Peggy Seeger

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Peggy Seeger
Peggy Seeger Salford 2011.jpg
Seeger in Salford in 2011
Background information
Birth name Margaret Seeger
Born (1935-06-17) June 17, 1935 (age 79)
Origin New York City, New York, U.S.
Genres Folk
Occupations musician, singer
Instruments Banjo, guitar, dulcimer, concertina, autoharp, piano.
Years active 1955--present
Labels Folkways, Rounder, Argo, Riverside, Appalseed, Tradition
Associated acts Ewan MacColl
Notable instruments
Banjo

Margaret "Peggy" Seeger (born June 17, 1935) is an American folksinger. She is also well known in Britain, where she lived for more than 30 years and was married to the singer and songwriter Ewan MacColl until his death.

First American period[edit]

Seeger's father was Charles Seeger (1886–1979), an important folklorist and musicologist; her mother was Seeger's second wife, Ruth Porter Crawford (1901–1953), a modernist composer who was one of the first women to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship. One of her brothers was Mike Seeger, and the well-known Pete Seeger was her half-brother. One of her first recordings was American Folk Songs for Children (1955).

In the 1950s, left-leaning singers such as Paul Robeson and The Weavers began to find that life became difficult because of the influence of McCarthyism. Seeger visited Communist China and as a result had her US passport withdrawn.[1] The US State Department, which had been opposed to Seeger's 1957 trip to Moscow[2] (where the CIA had monitored the US delegation), was vigorously critical[citation needed] about her having gone to China against official "advice".[3]

The authorities had already warned her that her passport would be impounded, effectively barring her from further travel were she to return to the US.[3] She therefore decided to tour Europe – and later found out that she was on a blacklist sent to European governments.[3] Staying in London in 1956, she performed accompanying herself on banjo. There she and Ewan MacColl fell in love. Previously married to director and actress Joan Littlewood, MacColl left his second wife, Jean Newlove, to become Seeger's lover.

In 1958, her UK work permit expired and she was about to be deported. This was narrowly averted by a plan, concocted by MacColl and Seeger, in which she married the folk singer Alex Campbell, in Paris, on January 24, 1959, in what Seeger described as a "hilarious ceremony". This marriage of convenience allowed Seeger to gain British citizenship and continue her relationship with MacColl.[4] MacColl and Seeger were later married (in 1977), following his divorce from Newlove. They remained together until his death in 1989. They had three children: Neill, Calum, and Kitty. They recorded and released several albums together on Folkways Records, along with Seeger's solo albums and other collaborations with the Seeger Family and the Seeger Sisters.

Seeger was a leader in the introduction of the concertina to the English folk music revival. While not the only concertina player, her "musical skill and proselytizing zeal . . . was a major force in spreading the gospel of concertina playing in the revival."[5]

The documentary film A Kind of Exile was a profile of Seeger and also featured Ewan MacColl. The film was directed and produced by John Goldschmidt for ATV and shown on ITV in the UK.

Two social critics[edit]

Together with MacColl, Seeger founded The Critics Group, a "master class" for young singers performing traditional songs or to compose new songs using traditional song structures (or, as MacColl called them, "the techniques of folk creation"). The Critics Group evolved into a performance ensemble seeking to perform satirical songs in a mixture of theatre, comedy and song, which eventually created a series of annual productions called "The Festival of Fools" (named for a traditional British Isles event in which greater freedom of expression was allowed for the subjects of the king than was permitted during most of the year). Seeger and MacColl performed and recorded as a duo and as solo artists; MacColl wrote "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" in Seeger's honour (and did so during a long-distance phone call between the two while Seeger was performing in America and MacColl was barred from traveling to the U.S. with her due to his radical political views). None of the couple's numerous albums use any electric or electronic instrumentation. Whilst MacColl wrote many songs about work and against war and prejudice, Seeger (who also wrote such songs) sang about women's issues, with many of her songs becoming anthems of the women's movement. Her most memorable was "I'm Gonna Be an Engineer".[6] There were two major projects dedicated to the Child Ballads. The first was The Long Harvest (10 volumes 1966 - 1975). The second was Blood and Roses (5 volumes, 1979 – 1983). She visited the women's camp at Greenham Common, where protests against U.S. cruise missiles were concentrated. For them she wrote "Carry Greenham Home". Seeger ran a record label "Blackthorne" from 1976 to 1988.

In recent years[edit]

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. authorities began to soften their attitude towards Seeger. She returned to the United States in 1994 to live in Asheville, North Carolina. Seeger has continued to sing about women's issues. One of her most popular recent albums is Love Will Linger On (1995). She has published a collection of 150 of her songs from before 1998. In 2006, Peggy Seeger relocated to Boston, Massachusetts, to accept a part-time teaching position at Northeastern University. In 2008, she began producing music videos pertaining to the Presidential campaigns, making them available through a YouTube page.

