Folk music pioneer Pete Seeger has died aged 94, his family has confirmed.
The artist, who was known for his protest songs and enjoyed a career spanning six decades, died in a New York hospital after a short illness, his grandson said.
His music, which influenced the likes of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, included the tracks ‘If I Had A Hammer’ and ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’
The musician, who favoured a 12-string guitar or a banjo, was at times controversial. The House Un-American Activities Committee quizzed him in 1955 over whether he had sung for Communists.
He regularly sang at civil rights marches and protests against the Vietnam War.
One of his last public appearances was in 2011 he walked through the streets of Manhattan leading an Occupy Movement protest .
Though he would later admit the attention of the surging crowd around him embarrassed him, the moment brought back so many feelings and memories as he instructed yet another generation of young people how to effect change through song and determination.
“Be wary of great leaders,” he said after the march. “Hope that there are many, many small leaders.”
US president Bill Clinton described him as “an inconvenient artist who dared to sing things as he saw them”.
British singer Billy Bragg said: “Peter Seeger towered over the folk scene like a mighty redwood for 75 years. He travelled with Woody Guthrie in the 1940s, stood up to Joe McCarthy in the 50s, marched with Dr Martin Luther King in the 60s. His songs will be sung wherever people struggle for their rights. We shall overcome.”
Seeger was credited with popularising ‘We Shall Overcome’, which he printed in his publication ‘People’s Song’ in 1948. He later said his only contribution to the anthem of the civil rights movement was changing the second word from “will” to “shall,” which he said “opens up the mouth better.”
“Every kid who ever sat around a campfire singing an old song is indebted in some way to Pete Seeger,” Arlo Guthrie once said.
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