Peggy was born in 1935 in New York City. Her mother, Ruth Crawford, was a composer and piano teacher; her father, Charles Seeger, was an ethnomusicologist and music administrator. Peggy's formal music education was interwoven with the family's interest in folk music. She began to play the piano at seven years old. By the age of eleven she was transcribing music and becoming conversant with counterpoint and harmony. Between the ages of 12 and 35 she learned to play guitar, five-string banjo, autoharp, Appalachian dulcimer and English concertina. She tried the fiddle - and failed.
She attended Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she majored in music and began singing folksongs professionally. She went to Holland in 1955 (where she studied Russian in the language of Dutch!) and then took off on a spontaneous world tour that included Russia, China, Poland, most of Europe and part of Africa. In 1959 she became a British subject and settled in London with Ewan MacColl, the British dramatist-singer-songmaker, by whom she had three children (Neill, Calum and Kitty). It is for Peggy that MacColl wrote the classic First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.
The MacColl-Seeger work was seminal - its high point was the development of the revolutionary Radio Ballad form, a tapestry of field recordings of speech and sound effects melded with new songs in the folk idiom and complementary instrumental accompaniments. One of these Radio Ballads, SINGING THE FISHING, took the 1960 Italia Prize in the radio documentary section. These extraordinary radio programs have now been reissued in an 8-CD set by Topic Records. Seeger and MacColl initiated innovative work in the British folksong revival, incorporating folk techniques in film music and songwriting and emphasizing the connections between traditional artistic forms and political content. For seven years they ran the controversial London Critics Group and produced a yearly political theatre show The Festival of Fools. They formed their own record company (Blackthorne Records). Peggy started and edited a magazine of new songs (The New City Songster 1965-1985). They gave concerts and workshops throughout Europe and the New World, occasionally with Neill and Calum, both excellent musicians in their own right.
Peggy has made 22 solo discs and has taken part in more than 100 recordings with other performers. She is considered to be among North America's finest female folksingers and took a leading role in the British folk music revival, not only as a singer and instrumentalist but also as a theorist and songwriter although and excellent performer of traditional Anglo-American songs, she is also known for her songs on nuclear and feminist issues. Women in their struggle for equal rights use her most famous song, Gonna Be an Engineer. Her Ballad of Springhill is rapidly becoming a folksong. She has collaborated on books of folksongs with Edith Fowke, Alan Lomax and Ewan MacColl.
In 1983, she began working on and off with Irene Pyper-Scott, an Irish traditional singer with whom, after Ewan MacColl's death in 1989, she formed the duo NO SPRING CHICKENS. They toured for four years until Irene's work as a veterinary administrator necessitated a temporary cessation in 1994. Their company, Golden Egg Productions, issued their only CD, Almost Commercially Viable, an unusual album of political and love songs. This album has since been issued by the English company Fellside (FECD 130) and the USA company Sliced Bread (SB7 1204).
BBC Radio 2 interviewed Peggy with a view to making a short series about her life. These sessions resulted in a five-part series of radio programs that won the Sony Silver Award in 1995. A sixth program was recorded in 1996 and a seventh in 1997.
In September 1994, Peggy moved to Asheville, North Carolina, where she lived until she moved to Boston in 2006 to take up a teaching position at Northeastern University. She spends a good portion of her year singing and lecturing throughout the United States, with one yearly tour of Great Britain and occasional tours of Australia. She has put out a book of her own songs - Peggy Seeger Songbook (Oak Publications, 1998) and a companion book of the songs of Ewan MacColl (The Essential Ewan MacColl Songbook, Oak Publications, 2001).
Her 1997 CD An Odd Collection (Rounder 4031) is a stunning collection of songs written solo and with Irene. In 1998 she produced Period Pieces: Women's Songs for Men and Women (Tradition 1078), a compilation album of songs dealing expertly and compassionately with most of the major issues on the feminist docket. In 2000, she produced an excellent album of old and new romantic love songs, Love Will Linger On. In 2001, Almost Commercially Viable issued in the United States by Sliced Bread (SB71204). In 2003, Heading for Home (issued in the USA by Appleseed, APR CD1076; and in England by Fellside Recordings, FECD 181). Consisting of 12 North American folksongs and one song (the title) of her own composition, this is Peggy's first recording of traditional songs in over 25 years. This album is the first of three comprising the Home Trilogy. The second volume, Love Call Me Home (Appleseed APRCD 1087) appeared in late 2004. The third and final volume, Bring Me Home (APRCD 1106), is now available.
Appleseed has also brought out Three Score and Ten (Appleseed APR 1100), a 2-CD distillation of recordings from her 70th birthday, held on May 29 2005 in the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. It features Billy Bragg, Martin and Eliza Carthy, Calum and Neill MacColl, Mike and Pete Seeger, Norma Waterson and other excellent musicians. A stirring tribute, it includes instrumentals, Peggy's poems and songs, and above all a festive atmosphere.
A new venture in Peggy's recording life is her TIMELY series of home-produced CDs, the first of which Songs for October 2004) contains six contemporary songs and will be available 'until Resident Bush is elsewhere'. The second, The Ballad of Jimmy Massey, appearing in 2005, consists of one song only, the title song. It was made from the words of Jimmy Massey, who resigned in protest from the Marine Corps after four months in Iraq and who now travels the country talking about the history of our invasion of Iraq and his part in it. Timely #3 (Enough is Enough) appeared in 2006. TIMELY #4, Crazy Quilt, will be available in January 2008.
Her website, www.pegseeger.com, contains further information, a discography, details about ordering, an itinerary and interesting insights into her creative life. She is exclusively represented by Josh Dunson (tel: 708-386-1252; e.mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
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This page last updated: January 29, 2012