Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Folk Singer Mike Seeger Passes On

Folk singer and music historian Mike Seeger passed on August 7 at the age of 75. He was the half brother of folk singer Pete Seeger. The cause was multiple myeloma.

Mike Seeger was born on August 15, 1933 in New York City. His parents were ethnomusicologist and composer Charles Seeger and his mother modernist composer Ruth Crawford Seeger. In 1936 the Seeger family moved to Washington D.C., after Charles Seeger took a position within Roosevelt's Work Progress Administration. As a child Mike Seeger was exposed to such personages as Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, John and Alan Lomax, and others. At age 18 Seeger started teaching himself various stringed instruments. At 20, like much of the Seeger family, Mike Seeger began recording songs by traditional musician on a tape recorder.

It was in 1958 that Mike Seeger founded the New Lost City Ramblers with John Cohen, and Tom Paley. The New Lost City Ramblers would be pivotal in the revival of old-time music in the United States. Alongside fellow folk group The Kingston Trio, they are also the longest running music group which still performed. Over the years they would release nearly thirty albums. Mike Seeger also recorded separately from The New Lost City Ramblers, releasing several albums on his own.

Mike Seeger was also discovered various folk musicians. Among them were Elizabeth "Libba" Cotten (best known for the song "Freight Train") and bluegrass performer Hazel Dickens, . He also persuaded old time music performer Lesley Riddle to come out of retirement in 1965. It was also in the same decade that he reunited the McGee Brothers.

Through both performing and recording the songs of traditional musicians, Mike Seeger was pivotal in the folk music revival of the late Fifties and early Sixties. He could play a number of different instruments, including guitar, fiddle, banjo, harmonica, dulcimer, mandolin, and mouth harp. He influenced several musicians, including Bob Dylan.

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