Dead at 94.
If you want to see truth stand up to arrogant power, read the transcript from his appearance before Congress in the McCarthy era.
Mr. SEEGER: I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this. I would be very glad to tell you my life if you want to hear of it.
Mr. SEEGER: I decline to discuss, under compulsion, where I have sung, and who has sung my songs, and who else has sung with me, and the people I have known. I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American. I will tell you about my songs, but I am not interested in telling you who wrote them, and I will tell you about my songs, and I am not interested in who listened to them. . . .
Source: Congress, House, Committee on Un-American Activities, Investigation of Communist Activities, New York Area (Entertainment): Hearings, 84th Congress, August 18, 1955
I saw him perform live when I was a teenager, in Birmingham, Alabama.
It was at the all Black Miles College in about 1963 or so. I and a handful of white teenagers and college friends went in a minibus one had. There were maybe a dozen white people in the audience.
Seeger came on the stage, and proceeded to open the evening with a work song a cappella to the accompaniment of him hewing a log with an axe, chips flying into the audience. I kept one of them as a souvenir for many years, but it vanished at some point in the 50 years since that event.
I sat next to Dr. Nixon, one of the Black leaders of the Civil Rights movement of the era.
Biographical Sketch: John W. Nixon, Sr.
Dr. Nixon was an important participant in the struggle for civil rights in Birmingham in the 1950s and 1960s. He served as the president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), two terms as president of the Alabama Conference of NAACP Branches, and one term as the chairman of the Southern Regional Conference of the NAACP Branches. During the pivotal confrontations in 1963, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, leader of the Birmingham-based Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR), Dr. Nixon was among a group of black business leaders who called for moderation rather than confrontation. While the work of King and Shuttlesworth was the precursor to the march on Washington in August 1963, and ultimately, the passage of more effective civil rights legislation, the established relationships moderate black professionals like Dr. Nixon had with their white counterparts paved the way for the successful implementation of many of the local reforms that the protests had initiated.
At the end of the concert, we all linked arms and sang “We Shall Overcome”, led by Seeger.
Needless to say, it is one of those moments in one’s life that remains etched indelibly.