert in 2009.

With a career spanning more than half a century, renowned folk artist, political activist, and avid environmentalist, Pete Seeger, turned 90 in May of 2009. In honor of the milestone birthday, a multi-generational roster of artists, whose music has been shaped by Seeger’s vision, gathered at Madison Square Garden on May 3 to celebrate his lifetime achievement. Pete Seeger’s 90th Birthday Celebration from Madison Square Garden premiered in HD on THIRTEEN’s Great Performances on July 30, 2009.

Watch a preview:

See performances from the Pete Seeger concert::
“We Shall Overcome”
Seeger and Friends Perform “This Land Is Your Land”
The Happy Birthday Song
Joan Baez Performs “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”

Joining Seeger for this extraordinary concert event were more than 40 artists, including Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Kris Kristofferson, Richie Havens, Roger McGuinn, Ani DiFranco, Taj Mahal, Ben Harper, Dave Matthews, and many others who performed songs inspired by Seeger’s music and activism. Concert highlights include Seeger leading the audience in a rousing sing-along of “Amazing Grace.” Other classic favorites compelling the enthusiastic audience to join in were “We Shall Overcome” and “This Land Is Your Land.”

Born to a large family of musicians, young Peter first learned to play the ukulele, graduating to the five-string banjo in the mid-1930s, ultimately mastering the instrument and, in the process, galvanizing the American folk music movement. A pioneer of protest music, Seeger’s anti-Vietnam War songs, including the now famous “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “Turn, Turn, Turn,” as well his interpretation of the Civil Rights anthem, “We Shall Overcome,” garnered mainstream attention in the 1960’s, revitalizing the genre and paving the way for countless other activist musicians—including Bob Dylan—to achieve widespread acclaim.

The concert was a benefit for the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, a non-profit, environmental organization created by Seeger to bring awareness to the importance of protecting the Hudson River and our other natural resources.

In February 2008, THIRTEEN co-produced and broadcast the first and only authorized biography of Seeger, American Masters: Pete Seeger: The Power of Song. The film was awarded a Primetime Emmy.

Great Performances is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, public television viewers, and PBS. For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is series producer; David Horn is executive producer. Visit Great Performances Online at www.pbs.org/gperf for additional information about this and other programs.

Want to see more Pete Seeger? Check out the American Masters documentary “Pete Seeger: The Power of Song.”

  • Victorio Roland Mousaa

    I performed at MSG (NAICA) “Our plight shall be heard… and seen… Victorio Roland

  • Bill Gray

    I wanted to see this so bad and thankfully PBS was there to film it for us ! Bravo and now I can’t wait until the end of the month.

  • Pat K

    Hammer & Sickle included?

  • cheryl

    i’ve just spent the past hour looking for the milwaukee, wisconsin, viewing of this concert. isn’t it being shown in milwaukee on july 30th?

  • Rebecca

    I was fortunate to be there and it was beyond wonderful. From Pete to Oscar the Grouch, the performances were memborable in the extreme!

  • Nathan

    Pete is one of the great ones of our times, using music and wisdom to support the common cause. Even native elders were eager to come and honor him. We thank PBS for helping us remember this HIPSTORY.

  • momthang

    To be sure Pete Seeger will air on WUNC-TV July 30 at 8:00 pm someone please confirm

  • Mary

    I can’t confirm the time or channel anywhere.
    Checked Direct TV, my channel guide. IMDB…What’s the deal?

  • Mary

    My sister checked her Comcast guide, we are in the Chicago area, she can’t find the broadcast either. And we both checked several days ahead as well.

  • Avram Sacks

    To Pat K. who wrote “hammer & sickle”: if Pete Seeger was a communist, then thank God for communism!
    He is one of the most committed, loving, caring people I have ever met!
    I, also, cannot find the concert listed for Southern Oregon on the 30th of July. Does someone know “what’s goin’ on?”

  • Berg

    I was fortunate to get to attend this superb event. Besides the unbelieveable plethora of talent, it was a moving and deserved tribute to a truly great American.

  • Bob W

    To Avram: “Committeed, loving and caring”, as you described Seeger, does not equal “correct”. We have spent the last 40 years destroying our economy and our nation–and Seeger planted some of the seeds. In 1950, we were unequivocally the greatest nation on earth–today, we are fading into the sunset as China rises. Pitiful, and our own fault….

