Great Performances: Pete Seeger 90th Birthday Celebration from Madison Square Garden on WXXI-TV

Great Performances: Pete Seeger 90th Birthday Celebration from Madison Square Garden on WXXI-TV

Mon, 03/14/2011 - 10:00pm

Pete Seeger (center) celebrates his 90th birthday surrounded by friends.

Credit: Joseph Sinnott

Pete Seeger, legendary folk artist and pioneer of protest music, turned 90 in May 2009.

With a career spanning more than half a century, legendary folk artist, political activist and avid environmentalist Pete Seeger turned 90 in May 2009. In honor of the milestone birthday and in tribute to Seeger’s lifetime of achievement in music and activism, a multi-generational roster of artists, whose music has been shaped by Seeger’s vision, gathered at Madison Square Garden on May 3, 2009, to celebrate his lifetime achievement. Filmed by GREAT PERFORMANCES, “Pete Seeger’s 90th Birthday Celebration From Madison Square Garden” encores Monday, March 14 at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV (DT21.1/cable1011/cable11).

Joining Seeger for this once-in-a-lifetime concert event were more than 40 artists, including Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Kris Kristofferson, Richie Havens, Roger McGuinn, Ani DiFranco, Taj Mahal, Ben Harper and Dave Matthews, and many others who performed songs inspired by Seeger’s music and activism. Concert highlights include Seeger’s leading the audience in a rousing sing-along of “Amazing Grace.” Other classic favorites compelling the enthusiastic audience to join in were “We Shall Overcome” and “This Land Is Your Land.”

Born to a large family of musicians, young Peter first learned to play the ukulele, graduating to the five-string banjo in the mid-1930s, ultimately mastering the instrument and, in the process, galvanizing the American folk music movement. A pioneer of protest music, Seeger’s anti-Vietnam War songs, notably the now-famous “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “Turn, Turn, Turn,” as well as his interpretation of the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome,” garnered mainstream attention in the 1960s, revitalizing the genre and paving the way for countless other activist musicians — including Bob Dylan — to achieve widespread acclaim.

The concert was a benefit for the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, a nonprofit environmental organization created by Seeger to bring awareness to the importance of protecting the Hudson River and other natural resources.