Pete Seeger: The Power of Song - Pete Seeger Biographical Timeline

1919
1919

1919

Born May 3 to Charles and Constance Seeger, music professors whose families traced their ancestry back to the Mayflower.

1919
1927
1927

1927

Parents divorce while fighting over Seeger's musical education; he experiments with the ukulele and rejects the violin.

1927
1936
1936

1936

Attends Harvard and joins the American Student Union.

1936
1938
1938

1938

Leaves Harvard.

1938
1939
1939

1939

Befriends legendary folk music figures such as the blues singer Leadbelly and labor militant Aunt Molly Jackson; serves as assistant to Alan Lomax at the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress.

1939
1940
1940

1940

Hitchhikes and rides rails all over the United States, immersing himself in music; gives his first concert performance at a Grapes of Wrath benefit; meets Woody Guthrie; meets Lee Hays and, along with Guthrie and Millard Lampell, forms The Almanac Singers and builds a repertoire of peace and union songs, replacing them with pro-war songs when America enters the second World War.

1940
1942
1942

1942

Drafted into the army.

1942
1943
1943

1943

Before shipping out, marries Toshi-Aline Ohta, the daughter of a Japanese exile of noble descent and an American woman from an old Virginia family, who is interested in photography and progressive politics.

1943
1944
1944

1944

Stationed in Saipan, where he is put in charge of hospital entertainment; gets idea for People's Songs, envisioning a "singing labor movement."

1944
1945
1945

1945

Discharged a corporal and leaves the army.

1945
1948
1948

1948

Forms The Weavers with Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays and Fred Hellerman. The group goes on to popularize "Kisses Sweeter than Wine," "Wimoweh" (a.k.a. "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"), "On Top of Old Smoky" and "Goodnight, Irene"; joins Henry Wallace's presidential campaign as a principal entertainer; writes the first version of How to Play the Five-String Banjo.

1948
1949
1949

1949

Writes "If I Had a Hammer" with Lee Hays for a benefit for Communist Party leaders being tried under the Smith Act; his car is attacked and his wife and three-year-old son are slightly injured by shattered glass at a Peekskill, New York riot; The Weavers perform at the Greenwich Village nightclub The Village Vanguard; buys a few acres with his wife on a wooded mountainside overlooking the Hudson and begins to build a home.

1949
1950
1950

1950

In the early 50s, meets Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Highlander Folk School; goes underground and travels around singing.

1950
1952
1952

1952

The Weavers go on sabbatical.

1952
1955
1955

1955

Subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee and becomes one of the few witnesses called that year who doesn't invoke the Fifth Amendment; writes "Where Have all the Flowers Gone"; The Weavers reunite, defy the blacklist and put on a series of concerts.

1955
1958
1958

1958

Begins a solo career.

1958
1959
1959

1959

Along with his wife, George and Joyce Wein and others, starts the Newport Folk Festival to celebrate traditional folk musicians and new topical songwriters.

1959
1961
1961

1961

Found guilty of contempt of Congress and sentenced to one year in prison for each of 10 charges.

1961
1962
1962

1962

The case against him is dismissed on a technicality; meets Bernice Reagon in Albany, Georgia and urges her to form The Freedom Singers.

1962
1963
1963

1963

Records live We Shall Overcome album at Carnegie Hall; performs at Newport Folk Festival where Bob Dylan goes electric to a jeering crowd.

1963
1964
1964

1964

Hits the pop charts with his version of Malvina Reynolds' "Little Boxes."

1964
1965
1965

1965

Participates in the Selma to Montgomery March, singing old and collecting new Freedom Songs. Also hosts a regional folk music show on public television called Rainbow Quest, whose guests include Johnny Cash, June Carter, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Doc Watson, and Judy Collins. Thirty-eight hour-long programs are recorded at Newark, N.J. studios, produced by Seeger and his wife with Sholom Rubinstein.

1965
1966
1966

1966

Founds environmental group Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc., which works to highlight and clean up pollution in the Hudson River; becomes a critic of the Vietnam War and writes "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy."

1966
1967
1967

1967

In his first appearance on American commercial television in 17 years, "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" is censored by CBS when Seeger tries to perform it on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (the performance finally airs in 1968).

1967
1969
1969

1969

Launches the Clearwater, a 106-foot wooden sailing sloop that serves as a moveable classroom, laboratory, stage, and forum.

1969
1972
1972

1972

Publication of his book, The Incompleat Folksinger, with Jo Metcalf Schwartz.

1972
1973
1973

1973

Releases the album My Rainbow Race.

1973
1975
1975

1975

Releases Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie Together in Concert.

1975
1980
1980

1980

The Weavers reunite for a pair of shows at Carnegie Hall and later release the performance album Together Again.

1980
1982
1982

1982

Release of The Weavers: Wasn't That a Time! documentary film about the folk group and the events leading up to their reunion concert at Carnegie Hall.

1982
1992
1992

1992

Releases Pete Seeger's Family Concert.

1992
1993
1993

1993

Given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

1993
1994
1994

1994

Named a Kennedy Center Honoree for being "arguably the most influential folk artist in the United States."

1994
1996
1996

1996

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

1996
1997
1997

1997

Wins Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album of 1996 for Pete.

1997
2000
2000

2000

Named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress.

2000
2001
2001

2001

In celebration of the 24th Kennedy Center Honors, the Millennium Stage pays tribute to Seeger. The program of film, words and music features Seeger's friends and family, including grandson Tao Rodriguez-Seeger and Sarah Lee Guthrie, granddaughter of Woody Guthrie.

2001
2003
2003

2003

Performs at the annual School of the Americas protest rally; donates The Pete and Toshi Seeger Film Collection to the American Folklife Center. The collection's 530 reels contain films from 1957-64, including footage from the Seeger family's 10-month performing tour during 1963-64 that included stops in Japan, Indonesia, India, East and West Africa, Israel, the USSR, and Ireland.

2003
2007
2007

2007

Given the Schneider Family Book Award for his children's picture book The Deaf Musicians with poet Paul DuBois Jacobs.

2007
2008
2008

2008

Spring release of Where Have All the Flowers Gone: A Singalong Memoir.

2008