Peggy Quotes

Seeger's collection is just the sort of book to get you in touch with your inner earnest, eco-feminist singer-songwriter. - Steve Winnick, Dirty Linen

Peggy Quotes 2

I was at Cambridge Folk Festival this year, and you were my highlight!  Listening to you talk and sing about the importance of making conscious life decisions and the impact our seemingly isolated, individual decisions have on the rest of the world really resonated with me, as did your quiet approach to advocating for justice.  I was deeply moved, and it was a joy to listen to you.
Thank you so much.
- Leah x


Concert Reviews

Birnam Book Festival 

November 24, 2018 

It was a true privilege to hear her speak, sing and play. Her special performance provoked the only standing ovation I’ve ever seen from the usually warm but reserved Birnam audience.
Carolyn Leckie, The National Newspaper, Scotland


Festival of Ideas – Peggy Seeger

Posted on May 30, 2018 by Emma

I went to see Peggy Seeger live a couple of years ago in the Lantern at Colston Hall. I was amazed that night by her warmth, humour and vitality (she was 80) as well as her talent as a multi instrumentalist and singer. She sat in the audience, right in front of me, to hear the support act Sam Gleeves as a lover of music, and as she saw herself as no more important than any of us. She was sat next to Big Jeff and a more surreal image of musical legends together I have yet to see.

She sang songs about mothering, motherhood and the pain of losing her Mother young. She read a poem about her mother dying aged just 52, when she herself was only 18. It touched me. Whenever you find another member of the club who lost their Mum young you know you share an awful bond. I told her so afterwards and we shared a moment together, Peggy taking my hand in hers and offering words of comfort.

She told stories between songs and talked about writing her memoirs then, and I’ve been waiting to read them ever since.

A few months ago, checking the listings for the Festival of Ideas I saw Peggy’s name and excitedly bought myself a ticket, knowing this also meant that the book was finished and I would finally get the chance to read about her fascinating life.

Tonight she was on sparkling form. Witty, warm, giving, generous and brilliant. Reading extracts of the book to paint such vivid pictures of her life. She has clearly written the book in the way she writes her songs, narrative storytelling has been her life blood for 60 years after all. I asked and Peggy confirmed that she has recorded the audio version of it too, which I cannot wait to hear when it is released. Frequently I was on the verge of tears as she spoke so movingly about love, relationships, recording and preserving the stories of the 99%, how folk music is the baton passed between generations. At every point she checked in to make sure we all had the references (the only one universally known was Senator McCarthy), she was inclusive, given to wonderful flights of fancy and made me feel like I was in the presence of both greatness and of family.

Music is the thread that binds us, preserves us, holds us up and connects us to people we will never meet or know across time and space. Folk music is powerful stuff in the right hands. Hands like Peggy Seegers.

I don’t have the money right now to buy the book, and I would prefer the paperback and audio versions anyhow, but I did take the opportunity to talk to Peggy again. I reminded her of when we had previously met and of her words to me “I hope you find what you are looking for.” I told her I had, that I had found the courage to be myself and the courage to begin writing. She held my hand again and we shared another moment.

I would never have found the courage, or confidence, to begin a project like #40gigs or all it led to (including the regular discipline of writing) or discovered a deep, deep joy and love of folk music without that evening seeing Peggy Seeger sing in September 2016. Thank you Peggy, thank you Colston Hall for that original gig and thank you Festival of Ideas for bringing Peggy back to Bristol tonight. What a treat to hear her talk and sing!

I’ve checked the gig listings and Peggy is playing in Bath in November. Shall I see you there?


Guernsey Literary Festival

Songs of Sadness, Joy and Reflection

It was an evening of reflection, sadness, unbridled joy, remembrance and a scattering of political satire. After a reading from her memoir, First Time Ever, and an intro by her son, Callum MacColl, shawled in red, Peggy Seeger took the stage beaming.

Shaun Shackleton 12 May 2018  
Read the Review (pdf)



Peggy Seeger and Calum MacColl, The First Time Ever UK Concert Tour, The Crescent, York, November 27, 2017


"IT would have been easier on that side," quips Peggy Seeger, seating herself after negotiating steps and a tangle of wires and equipment. "But I couldn’t bear to come on stage right."

It sets the tone for an evening which, accompanied by son Calum MacColl, will take the packed venue through a lifetime of campaigning, for which she is famous, coupled with a pin-sharp sense of humour, for which she is equally famous.

Ostensibly promoting her new memoir, The First Time Ever, and its accompanying album, the set is low on sales pitch and high on communication with the audience: "The choruses are for you, whether you like it or not,” she informs us early on, and that’s the way it goes.

Whether it’s Ewan MacColl’s incisive Ballad Of Accounting or the light-hearted duet of The Mountaineer’s Courtship,’this is still – as it’s always been – about bringing people together to sing.

