Correction to This Article
The TV Week article incorrectly said that Pete Seeger wrote "Little Boxes." Seeger performed the song, but Malvina Reynolds wrote it.
Cover Story

Pete Seeger, a Force of Nature

Written by Huddie Ledbetter, Pete Seeger, Fred Hellerman, Ronnie Gilbert and Lee Hays.Published by TRO - Folkways Music Publishers, Inc. (BMI)Audio courtesy Helene Blue Musique Ltd., Earth Music Productions, LLC
By Judith S. Gillies
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 24, 2008

Pete Seeger, now 88, has songs that he's been singing for decades all over this land.

The folk singer, songwriter and activist has raised his voice for organized labor, peace and civil rights.

And he's largely managed to elude the trappings of celebrity. He and his wife of nearly 65 years live simply in a log cabin they built overlooking the Hudson River.

A 90-minute PBS documentary, "Pete Seeger: The Power of Song," presented as part of the "American Masters" series, is a tribute to his life.

The film uses clips from Seeger's performances and covers his childhood as the son of two musicians; his Communist Party membership; his service in the Army during World War II; his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee; and his anti-war and civil rights activism.

"Everything moved around him, but he stayed centered," said Norman Lear, an icon himself and an executive producer for the show.

"I didn't know a great deal of his history, though I knew of him musically," Lear said of the composer whose writings include "If I Had a Hammer," "Turn, Turn, Turn" and "Little Boxes."

"I didn't know this man built a home with his own hands and lived on the land all those years and went out in the world to sing what's on his mind," Lear said.

Imagine Lear's surprise when he first met Seeger at the singer's home, about 60 miles north of New York: Seeger was outside, pushing a wheelbarrow down a hill, filled with logs he had cut himself.

"I realized I am looking at the mythic American," Lear said. "This is the American we like to think we were; people who lived off the earth, who were frontiersmen."

Seeger likes to be connected to the land. A lack of money was part of the reason he built his log home years ago, he said, "but philosophically I feel happier when I can get my own fresh water out of a well."

He has been a strong voice for the environment, working to clean up the Hudson River.

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