After nearly two decades of living in the United States, Seeger moved back to the United Kingdom[when?] in order to be nearer to her children and now lives in Iffley, Oxford.[7]

Seeger identifies as bisexual and contributed an essay to Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World. In it she details a relationship she began with Irene Pyper-Scott after Ewan MacColl died.[8][citation needed]

Seeger performed "Tell My Sister" on a live tribute album to the late Canadian folk artist Kate McGarrigle titled Sing Me the Songs: Celebrating the Works of Kate McGarrigle. The album was released in June 2013.

Selected discography[edit]

Solo albums[edit]

  • Folksongs of Courting and Complaint (1955)
  • Animal Folksongs for Children (1957)
  • Folksongs and Ballads (1957)
  • A Song for You and Me (early 1960s)
  • Peggy Alone (1967)
  • Penelope Isn't Waiting Anymore (1977)
  • Different Therefore Equal (1979)
  • The Folkways Years 1955 1992 Songs of Love and Politics (1992)
  • Familiar Faces (1993)
  • Songs of Love and Politics (1994)
  • Love Will Linger On (1995)
  • An Odd Collection (1996)
  • Classic Peggy Seeger (1996)
  • Period Pieces (1998)
  • No Spring Chickens (1998)
  • Almost Commercially Viable (2000)
  • Heading For Home (2003)
  • Love Call Me Home (2005)
  • Bring Me Home (2008)
  • Peggy Seeger Live (2012)

With Ewan MacColl[edit]

  • New Briton Gazette, Vol. 1 (1960)
  • The Unfortunate Rake (1960)
  • Songs of Two Rebellions (1960)
  • Popular Scottish Songs (1961)
  • Bothy Ballads of Scotland (1961)
  • Two Way Trip (1961)
  • New Briton Gazette, Vol. 2 (1962)
  • Traditional Songs and Ballads (1964)
  • The Angry Muse (1968)
  • At The Present Moment (1972)
  • Folkways Record of Contemporary Songs (1973)
  • Cold Snap (1978)
  • Hot Blast (1978)
  • Saturday Night at the Bull and Mouth (1978)
  • Kilroy was Here (1980)
  • The Jacobite Rebellions (1962)

With Mike Seeger[edit]

  • American Folk Songs Sung by the Seegers (1957)
  • Peggy 'n' Mike (1967)
  • American Folk Songs for Children (1977)
  • American Folk Songs for Christmas (1990)
  • Fly Down Little Bird (2011)

With the Critics Group and Frankie Armstrong[edit]

  • The Female Frolic (1967)
  • Living Folk (1970)

With guests[edit]

  • Three Score and Ten (concert) (2007)

Collaboration[edit]

  • 1964: Who's Going to Shoe Your Pretty Little Foot (UK version); US version by Tom Paley and Peggy Seeger with Claudia Paley

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Broadcaster featuring Peggy Seeger". Peggy Seeger website. Retrieved 19 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "Peggy Seeger in Moscow 1957". Peggy Seeger website. Retrieved 19 August 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c Cox, Peter. Set into Song: Ewan MacColl, Charles Parker, Peggy Seeger and the Radio Ballads, "Chapter 8 - Muck Shifting - Song of a Road". Labatie Books, 2008. ISBN 0-9551877-1-0, ISBN 978-0-9551877-1-1. P. 73
  4. ^ Harper, Colin, Dazzling Stranger; Bert Jansch and the British Folk and Blues Revival, Bloomsbury, 2006. ISBN 0-7475-8725-6. p.96
  5. ^ Stuart Eydmann, "The concertina as an emblem of the folk music revival in the British Isles" (2005), http://www.concertina.com/eydmann/folk-music-revival/index.htm
  6. ^ Included in: Henderson, Kathy, et al. (ed.) (1982) My Song is My Own. London: Pluto Press ISBN 0-86104-033-3; pp. 159-162. "Composed 1972 .. the words take some fitting into this rather skeletal tune but if not sung too fast the song sings well."
  7. ^ http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/leisure/musics/music/10810939.Protest_singer_Peggy_Seeger_is_still_a_rebel_with_a_cause/
  8. ^ [1][dead link]

Further reading[edit]

  • MacColl, Ewan (1998) The Essential Ewan MacColl Songbook: sixty years of songmaking; ed. Peggy Seeger. New York: Oak Publications
  • Harker, Ben (2007) Class Act: the Cultural and Political Life of Ewan MacColl. London: Pluto Press ISBN 978-0-7453-2165-3 (chapters: 1. Lower Broughton—-2. Red Haze—-3. Welcome, Comrade—-4. Browned Off—-5. A Richer, Fuller Life—-6. Towards a People's Culture—-7. Croydon, Soho, Moscow, Paris—-8. Bard of Beckenham—-9. Let a Hundred Flowers Blossom—-10. Sanctuary—-11. Endgame)

External links[edit]