While any number of artists of Seeger’s vintage may appeal to nostalgia or curiosity, songs such as the acerbically witty Donald’s In The White House show that her finger’s still on the pulse. And what nimble fingers! Still a dazzling banjo player at 82, her lightning runs, playing against MacColl’s guitar and mandolin, pushing and goading each other with nods and grins, are as joyous as ever. Likewise, the mother/son harmonies are clearly as much a pleasure to the performers as to the audience.

Poignant, passionate and playful, Seeger seemingly effortlessly demonstrates that, after a career spanning nearly seven decades, her artistic spark burns as bright as ever.

Review by Oz Hardwick

York Press



Seeger MacColl Family, Cecil Sharp House review - keeping the folk tradition alive

Great folk clan convenes at Cecil Sharp House

ArtsDesk Review by Liz Thomson Friday, 17 November 2017

The family that sings together stays together… At least that’s true in folk music. Think of Waterson- Carthy and Seeger-MacColl. And last night at Cecil Sharp House, citadel of British folk music, Peggy Seeger and her sons Calum and Neill stepped out for a family concert.

The fashions may have changed but the audience would be recognisable anywhere, and how comfortable it always feels to be among. Old friends, even if you don’t know them – though many of them knew Peggy and she them, as the stage banter proved. Singer, song-maker and activist, Seeger is 82 now but, rather like her half-brother Pete Seeger, who played on into his nineties, she seems ageless. In velvet trousers and lacy blouse topped by a quilted gilet, she looks more glamorous now – sparkling, literally, in a way she perhaps felt inappropriate when she was on the road with Ewan MacColl, her long-time partner in life and music, who probably disapproved of glamour. With her neat silver hair, she looks like any respectable grandmother – yet she, like Pete, was demonised during the years of America’s red scare. Goddamit, she toured the Soviet Union and China at the height of the Cold War! Uncle Sam was reluctant to renew her passport, though she was eventually able to return to the States, living there for a time after MacColl’s death in 1989.

Her remarkable life is recounted in her recently published memoir, The First Time –  its title of course taken from MacColl’s song, made into a chart hit by Roberta Flack – from which Peggy and her sons read extracts. She talked of her mother, the pioneering composer Ruth Crawford Seeger, the first woman to win a Guggenheim Fellowship, who became ethnomusicologist Charles Seeger’s second wife. Seeger family life, in New York City and Washington DC, was at the intersection of art music and folk music. Woody Guthrie, folk singer and songwriter, and Alan Lomax, folk song collector, were frequent house guests, and a black woman named Elisabeth Cotten, whom Peggy had encountered in a DC department store, visited every weekend. A musician forbidden to play once she’d married, she took down the guitar that hung on the Seeger kitchen wall and performed a song she’d written. Thus did “Freight Train” enter the public consciousness – thanks to the Seegers.

Peggy Seeger“Freight Train”, and the story behind it, was among the songs contributed by Neill MacColl, his mother and brother singing along. He recalled how he’d gone to stay with Libba, as she was known, in the1970s at her home in Carolina: she’d nourished him with both music and vast helpings of chicken and dumpling stew. Calum’s solos included “Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime”. Both men began their careers in the family trade but went on to become successful musicians in their own right – as did Kirsty MacColl, their half-sister, though her life was cut tragically short.

Not the least among the joys of the concert was the sense that we were all part of a great family singalong, the best sort of home entertainment, as everyone swapped songs and stories. What it emphasised was the great folk music continuum: Peggy singing songs that her mother had transcribed from Lomax, “Omi Wise” for example”; songs she herself had transcribed from cassettes sent to her for her various New City Songsters collections, including “Up in Wisconsin”; and the light-hearted song Calum sang that had been taught to him by Martin Carthy while the two men were jam-making. “Eliza was vacuuming upstairs.”

Ewan was present in anecdote and in spirit, his sons affectionately recalling “our Dad” in prefatory remarks to one of his last songs, “The Joy of Living”, in which he bade farewell not only to his beloved Lakeland peaks but to his family, for “my time is almost done”. The encore was Peggy’s “Sing About These Hard Times”, written in 2003 about the 1920s but no less relevant today.

While Calum played acoustic lead throughout and Neill guitar and mandolin, Peggy swapped between her treasured 1929 Martin, five-string banjo, accordion, autoharp and keyboard.


Shake the Chains review – veteran Peggy Seeger nails the art of protest

by Robin Denselow

St John on Bethnal Green, London

Folk stars including Nancy Kerry, Hannah Martin and Findlay Napier celebrated protest songs with an eclectic set that too often looked back rather than forward.

Music can inspire and inform, and, at a time of growing opposition to Donald Trump and dismay at the political situation in the UK, it’s appropriate that the folk scene should celebrate protest. As a musical history lesson, Shake the Chains was eclectic and adventurous, but the new songs that dominated the concert were often more concerned with the past than the present.
Musically, this was a classy affair, with an impressive lineup of Nancy Kerr, Hannah Martin and the Scottish singer Findlay Napier, along with Tim Yates and Greg Russell. They swapped solos, backed by fiddles, guitars and slick harmony vocals on a set that included a tribute to Victor Jara, a CND singalong from the 1960s, Ding Dong Dollar, and Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth. The new material ranged from Kerr’s tribute to the Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing, who was hounded to death for his sexuality, to stories of her activist mum. The strongest contemporary comment came from Martin, with her timely lament for a woman held at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre and an inventive, poetic attack on renewable energy subsidy cuts.

