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Tuesday
Jan282014

Legendary Folk Singer Pete Seeger Dies at 94

Gus Philippas(NEW YORK) -- Pete Seeger, a folk singer, songwriter and political activist whose credits include “If I Had a Hammer” and the antiwar tune "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, has died at the age of 94.

Seeger’s record label, Appleseed Recordings, released a statement to ABC News confirming the singer’s death.  Spokesman Jim Musselman said, “Yes, Mr. Seeger has passed on. But nobody is truly gone until all those who are touched or influenced by that person are gone. So he will live on in the  hearts and minds of so many for years to come.”

Seeger’s grandson, Kitama Cahill Jackson, told The New York Times the singer died Monday of natural causes at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Seeger popularized the Woody Guthrie song "This Land Is Your Land," the civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome," and penned The Byrds hit "Turn! Turn! Turn!," which is based on a passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes.

As Seeger influenced countless performers who came after him, he himself was influenced by Guthrie, adopting his style and repertory. During the early 1940s, Seeger enjoyed some success with the Almanac Singers, a group he formed with Lee Hayes and Millard Lampell.  Later, Seeger and Hayes formed the Weavers with Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman. They sold an estimated four million albums and singles in 1950 and 1951 with hits that included "Kisses Sweeter than Wine" and Lead Belly's "Goodnight, Irene" which made it to number one.

However, Seeger's early ties to the Communist Party dogged him, eventually causing the group's break-up. He refused to apologize before the House Un-American Activities Committee and was indicted on ten counts of contempt of Congress in 1957, leading to a conviction in 1961 that was overturned on appeal.

Among the myths that also followed Seeger was that he tried to cut power cables with an ax when Bob Dylan performed an electric set at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. While Seeger and other traditionalist folkies were upset, witnesses said he didn't try to sabotage Dylan's groundbreaking performance.

Seeger performed for many years after other folk acts faded away and even when his voice admittedly started giving out, the audience would often sing for him.

His accomplishments earned him a Kennedy Center Honor in 1994 and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 as an early influence. Seeger also won Grammy Awards in 1997, 2009 and 2011 and was nominated for spoken word album this year.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio