American folk icon Pete Seeger has received a special recognition six years after his death with a collection of his recordings honored at the 2020 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.
The Grammy for Best Historical Album went to Jeff Place and Robert Santelli for producing Pete Seeger: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection.
The six-CD collection, with a 200-page illustrated book, was released in May 2019 to mark what would have been the musician’s 100th birthday.
The banjo-playing singer, who Bob Dylan once described as a living saint, was known not only for writing folk hits like “If I had a Hammer”and “Turn, Turn, Turn”, but also for his musical interpretation of classics like “This Land Is Your Land” and “We Shall Overcome.”
Seeger, who died in January 2014, was a passionate advocate not only for folk music in the 20th century but also for the environment and humanity. As a result, he had as many enemies as he did fans and spent many years in broadcast isolation.
“He was someone who understood the power of song. He dedicated his life not just to American folk music, but to all folk music. He always knew that music is the voice of the people – around the world,” Santelli told Paul Zollo of American Songwriter.
“We had the great fortune of getting to work with Pete on numerous occasions. So being able to memorialize his work and to put it in the context of this boxed set makes us proud and humbled, and I know that I speak for all of us – it makes us feel we are doing something good.”
Place added that Seeger was a special man: “He’d find all these different causes, and put his full, complete energy into them, and he’d bring music to these causes. He also used the analogy of Johnny Appleseed, how he would give out seeds for decades that became forests of trees. Pete threw out ideas ”
At age 89, Seeger released a collection of newly recorded-classics together with newly-written material. It was to win a Grammy in 2008 for Best Traditional Folk Album. He celebrated his 90th birthday on May 9 the following year with an all-star concert at Madison Square Garden, where he performed with artists he had influenced over many years.
The inscription on his banjo summed up his life of 94 years: “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.”