But the outstanding performance of the night came from special guest and veteran campaigner Peggy Seeger. Now 81, she switched from old union songs to a poignant story of Filipino care workers, Lullabies for Strangers, and then attacks on Trump and his climate-change policies that were first hilarious and then furious.




A UK tour by Peggy Seeger is always an event – beforehand eagerly anticipated, then on the day a wonderful experience to be cherished and its memory savoured at length.

This latest tour finds Peggy at the grand age of 81 having survived a series of medical scares; and by goodness, it’s a cause for celebration. Here at Otley (a total sell-out gig), Peggy’s gloriously warm, involving and thoroughly companionable personality permeated the auditorium, from the moment where, pre-show, she mingled with the audience chatting away like an old friend (which is of course exactly what she is to so many folks!), before standing in the aisle by the stalls to watch her touring companion Sam Gleaves.

Even if you’re a hard-core Americana enthusiast, you could be forgiven for not having hitherto experienced Sam’s music, as for some strange reason his name hasn’t gotten around much yet – but all that’s about to change, I suspect. Right from the moment he comes onstage, you know you’re in the presence of a long tall talent (he must be nearly 6’ 9”!). A genuine, gentle fellow with the gift of an immediate and ready rapport with his audience. But not only that – as a performer, he’s the real deal alright – a really personable chap, a very competent, nay outstanding instrumentalist (guitar, banjo, fiddle) with an entirely authentic singing voice and a true feel for original songwriting in the tradition of contemporary old-time/country (I’m tempted to liken Sam to a younger version of Tim O’Brien… ). And he complements Peggy so very well too…

I can only thoroughly recommend Sam to any music lover. His stage presence and extraordinary natural showmanship completely belies his tender years, and his debut CD would be considered an immensely accomplished product by any standards. It may be indicative that in concert at Otley, less than half of its selections were performed – take it from me, it contains a large number of top-quality original songs, and while he enjoys stunning support on the CD sessions from renowned guest musicians his own musical identity comes over good and strong. I’ll be reviewing the CD for this site shortly… meanwhile I must urge you, do go see Sam live if you get the chance, and you’ll be hooked for sure.

Sam opened the show with a short but revealing set comprising seven contrasted items that showcased his multifarious talents admirably. An a cappella traditional opener, then a playful song about biscuits (not what you think!), before risking one of his own compositions – the title song from his CD Ain’t We Brothers. There followed a song from a folk opera, a gospel blessing, a riotous pair of fiddle tunes (one by Sam, the other from Kentucky fiddler Lee Sexton) and finally a fast-paced rendition of the traditional My Singing Bird (for which Sam’s written two extra verses). Sam was then joined by Peggy for a delicious fun duet on Mountaineer’s Courtship (and the obligatory exchange of banjo jokes!), before leaving the stage to Peggy for the remainder of the first half of the evening. The chemistry between the two artists was palpable, and they enjoyed a clear and hearty rapport, as demonstrated further on their fiddle-and-banjo-accompanied take on The Blind Fiddler which opened the second half of the evening, followed by a compelling account of The Cuckoo, on which Sam played a fretless gourd banjo. Only Peggy could get away with following this with a poem and song dedicated to her mother Ruth Crawford Seeger…

But what of Peggy’s own solo sets? Well, these proved a typical Peggy mixture of heartfelt-poignant (Once Again, Autumn Wedding), feisty songs of activism (If You Want A Better Life), justified-protest (Housewife’s Alphabet), home-truths (Get Up And Go), wickedly wordy (Enough Is Enough) or brilliantly economic (Logic); the affectionate Tree Of Love (written for her partner Irene Pyper-Scott) and Lullabies For Strangers (jointly penned with Kate St. John) were definite evening highlights, as was the intense Missing (the harrowing story of Murielita Dockendorff who had been “disappeared” by the Pinochet regime in 1974). The whole set was of course liberally and tellingly sprinkled with loving camaraderie, witty banter, earnest introductions, anecdotes, readings of newspaper clippings (and of course, more banjo jokes!). Little time was wasted by Peggy in re-tuning (in spite of her pithy comment “if it’s a Martin you don’t tune it, you calibrate it!”), as she moved between guitar, autoharp, banjo, concertina and piano during the course of the evening. And her voice was in great condition, with very little of her justly famed range showing any cracks at all (well, virtually imperceptible as far as I’m concerned, and certainly not to spoil the performance or the magic of the occasion).

