by Liz Raftery
Singer/songwriter and political activist Pete Seeger died of natural causes Monday at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, The Associated Press reports. He was 94 and had been in the hospital for six days at the time of his death, according to family members.
Seeger recorded more than 100 albums in his career and is credited as a songwriter on iconic folk tunes including “Turn, Turn, Turn,” “If I Had a Hammer” and “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine.” He also helped to make “We Shall Overcome” a mainstream protest anthem.
Born into a musical family in New York City, Seeger became enamored with folk music after attending music festivals in the 1930s and started playing the banjo. He attended Harvard University as a sociology major, but dropped out after two years to pursue a career in music, often performing at benefits and other charity events.
During World War II, Seeger served in the Army’s Special Services for more than three years and performed for troops in the South Pacific.
A one-time member of the Communist Party who later renounced the movement, Seeger found himself in political hot water in the 1950s. He was banned from public television for a decade after being interrogated by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955, according to the AP. Still, Seeger called the era the high point of his career as he toured college campuses with Arlo Guthrie and other folk musicians.
Seeger eventually got back in the U.S. Government’s good graces and was honored at the Kennedy Center in 1994. He was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. In 2009, musicians including Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Vedder and Emmylou Harris performed at Madison Square Garden in honor of Seeger’s 90th birthday.
In 2011, he lent support to the Occupy Wall Street movement in Manhattan, walking nearly two miles in a march with hundreds of protesters.
Seeger lived in Beacon, N.Y. and was chopping wood 10 days before his death, his grandson told The Associated Press. His wife of 70 years, Toshi, died last July at age 91. He is survived by a son, two daughters, and six grandchildren.