What would music legend Pete Seeger rather have been called than a folk singer? “How about river singer,” he once offered. “I sing up and down the Hudson River.”
The prolific river singer, who was known for popularizing songs like “This Land Is Your Land” and “We Shall Overcome,” as well as authoring hits like “Turn, Turn, Turn,” died on Monday at the age of 94, USA Today reports.
As a songwriter and political and environmental activist, Seeger was a huge influence on artists such as Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, and Arlo Guthrie—all of whom performed with him at Madison Square Garden in 2009 for his 90th birthday. The sold-out concert was especially meaningful to Seeger since the proceeds were being used to clean up New York’s Hudson River, which his cabin of 60 years overlooked.
Aside from his passion for environmental causes, Seeger was also known for his pro-Civil Rights stance, marching with Martin Luther King Jr., and his opposition towards McCarthyism; in fact, he was once a member of the Communist Party, although he later regretted being associated with it. Interestingly enough, he is the only Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who stood in contempt of Congress for his refusal to testify about his past political activities, and although he appealed the conviction in 1961 and won, television networks blacklisted him for several years after.
In January 2009 Seeger agreed to perform with Springsteen at President Obama‘s inaugural concert in front of the Lincoln Memorial. “He was so happy that day,” The Boss recalled. “It was like, ‘Pete, you outlasted the bastards, man.’ It was so nice.” And his advanced age didn’t stop him. In 2011 Seeger was one of many artists who marched along with the Occupy Wall Street protesters.
He is survived by his son and two daughters. His wife of almost 70 years, Toshi, died in 2013.