At every turn we were gently but firmly reminded of Peggy’s unshakeable place within, and her excellent long-standing grasp of – and interpretive flair for – folk tradition (a classic ballad normally makes its way into the set – in this case it was The Half Hitch). And of her unquestioned status as a major songwriter. Time and again, calling out of her vast repertoire an exceptional song that we’d somehow (albeit only momentarily) forgotten she had written, or else temporarily (and entirely excusably!) “corpsing” on her own words but recovering with total aplomb. And I’d guarantee that even those of us familiar with Peggy’s exhaustive corpus of songs will have learnt something new during this concert. For she’s a born communicator and educator, and a genuinely consummate artist (singer, songmaker, musician) of unparalleled integrity, blessed with excellent taste and judgement. A very special person…

I came away from the auditorium holding back tears from the emotional impact of Peggy’s performance, and with a comforting, warm glow inside, a feeling of serious privilege at being in her company once again. I treasure every moment. Love will linger on…

David Kidman


Read this through to the very end

Joan Baez and Joan Armatrading, Cambridge Folk Festival, review: 'a generous slice of folk history'

Joans Baez and Armatrading offered folk karaoke, but it was Peggy Seeger who stole the show, says Colin Irwin

Folk music, by definition, has a vested interest in the past and, among the healing tents, jenga challenges, t’ai qi sessions, gin and tonic stall and unremitting sunshine, nostalgia abounded at this flagship event … particularly with the two Joans, Baez and Armatrading, in residence.

Supremely elegant in a dark chi, blue jeans and dangly earrings, Baez offered a generous slice of folk history, even making a joke about her famous former partner (“I’ve had a lot of controversy but nothing to match when Bob Dylan went electric”) before launching into It’s All Over Now Baby Blue. Huskier these days, her voice has held up, even if she was nearly blown off the stage by her own tour assistant Grace Stumberg taking a verse of Me & Bobby McGee.

It was a bit of a folk karaoke set (Freight Train, House Of The Rising Sun, Imagine, Long Black Veil, Joe Hill, Swing Low Sweet Chariot) and almost everything she did here was associated more favourably with someone else. Odd, then, to omit the one song she can reasonably call her own, Diamonds & Rust. But she’s Joan Baez, which still carries formidable cache apparently, and the audience lapped it up.

There were also old hits aplenty when a completely solo Joan Armatrading entered the arena on Sunday night with rather more attitude, teasing the audience by saying she wouldn’t be playing her biggest hit, Love & Affection. She did in the end, of course, along with Drop The Pilot, All The Way From America and Me, Myself I … interspersed with gritty blues and some explosive electric guitar. In a case of duelling Joans, you wouldn’t fancy Baez’s chances.

In fairness, Baez had some tough acts to follow. Charismatic former Carolina Chocolate Drops singer Rhiannon Giddens produced a set of startling verve and versatility, swerving with graceful passion from Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton to blues, gospel and, most astonishingly, Scots Gaelic mouth music. This surely marked her emergence as a huge star.

There was also deeply affecting performance from the 10-piece Unthanks, an antidote to the tediously repetitive parade of acts trying too desperately to ignite audience reactions with whoops and handclapping. Built on a trumpet theme inspired by Miles Davis, the delicate arrangements turned Mount The Air into an emotional epic that even featured clog dancing from the Unthank sisters.

In 2011, the completely unknown singer songwriter Passenger was busking outside the Guinness tent. On Sunday, he returned as a headliner, but decided to recreate that moment with an impromptu set at the same tent (in front of a rather larger audience) before taking to the main stage for a rousing performance which included a mass singalong of his greatest hit Let Her Go. The engaging Passenger’s emotional reaction – repeatedly thumping his chest and telling us this was one of the best gigs of his life – will stay long in the memory.

If the overall event lacked cutting edge, there were plenty other standout moments, ranging from exotic Italian band Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino to the splendidly pugnacious London group Stick In The Wheel. But few matched the energy, wit and majesty of 80-year-old Peggy Seeger – who appeared at the very first Cambridge Folk Festival 51 years ago.


Hi Peggy,

I was at Cambridge Folk Festival this year, and you were my highlight!  Listening to you talk and sing about the importance of making conscious life decisions and the impact our seemingly isolated, individual decisions have on the rest of the world really resonated with me, as did your quiet approach to advocating for justice.  I was deeply moved, and it was a joy to listen to you.

Thank you so much.

Leah x

Peggy Seeger’s Benefit Concert for the Save Temple Cowley Pools Campaign

Friday 10 July 2015

I won’t wear mascara next time

One minute I was crying with laughter as Peggy read 1950s advice for wives.Then, like a curving ball from nowhere, a wave of emotion hit me and I was fighting to hide sobs, blinded by mascara, when Peggy sang The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. Everything Changes followed, the equally poignant title track of a brilliantly varied new album.

I’m completely in awe of Peggy, her wonderful gifts, inspiration and great generosity.  There are so many things I’d love to talk to her about but instead a kind of Tourette’s Syndrome strikes me and I find myself saying crass and stupid things, squandering a precious, transient opportunity.  I’m not imagining this.  When I confided one awful example to a friend two days later, they writhed visibly on my behalf, talking about wanting to be swallowed by holes in the ground.

Peggy doesn’t waste anything.  She lives every moment of her iconic life and we are all enriched by it.




hi Peggy, 

what an incredibly rich and fantastic night. We all loved it. It felt like being in a big Seeger/MacColl family celebration. Intimate yet global!

