Pete Seeger on What it Takes to Change the World

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During the Great Depression, Pete Seeger and his friend Woody Guthrie traveled together from town to town, Seeger with his banjo and Guthrie with his guitar, playing music in exchange for meals. Later, Seeger came to New York where he played in support of unions and the fight against fascism, joined the communist movement and left it again. Repeatedly throughout his life, and especially during the McCarthy era, Seeger’s folk songs attracted the attention of those in power who branded Seeger a dangerous figure.

In this clip from a 1994 interview, Seeger tells Bill that music has a power that, even after decades of playing it, he still doesn’t fully understand. “All I know,” he says, “is that throughout history, the leaders of countries have been very particular about what songs they want sung, so some people, beside me, must think songs do something.”

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  • Phyllis M Gogerty

    My dear Mother’s Birthday is today, she would have been 100 years old ,she lived until she was 93 years of age. I have always been impressed with Pete Seeger’s role in our Society and it’s different issues. A true spokesperson of integrity. My Mother was a huge fan of Mr. Moyers and all he represented.

  • Anonymous

    Happy Birthday Pete.

  • Joyce Gilliam

    no need to apologize for anything Pete, your voice is beautiful!!

  • Diane

    Happy Birthday to a wonderful patriot!

  • dana courtney

    Treasurers worth more than jewels and precious metals. Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday!

  • july4thjerry

    Happy Burfday to our glorious justice and HOPE troubadour…ROCK ON PETE…rock ON

  • Ruth Elliott


  • grace13

    Although Immortality as part of the big picture is not very appealing to me. (The constant composting and recycling of our elements is part of the dance of life.) There are a few folks I wish could keep on going forever so that future generations could know them as people and not just as part of history. Pete Seeger is one of those for me. I don’t know how Pete feels about it, but I would love to know that when I am long gone, Pete would be leading choruses of (pick your favorite song) with all our great, great grandchildren.
    Happy Birthday Pete. Love your spirit!

  • Mike Maginn

    A national treasure.

  • Lilith Rogers

    Thank you Bill and Pete you give me strength to carry on. Keep on singing!

  • Jackie St Hilaire

    One person and one song can make the difference.
    What song/person has made a difference in your life?

    My music teacher who had me record “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. I was in 6th grade. I loved singing to my children and now my grandchildren. The youngest makes ups songs as she goes along, what beautiful memories songs and singing have made in my life.

    Peace, Jackie

  • Anonymous

    Happy Birthday Pete Seeger from one of your life long fans in Australia. Thanks for your inspiration, music and determination to bring justice and truth songs to the world

  • Lesa Westerman

    Thanks for everything, Pete. Happy Birthday!

  • Denny Bonavita

    Pete Seeger, to me, is the greatest living American.

  • Terry Dale

    I cried when I heard you sing. It was beautiful. Happy Birthday.

  • Sally Johnson

    The songs live on. Thank you. Happy Birthday!

  • Mrs. Jones

    “Jesus loves the little children, all the little children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” Sung in a white Episcopalian church in Alabama in the late 60’s, as all kinds of hate and meanness swirled around us, in mercy so that we little children could be innocent of all of that, and believe that we were all born to be brothers and sisters.

  • Marina

    Stay forever young my friend.

  • Barbara Blough

    Thank you for all the music and Happy Birthday!

  • Sean Donovan

    Happy birthday Pete, from a tyypical boy from a typical American town…

  • Alison Wolin

    I was lucky enough to grow up with your music and sing with you at numerous concerts. We love you.

  • Stephanie

    Although I never owned a Pete Seeger solo LP, our mother’s Weavers albums got played to the point where the tracks almost disappeared! I grew up trying my best to “play fair” and treat all people as I wanted to be treated, and have taught my children and grandchildren the same – thank you, Pete Seeger, for your music, your social consciousness, and your public voice through all the years of your life. Happy Birthday, great man – may there always be someone to hear your words and take them to heart!

  • Cathy

    Thank you Pete, for loving one of my favorite songs, and giving us so many. We’ve gotten strength from you, and long may it continue. Happy Birthday!!

  • Kate

    I know Pete’s had a great impact on me and the development of my thinking. Love the man!!!! Hope he has a Happy Birthday!

  • Jeffrey Hedquist

    Pete, Happy Birthday! My present to you is this little song:

    But your gift to me was the concert we did together in Chicago:

    Live fully and happily my friend!

    Jeffrey Hedquist

  • Marie-Anne Vloebergh

    Happy Birthday and thanks for your songs which helped me to make acquaintance with another America, in the late fifties “listen people, here is my thesis,….peace in the world, or the world in pieces, heella, heella, hee ho … !

  • Sally4th – Port St. Lucie FL

    Happy Birthday maker of such wonderful music! Music brings meaning to the Universe and so have you!

  • Robert H. Pike

    Listened to Pete Seeger and his group the Weavers in the 50’s, met him at a local (SUNY New Paltz concert) in the 60’s, sailed on the environmental ship he sponsored, the Clearwater, for two summers as an environmental educator in the 70’s, and have listened to his music for nearly 60 years. What a wonderful person.

  • JohnPQ

    Yeah you got to live in a time where we had a culture. We don’t anymore. It’s gone. We just have the echoes of that time. Everything is a retread. I’m sick of nostalgia. I want my country back.

  • JohnPQ

    These corporations have hollowed us out and degraded us to the point where I don’t even know what the hell country I live in anymore…what is wrong with this place. Also Obama appoints oligarch after oligarch to his cabinet, and Michelle is busy changing outfits 3x a day. What a couple of money grubbing social climbing impostors. Don’t be fooled by these crass hillbillies.

  • Bryce Wilson

    Happy Birthday Pete, thanks for keeping on.

  • russ george

    Pete’s been an inspiration for me for what seems to be my whole life, at least the last 50 years anyway. He remains so.

  • Phil Warner

    Pete is my hero. What a wonderful human being. Happy Birthday, Pete.

  • Lisa Swanson

    There are some that I’d like to see live forever–to shine on for future generations.

  • Greg

    ..and this is why we must honor Pete by growing multi-generational environmental justice with Clearwater.

  • kakin

    This man is my hero. May his tribe increase.

  • Connie

    God bless you pete ! No words can express the impact you had on me growing up… From an old radical arkansas family we love you !

  • jude

    We met at festival in Croton on Hudson and on the clearwater. I send you back the love you give. Jude

  • Anonymous

    Pete says he doesn’t have a voice anymore. So wrong! His voice has always been his message.