  • http://npt08.wordpress.com/2009/07/29/npt-music-monthly-august-2009/ NPT Music Monthly August 2009 « NPT Media Update

    [...] Garden to perform songs inspired by his music and activism. Celebrating his milestone birthday on Great Performances: Pete Seeger’s 90th Birthday Celebration from Madison Square Garden (Saturday, August 8 at 9 p.m.) are Joan Baez, Ani DiFranco, Arlo Guthrie, Ben Harper, Emmylou [...]

  • Mag

    Thank God you were white, Bob W. In 1950, there was Jim Crow, no civil/human rights for African-Americans and women were kept in little suburban boxes. It wasn’t the greatest nation on earth for everyone else who was struggling. Thanks to Pete Seeger, a lot of eyes were opened to injustice and racism.

  • Mark Hunt

    Mag… how do you know Bob is white? Maybe I didn’t read carefully enough. Still, your comments are well taken. I would recommend to stop the either/or thinking. Pete has his faults, and I don’t agree with him sometimes. He also, like many people of all political persuasions, can show a little too much self righteousness at times, looking down on “bad people.” But he’s contributed a great deal and it is appropriate to celebrate his longevity and idealism.

  • Fannie G

    I don’t find on PBS in Birmingham either. Say what you want, I remember what the Hudson River looked and smelled like before Pete started the ball rolling. Now you can swim and fish in it. He’s an environmental hero!

  • Mark Newbold

    Pete is an American tradition. And by golly he’s tweaked the nose of every complacency & injustice in our status quo. Thus he does his best to continue to piss off the power brokers and conservatives that profit from the way things are. More power to you Mr. Seeger and may you serve to inspire a new generation of those of us who question authority and injustice!

  • John C

    Anybody against Pete is against America, period. Delta’s ready when you are, Bob W & Pat K! I hear Manitoba’s lovely this time of year.

  • Jeff Christian

    I’ve been to a lot of incredible shows, but none as emotionally charged and communal in feeling as this one. It was more moving than any church service. Here’s to the next 90, Pete!

  • Anthony Flynn

    “Bob W Says:

    To Avram: “Committeed, loving and caring”, as you described Seeger, does not equal “correct”. We have spent the last 40 years destroying our economy and our nation–and Seeger planted some of the seeds. In 1950, we were unequivocally the greatest nation on earth–today, we are fading into the sunset as China rises. Pitiful, and our own fault….”

    You ignorant fool! Corporate greed and Big Business’ lackies in D.C. (sometime referred to as “Congress”) is what ruined our nation

  • Linda K

    I was at the concert and it was awesome. I posted a comment when I received an email from Thirteen announcing when the concert would air. I wrote a comment then about how wonderful this concert is.
    To Anthony Flynn: what have you been smoking? In the last 40 years we have had both Republican and Democratic Presidents with various philosophies. The business cycle has ups and downs, some which are extreme. I agree that greed has alot to do with our problems today. But this greed comes from the anti-regulation crowd. And Mr. Seeger certainly never sent them. Like was said in the comic strip Pogo: “I have seen the enemy, and he is us.” But keep the faith, we will endure and be properous again.

  • Coleen R.

    Yeah, it was just an unforgettable event! We spent the whole weekend in Pete Seegerland: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/coleen-rowley/outlasting-the-bastards-l_b_200357.html

  • Sue Freeman

    I am interested in a VHS video or DVD of Pete Seeger’s 90th Birthday Celebration at Madison Square Garden.

  • melissa richardson

    hi! my name is melissa lisalove richardson. i saw the Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden and i find it was reallyyyyyyyy nice and the performers were really great too. but my favorite performer was Bruce Springsteen, not because i’m a bigggggggggg fan of bruce springsteen i just find that he had perform the best and i also find he had spoke the best too. i had also find that bruce and the other guy sang my one of my favorite songs real nice too. i just love the song ghost of tom joad lisalove

  • Rich Stanton

    Will this performance be placed on the internet for later viewing? I didn’t get a chance to record!

  • sm

    It would be nice to see a list of all the musicians that performed that night. Could you please post. Thank you.

  • Linda Vazquez

    Please list ALL the performers somewhere on this program’s site. The acutal show flashed the names way too quickly and NEVER listed ALL the performers at the end and now I have viewed it twice from my CT home. They all deserve acknowledgement for the contributions to this wonderful Great Performances show. Which Wainrights? Was that Livingston Taylor? who knows… Thanks

  • http://wvpt.wordpress.com/2009/08/01/this-month-don-miss-the-great-performances-special-pete-seegers-90th-birthday-celebration-from-madison-square-garden/ This Month – Don’ Miss the Great Performances Special: “Pete Seeger’s 90th Birthday Celebration from Madison Square Garden” « WVPT’s Weblog

    [...] in for Pete Seeger’s 90th Birthday Celebration from Madison Square Garden, Thursday night August 5th at 9:30PM on WVPT. [...]