The band were fabulous, the solo spots gorgeous from Paul and Eliza. Eliza - what an incredible performer!!!!!! 

Your sons - so warm, so talented and very funny.

And you were just perfect in every way.  It was very moving - by the second half’s end I was very tearful with the joy and beauty. 

We decided not to to try to catch a moment with you afterwards, as the queue was absolutely tremendous and we thought we might have the chance to see you in Oxford.

James and I will be at mum and dad’s on Saturday if you are around. My sister Cath and brother-in-law Simon also really adored the gig. Simon and I played in Walthamstow Folk CLub the night after - a Shetland tune called Trowie Burn - and everyone was dead jealous we’d been at your gig. I tried to channel your spirit in my fiddle-playing.

with great affection and inspiration,

Jane and James




Peggy Seeger at Queen Elizabeth Hall

By Clive Davies, The Times
5 stars

An 80th birthday concert, yes, but Peggy Seeger is not the sort to indulge in geriatric sentimentality. Much like a folk-singing equivalent of Elaine Stritch, she bossed and cajoled, cracked sardonic jokes and made a point of letting the audience know when it was not keeping its end up in the singalongs.

Long may she continue. This was a gloriously relaxed gathering, the singer and multi-instrumentalist joined by her sons, singer-guitarists Neill and Calum MacColl, neither of whom was in the mood to be cloyingly reverential. Seeger responded to their teasing by recalling the circumstances in which they were conceived. Game, set and match.

Amid the good-natured ribbing, the brothers also provided immaculate accompaniment, augmented by guest spots from Paul Brady and Eliza Carthy, the latter opening the second half of the show with a sequence that included Prairie Lullaby and Robert Burns’s song The Slave’s Lament.

If Seeger herself has not renounced her loyalties to the old Left, the occasional bout of sermonising was tempered with dry humour. And her no-nonsense running commentary occasionally smuggled in moments of heart-rending tenderness, most notably on her short poem My Mother Is Younger Than Me, inspired by Ruth Crawford Seeger, who died of cancer at the age of 52.

Elsewhere, the yearning harmonies of Sweet Thames Flow Softly paid homage to her late husband, Ewan MacColl. Seeger’s keening voice isn’t a perfect instrument by any means — lyrics were sometimes smudged and blurred — but flitting between guitar, dulcimer, piano and banjo, she was a commanding presence. And at the very end she evoked memories of her half-brother Pete with that genial lament about old age, Get Up and Go (How do I know my youth is all spent? / My get up and go has got up and went.) Old Father Time will just have to wait.


The Afterword

Harpenden Public Halls

This was an unusual gig simply because it was in Harpenden – not exactly a mecca for seeing good music. I had no great expectations but left with a big smile on my face – probably one of the most enjoyable gigs Ive been to in long while. If you get the chance to see her on the current tour I urge you to take it. Protest songs , love songs, funny songs, sing-a-long songs and 17th century madrigals it’s all here. Also a big shout out for her new album ‘Everything Changes’.
 Backed by her sons Neil and Callum Maccoll – the standard of musicianship on stage was just fabulous – Peggy is a monster banjo player and the three of them together produce that wonderful intuitive sound that family members seem to be able create when singing and playing together. Of course she did some Pete Seeger songs and a version of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (written about her by Ewan Maccoll). The Maccoll brothers did an old Liberty Horses song (remember that band – an offshoot of the Bible ?) and Neil did a lovely finger picked version of Freight Train ( apparently he met Elizabeth Cotton and said I’ve learnt how to play Freight Train – played it and she said ‘No you aint’ !). Oh and ex Dream Academy and Van Morrison sax player Kate St John added a bit of accordion.
The audience:
The usual folky types and good smattering of locals. The funniest moment (for me) was Peggy getting the audience to sing along to a song about joining a union – Peter Lilley would have fainted, Im not sure the word union has ever been heard in a positive way in Harps before
It made me think..
This woman is steeped in folk history – hugely respected and yet here she is playing small low key gigs like this. I need to support any new music coming to this town you never know what you might see.


Boycotting Trends

Concert Review
June 8, 2015

There probably aren’t too many people who’d consider a UK tour the best way to celebrate their 80th birthday, but then Peggy Seeger has never been one to follow the herd. A witty, smart woman, committed activist, prolific songwriter (or “songmaker” as she prefers it), sister of Pete and Mike, and spouse of the late Ewan MacColl, Seeger wears her folk legend status very lightly. The topic of attire actually came up during Saturday night’s show at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, in a remark that exemplified Seeger’s attitude to the future. “I’m a bit of a tightwad when it comes to clothes,” Seeger confessed. “I wore this outfit for my 70th birthday show. And I intend to wear it for my 90th.”

