Pete Seeger was born in Patterson, New York on this day, May 3, in the year 1919.
Pete performed in public for the first time on Sunday, March 3, 1940 on the stage of the Forrest Theatre in New York City. His unplanned, walk-on appearance was part of a star-studded presentation organized by “The Theatre Arts Committee and Will Geer of the Tobacco Road Company” called “A ‘Grapes of Wrath’ Evening.” The 20-year-old rookie sang the outlaw ballad “John Hardy,” accompanying himself on the 5-string banjo.
On January 18, 2009, Pete Seeger performed in Washington, D.C. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. His highly-anticipated performance was part of We Are One: The Barack Obama Inaugural Celebration. The 89-year-old veteran performer played his 5-string banjo and led the audience of nearly 400,000 people in singing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” Tao Rodriguez-Seeger (Pete’s grandson), Bruce Springsteen and the Inaugural Celebration Chorus assisted Pete during his performance.
If you’ve not seen Pete’s Inaugural Celebration performance, you should. I cheered the live broadcast from my living room and have watched the video clip below several times. I’m still in awe.