  • Jon Shimberg

    That is what I hate about WTTW – can not find this program being aired anytime … We all want it NOW

  • Karel Boersma

    I count myself most fortunate to have shared a tiny slice of those 90 years. We may be apart by geography, but never forgotten. Each time my sails fill with air and my keel glides through the Hudson I raise a glass to Pete!

  • maxie

    Please list all the performers.
    Some have um, aged, since last I saw them and I want to double check who was involved in this wonderful show.

  • Connie Williams

    We didn’t know anything about this program on Pete until we watched CBS Sunday Morning today and heard about Pete’s birthday concert on PBS. Will you re-show this program sometime in the future? If yes, do you know when that might be so we can mark our calendar. Thank you.

  • Cathy

    Would love to purchase a copy when available

  • kelly brackett

    why didnt they mention tom morrello?

  • Michael

    for those looking for a complete set list, try this link:

    http://www.guitars101.com/forums/f90/various-artists-clearwater-concert-madison-square-garden-new-york-ny-5-3-09-a-86043.html

    as for the ridiculous notion that Pete Seeger had any part in “ruining our country,” someone needs a history lesson . . . what ruined the country is unregulated capitalism run amok, and the voracious greed of the elite few who profited at the expense of the rest of us . . . Pete is and always has been one of the good guys, on the side of peace and justice and equality his whole life . . . a finer American has never walked this great land . . . if you need culprits, look to Bush and Cheney and Reagan and bankers and corporate execs of all kinds — they’re the ones responsible for “ruining our country” . . .

    Happy Birthday, Pete! . . . I couldn’t make the concert, but I love you like a grandad — “a grandad who can kick my ass!” to paraphrase Bruce . . .

  • queensbee

    if my pbs station wasnt such a greedy money grubbing outlet i could have watched the program somewhat uninterrupted. but 4 pledge breaks was over the top. i think pete might have thought it was greedy too. wmht in albany overdoes pledge ‘week’. the concert was great, what i could actually see of it. it was more like 4 little music videos. they wanted us to pledge the 90 bucks so we could see the whole concert. what a rip.

  • Bart Grossman

    Unfortunately the telecast was a big disappointment. I don’t think PBS has ever interrupted anything with more pledge messages and the music was constantly interrupted by testimonials which made me feel like i didn’t see the concert; I just heard about it.

  • Gary

    Hey Bob W.,
    I actually remember 1950. The real 1950; not the ‘Leave it to Beaver’ 1950 of your imagination.

    We were indeed on top of the heap in 1950. Most of the rest of the world had been blasted out of existence and 60 million souls perished in the years just before. We were lucky to have escaped with our country barely scathed, our civilian population largely untouched, our industry not only intact but expanded, and only a half a million of our brave young countrymen dead.

    And everything that has happened since is Pete Seeger’s fault? Son, trust me — you are a deeply disturbed human being.

    Nobody who was actually there would trade 2009 for 1950.

    P.S. — all you gotta do is bale on us losers and head for #1 China.

  • joan Shaeffer

    Would you please send me information on when to watch the peter seegar birthday celebration on tv please please please

  • Tim Mehren

    A unique evening, never to be repeated, and even Oscar the Grouch was smiling. I’m buying TWO DVDs of this one, for me and my granddaughter to pass the moment on…

  • http://puzzlingnyc.wordpress.com/2009/08/05/pete-and-an-answer/ Pete and An Answer « Puzzling New York City

    [...] one thing that I missed out on by doing the guest round at Rocky’s last week was catching the Pete Seeger 90th Birthday concert on PBS that night, but thanks to a wife who is on top of things, I was able to watch it last [...]

  • C.W.

    I missed the few airings as well as it’s offering ‘on demand’ (one week only, really!?!) but I would love to get a chance to see it played again on WNET or WLIW? How about showing it again a couple more times?

  • Linda Scheimann

    WTTW Channel 10 Milwaukee lists the concert at 8:30 ronight (August 6th) over the air broadcast. There will be pledge breaks.

  • Dean

    08/02/2009 :: 11:47:22 PM
    kelly brackett Says:

    why didnt they mention tom morrello?

    He played with Bruce on the Ghost of Tom Joad.

  • Paco

    Channel 8 in Phoenix should be ashamed at themselves for interrupting this every 10 minutes for 7 minutes each time. They even went past their little clock in the corner. Asking for $250 contributions.