Like many an enduring folk troubadour, Seeger creates an exceptionally warm and inclusive ambience as a performer, even mingling with the crowd before the show begins. With sons Neill and Calum MacColl providing accompaniment on vocals and a variety of instruments, and guests Paul Brady and Eliza Carthy (no less) also on hand, the evening soon took on the feel and appeal of a relaxed family gathering, with much cheeky and affectionate banter throughout. “If there’s anyone in the audience who’s not related to us, there’s a helpline,” quipped Calum at one point, while Peggy gleefully noted that “there’s a lot of family linen being aired here” – after sharing some details about, yes, the circumstances of Neill’s conception.

The friendly atmosphere ensured that the occasional forgotten verse or mis-tuning mattered not a jot. Switching between guitar, banjo and piano, and forever encouraging audience participation, Seeger was in quietly commanding voice. Her warbly, quavering high register was as disarming as the lower tones she employed on several songs: a voice of experience that’s retained its wit and nimbleness, not to mention its hotline to the heart of the folk tradition.

The set-list also ranged widely, encompassing the earnest and the irreverent, the personal and the political, songs old and new. Though Seeger classics such as “I’m Gonna Be an Engineer” were sadly absent, selections from her acclaimed recent album, Everything Changes, shone brightly, in particular the superb title track (inspired by her mother) and the BBC Folk Award-winning Titanic ballad “Swim to the Star” (with Neill’s wife Kate St. John hopping up on stage from the audience to join in on accordion).  Such fresh dispatches  rubbed up against the likes of “Cluck Old Hen”, Seeger’s great union anthem “If You Want A Better Life”, the Playford-derived dancing tunes “Lull Thee” and “Kettle Drum” and such superbly pointed, quirky items as Charlie King’s “Send in the Drones” and the eco-friendly "Wasteland Lullaby".

A selection of Ewan MacColl songs were particularly moving, with Calum taking the lead on a tender “Sweet Thames Flow Softly” (a song that was also a highlight of the Valentine’s Day show performed by Barb Jungr at the Southbank Centre just a few months ago), Neill doing the same for a lovely “The Joy of Living” and Peggy tackling the classic that she inspired, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, with understated delicacy and grace.

The guests also took memorable solo spots. Brady contributed the rollicking anti-blues “The World is What You Make It”, the tender piano croon of “Harvest Time”, and his delicious, definitive rendering of “The Lakes of Pontchartrain”, before partnering Seeger on the traditional “Five Nights Drunk”, a hilarious account of an inebriated cuckold.  Carthy, meanwhile, leant her ripe vocals and funky, sensuous performance style to a dreamy “Prairie Lullaby”, an a cappella “Maid on the Shore” and “Slave’s Lament”, augmented by sublime fiddle, while she and Seeger joined forces for a dynamic, driving “Logan County”.  The evening was, in addition, enhanced by Seeger’s witticisms and observations: a joke linking anti-gay marriage rhetoric, and the legalising of marihuana, was especially choice.    

The concert closed with Seeger at the piano and the assembled company all pitching in on the Pete-penned “Get Up and Go”, a wry musing on the ageing process that prompted the night’s most joyous and heartfelt audience singalong. At the top of the show Seeger spoke of the songs as a route to survival and solidarity. This delightful evening, rich in history yet as current and vibrant as can be, offered conclusive prove of that.


Peggy Seeger review –
vigour, passion and an unexpected line in comedy

The Guardian
Colin Irwin
Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

June 8, 2015


She may be folk royalty, but there’s nothing either reverent or nostalgic about this joyous and intimate performance.

‘As Indian summers go, her renaissance is spectacular’

“Older women are the best,” says Peggy Seeger with a flirty twinkle, “because people think we think we’re doing it for the last time …” She may be celebrating her approaching 80th birthday but, performing with extraordinary gusto and no little verve, there’s still plenty of the mischievous reprobate – not to mention the untamed rebel – about her.

Peggy Seeger: voice of experience

As Indian summers go, Seeger’s renaissance is spectacular. Part of a great American folk music dynasty (the likes of Lead Belly, Alan Lomax and Woody Guthrie would casually drop by her family home), she crossed the Atlantic and teamed up with Ewan MacColl to put politics into song and play a pivotal role in the 1950s-1960s British folk revival.
Yet, after MacColl’s death in 1989, Seeger returned to the US, and was rarely seen on these shores for many years. Since coming back to live in the UK in 2010, she subsequently underwent life-threatening illness and major surgery, so to see her now – orchestrating stirring chorus-singing from an adoring full house and skipping between autoharp, banjo, guitar, concertina and piano while delivering an amazingly varied set with such vigour, passion and an unexpected line in comedy – is joyous.

This is no sympathetic lap of honour for past deeds; no orgy of nostalgia. With sons Calum and Neill MacColl framing her still-expressive voice in cultured arrangements on a variety of instruments (bowed psaltery, autoharp and banjo on one set of Playford tunes), the emotional intimacy of her remarkable recent album Everything Changes slices the air. Recently named best original song at the BBC folk awards, Swim to the Star – Peggy and Calum’s disquieting observation of the Titanic disaster – sounds even more darkly affecting on stage, while the album’s title track offers a swathe of compellingly poignant reflections on her mother, composer Ruth Crawford Seeger.

