Mike Seeger (August 15, 1933 – August 7, 2009) was an American folk musician and folklorist. He was a distinctive singer and an accomplished musician who played autoharp, banjo, fiddle, dulcimer, guitar, mouth harp, mandolin, and dobro.[1 ][2 ] Seeger, a half-brother of Pete Seeger, produced more than 30 documentary recordings, and performed in more than 40 other recordings. He desired to make known the caretakers of culture that inspired and taught him.[3 ]
Seeger was born in New York and grew up in Maryland and Washington D.C. His father, Charles Louis Seeger Jr., was a composer and pioneering ethnomusicologist, investigating both American folk and non-Western music. His mother, Ruth Crawford Seeger, was a composer. His eldest half-brother, Charles Seeger III, was a radio astronomer, and his next older half-brother, John Seeger, taught for years at the Dalton School in Manhattan. His next older half brother is Pete Seeger. His uncle, Alan Seeger, a poet, was killed during the First World War. His sister, Peggy Seeger, also a well-known folk performer, was married for many years to British folk singer Ewan MacColl. His sister, singer Penny Seeger, married John Cohen, a member of Mike's musical group, New Lost City Ramblers. Seeger was a self-taught musician who began playing stringed instruments at the age of 18.
The family moved to Washington D.C. in 1936 after his father's appointment to the music division of the Resettlement Administration. While in Washington D.C., Ruth Seeger worked closely with John and Alan Lomax at the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress to preserve and teach American folk music. Ruth Seeger's arrangements and interpretations of American Traditional folk songs in the 1930s, 40s and 50s are well regarded.
At about the age of 20, Seeger began collecting songs by traditional musicians on a tape recorder.[1 ] Folk musicians such as Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, John Jacob Niles, and others were frequent guests in the Seeger home.[1 ]
In 1958 he co-founded the New Lost City Ramblers, an old-time string band in New York City, during the Folk Revival. The other founding members included John Cohen and Tom Paley. Paley later left the group and was replaced by Tracy Schwarz. The New Lost City Ramblers directly influenced countless musicians in subsequent years. The Ramblers distinguished themselves by focusing on the traditional playing styles they heard on old 78rpm records of musicians recorded during the 1920s and 1930s.
Seeger received six Grammy nominations and was the recipient of four grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.[1 ] His influence on the folk scene was described by Bob Dylan in his autobiography, Chronicles: Volume One.
Selected Films featuring Mike Seeger