  • Keith Slawson

    Well, fellow WTTW viewers…We can always watch “Hitman” for the umteenth. How many times has it run already? Four or five humdred? David Foster is getting as bothersome as those “Super-Charge Your Aging Brain” infomeercials they keep running.

  • Paco

    I can’t believe it. I waited until Tuesday night to watch Great Performances on channel “eI8ht” Phoenix thinking it would be the usual uninterrupted version and instead it was a repeat of the previous pledge-drive version. It was recorded, not even live. Why would anyone contribute when they insult the viewer by interrupting the programming every 10 minutes, and playing what are basically infomercials for CDs/DVDs and expensive 12 step programs? Who are their demographic target? Definitely not me. I would only contribute if they aired outstanding real programs uninterrupted. PBS is quickly becoming ABC. Sad.

  • Phill

    When will Pete Seegers 90th birthday program from MSG be aired on my local PBS station. I receive KVPT from Bakersfield, CA. I will be able to receive KCET from Los Angeles, CA very soon.

    Thanks

  • Mary C McSpadden

    Loved the concert — many friends missed it. Please say there will be a DVD!!

  • grannygear

    Hi, I found this page while looking for a list of performers. I am fortunate enough to live in San Francisco where KQED has shown the concert many times. But folks are right, too many pledge breaks asking for too much money – actually bribing us if we want to see the entire concert!!! What a slap in the face to fixed income seniors, many of whom are disabled, who grew up with Pete Seeger!! PBS is doing exactly the opposite of what Pete preaches! Hopefully the public library will be getting a copy of the full concert and I can copy it!!!

  • Tony Lebedevitch

    I was there. What a great event and the artits that were in one place at one time made this a memorable concert t attend.

  • Larry Luper

    When will this great program be re-aired on KCPT Channel 19 – Kansas City? Will there be a DVD available?

  • Riki Renfro

    Same question at Larry: When will it be re-aired in Medford, Oregon, area? When will DVD be available? Thanks! And BTW: sorry about those comments from ignorant and narrow-minded individuals who cannot/will not understand that Pete Seeger has spent his 90 years working for peace, individual freedoms, and limiting government control over justice-loving people. Does that sound like communism to anybody? Better go back to school and study ideology if it does!

  • Steve

    Thank You So Much, It Was Awesome!, Happy 90th Pete!!

  • Lorraine Devlin

    Sent chills through my body. These people were my teachers, play it again, again again.
    Lorraine

  • Bonnie Wyse

    We would love to get a cd of the performance. We have watched it several times. Is it possible?

  • tch

    Happy 90th Pete! He wrote some of the very first songs we learned how to sing as children. Amazing show.

  • Don Brown

    Will and when will this program be available on dvd?

  • Steve Ramm

    The 3 DVD set is out and available from the Clearwater. http://www.clearwater.org

  • Steve Ramm

    OOPS! I gave Wrong info. It’s TWO-DVD (3 hours) and site is: http://seeger90dvd.myshopify.com/collections/all

  • Andy Pettit

    Hey Pete just remember we all live in wood built homes. But I love your music.

  • David Legge

    How can I but the CD from the concert?

  • clock insurance directory

    Same question at Larry: When will it be re-aired in Medford, Oregon, area? When will DVD be available? Thanks! And BTW: sorry about those comments from ignorant and narrow-minded individuals who cannot/will not understand that Pete Seeger has spent his 90 years working for peace, individual freedoms, and limiting government control over justice-loving people. Does that sound like communism to anybody? Better go back to school and study ideology if it does!

  • Jason

    Pete Seeger is an apologist for Marxist thought, and he would feel at home in North Korea. He of course, is idolized by PBS viewers for that reason.

  • bill w.

    Jason-

    I agree with you about the left-wing leanings of PBS viewers. 95% of PBS viewers are in the arts, academia, etc. and have not held a “real” job in their lifetimes.

  • doug d

    Hey buddy,
    I and all of my lowly real job holding coherts in the construction bizz here in texas happen to watch PBS and listen NPR all day while pounding nails for the man

  • Michael Motta

    Love it, Doug!

  • Joe

    Great Concert: Can someone please tell me who sang ” Dear Mr President ” during the concert, thanks

  • Dr.Tony Sabatasso

    Pete Seeger is alive and well and singing what needs to be sung here is your chance to watch history being made.

  • Nanci Fermin

    I am not really excellent with English but I come up this rattling leisurely to translate.

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