‘Folk legend Seeger returns to form, her limber vocals and experimental approach enhancing some of the year's best songs’, writes Robin Denselow.

There are guest appearances from Paul Brady (duetting deliciously with her on Five Nights Drunk) and Eliza Carthy; Calum and Neill MacColl offer two of their father’s most celebrated hits, Sweet Thames Flow Softly and The Joy of Living; and it’s a goosebump moment when Peggy rises to sing The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, written for her by Ewan in 1957. Stripped of its Roberta Flack histrionics, the sheer bareness is shockingly powerful.
After mingling with the audience beforehand and hanging around at the interval to fiddle with the instruments, she dashes off to the foyer to sign CDs. “I don’t want you old people to get tired,” she says, grinning.



Concert at Ropetackle - June 3, 2015

by Tom Locke

The sold out Ropetackle was utterly seduced.
They sang along, laughed, and basked in the glow of this exceptional performance.

Seventy-nine-year-old Peggy Seeger, with sons Neill and Calum, played many instruments, bantered like a family does, and filled their front parlour with songs of love and activism.
Her voice is delicate but such is Seeger's vitality for life that it is never weak.
When she wasn't holding an instrument and simply stood and sang, she was a consummate cabaret artist with a dark comic touch.
She is steeped in American and English folk music and is a queen of the five-string banjo.
At the start of the second half, solo, Seeger sang The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face, the song her husband Ewan McColl wrote for her, and worth the price of admission alone.
She picked up autoharp, concertina, and then sat at the piano, all the while exchanging words with her boys and clearly enjoying herself. Once Calum had to tune his old mum's guitar for her.
"Play Freight Train," she ordered Neill. So he did!
Seeger commanded respect while at the same time engendering great affection. The Ropetackle stood at the end to acknowledge this extraordinary woman.

Five stars


The Big Issue

“I’m making a mess of this, I forgot the vital verse,” says Peggy Seeger, the song coming to an abrupt halt. She faces down her audience unblinkingly, before finally breaking silence. “I remember what it is, I’m just waiting for you to forget what I’ve sung.”

It isn’t simply experience affording her such ease, though she has been performing for the vast majority of her 78 years.

More pertinently, it’s rooted in her belief as to music’s fundamental purpose: not the elevation of the individual, but collective binding; before singing even a single note tonight, she coaches the crowd in the ways of the opening chorus. “Stop your crying, it’s time for singing”.

in Seeger’s hands the circle of activism has been unbroken for decades. Seeger sits stage front and centre, autoharp in lap, a crescent of further folk-blues tools within reach: piano, concertina, guitar, banjo. Her playing, her conviction, speaks elegantly of a childhood sitting at the feet of houseguests such as Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, John Jacob Niles, Alan Lomax, and, especially, half-brother Pete. From civil rights to feminism, peace campaigning to gay rights, in Seeger’s hands the circle of activism has been unbroken for decades.

Just two months ago she underwent a voice operation. It wiped out her entire mid-range. You might imagine that pitching a full lifetime of work unfamiliarly high or low would be a cause for obvious concern, if not outright cancellation.

Instead, it apparently causes nothing but a call for hot water, and a striking highlight.

Seeger first recorded Suffolk Miracle with long time partner, Ewan MacColl (hers is the countenance that inspired The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face). Tonight, sung in high register, reed thin, almost translucent, the ghostly love song is afforded a haunting layer quite absent from the straightforwardly tale-telling original.

Come the interval, with bright-eyed wiry strength she heads down the centre aisle not for a well-earned rest, nor even a gargle, but to staff her CD stall in the foyer. You thought punk invented DIY? Best reconsider.

And so it goes, this feast of anecdotes, jokes, ballads. There’s no sense of a set list, just a jukebox of a head, thousands of records deep. “I particularly missed my mother at the age of 60,” she says, matter-of-factly, emotion left to pile into the song: “I’m your little girl-child, out here alone.”

For a sold-out gig, the intimate sense of communality is a wonder, a matriarch leading her extended brood through a family songbook they never knew they had.

Words: Julian Owen 



Review of Pete and Peggy Seeger Concert at Proctors Theatre on May 12, 2013

by B.A. Nilsson on May 15, 2013 · Metroland
In the course of his 75-year career of promoting and enhancing the world’s folk music traditions, Harvard dropout Pete Seeger has become their most vital exemplar. His music is the music of struggle with a beacon of hope at its heart. His influence is unmeasurable. As he walked onto the stage of Proctors Theatre last Sunday, the full house rose in an entirely justified ovation. Had they been asked to go home just then, I suspect they would have been happy merely to have won a glimpse of the 94-year-old icon.

Instead, we got a three-hour concert that also featured Pete’s 78-year-old half-sister, Peggy, herself a troublemaker and an icon. The Seeger family is filled with such folk. But a Seeger concert is about its audience, who are transported from concert hall to living room as they’re invited (commanded, exhorted, cajoled, enticed, conscripted, inspired) to sing.

John Seeger, brother to Peggy and Pete, ran a Vermont summer camp called Killooleet for 50 years before passing the directorship to his daughter, Kate, and her husband, Dean Spencer. The concert was held to raise funds to repair damage the camp suffered from Hurricane Irene, and Kate and Dean joined a small choir onstage at the beginning of the second half to sing Peggy’s tribute “It’s Pete!”

“He’s not onstage with us,” Peggy explained, “because he’d be mortally embarrassed.” For that number only, the instrumental forces included Bill Vanaver and Happy Traum. The rest of the concert was Peggy and Pete.

Pete’s singing voice has diminished to a quavery reminiscence. His playing—on 12-string, six-string and banjo—has simplified. Peggy had to feed him a lyric or two. I was worried, going into it, that his performance would be a shadow, the kind of show you get through by shutting off your ears and playing the old recordings in your head. The voice is gone, but the spark is there, and Pete seemed to pick up energy as the evening progressed. A medium-tempo “Worried Man Blues” started things off with some tentativeness, but the two of them came back with “Wee Cooper o’ Fife” with such fun and such a high degree of conviction that it could have been a Verdi duet.

Given Peggy’s considerable talent as performer and songwriter, I doubt if she could be overshadowed by anyone other than Pete (“Pop,” as she affectionately called him). And her several solo moments included “I’m Gonna Be an Engineer” (actually a duet with Pete, who has long championed the song), “Everyone Knows” (a witty tribute to menses and men) and, of course, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” written for her by Ewan McColl, as well as the timeless “Young Hunting,” also known as “Henry Lee,” which featured her impressive banjo picking.

Other traditional numbers included the comic duets “Five Nights Drunk” and “There’s a Hole in My Bucket” and, saluting John Lomax and upstate New York, “The E-Ri-E Canal” (the one without the mule named Sal).

It’s easy to think of folk-music legends like Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly and Alan Lomax as figures from a disconnected past, but Pete hung out with these guys and modestly shared some stories about them, closing the concert’s first half with Woody’s “Union Maid” (a re-lyricking of and the best thing that could have happened to the horrible song “Red Wing”). Pete described Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as “the most extraordinary man I ever met,” and performed his affecting tribute, “Take It From Dr. King.”

Other Pete originals included “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (although he’s quick to credit its co-author) and “Quite Early Morning,” which closed the concert as it swept the crowd into a high point of musical exhilaration. Topped by the encore, another original, co-written with Weavers partner Lee Hays: “If I Had a Hammer.” As if we needed any more reminding that, like the banjo and guitar, Pete and Peggy are ineluctable components of what defines the music that defines us.



 Peggy and Pete Seeger at Proctors, 5/12/13

Monday, May 13, 2013   

SCHENECTADY – He sang out danger. He sang out a warning. He sang out love between his brothers and his sisters, all over this land…

Pete Seeger will be the first to tell you that he’s not a singer. He much prefers the title of “song leader.” And no one in Proctors’ jam-packed theater on Sunday evening needed an invitation to join in. By the second line of Seeger’s opening song – the time-honored “Worried Man Blues” – the crowd was singing along, and they weren’t shy about it, either.

It wasn’t just a concert. It was a bona fide sing-along hootenanny, nearly all night long.
It was also a belated celebration for Pete Seeger’s 94th birthday (May 3). And a 45th anniversary bash for the venerable Eighth Step, which presented the festivities. And the only joint concert of the year by Pete and his younger sister, the 78-year-old Peggy Seeger. And a benefit for Camp Killooleet, a children’s camp Hancock, Vermont, that was founded by their elder brother John.

Mostly, however, it was a chance for everyone in attendance to show their love and appreciation for the decades of music and social activism that Pete Seeger has shared with us all. Peggy mostly played guitar, but also took up the banjo and piano for several songs. Pete, meanwhile, alternated between his 12-string guitar and his long-neck banjo. And the music flowed…

There were, of course, those classic Pete songs – “Turn, Turn, Turn” (with several additional children’s-oriented verses penned by Pete’s wife Toshi) and the rousing encore of “If I Had a Hammer.” And Peggy took her first solo turn with her classic feminist anthem, “I’m Gonna Be an Engineer” (including an additional verse for lawyers). Mostly, the brother and sister sang together, including a number of good old-fashioned folk songs – “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain” and a wry take on “There’s a Hole in the Bucket.” There were union songs, humorous songs, anti-war songs (Peggy’s powerful “The Ballad of Jimmy Massey”) and love songs (Peggy’s riveting performance of Ewan MacColl’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”), as well as songs of freedom, feminism and civil rights.

Pete’s voice is admittedly pretty ragged, and there were some problems with one of Pete’s vocal microphones during the first of their two hour-plus sets, but it was remedied for the second half. And Pete occasionally need a bit of coaching from Peggy to recall some of the lyrics.

But Peggy perhaps said it best with a new song that she penned for Pete’s 94th birthday. It kicked off the second half of the evening, and she was joined by Bill Vanaver on banjo, Happy Traum on guitar and quartet of Seeger family back-up singers as she settled down at the piano and sang, “It’s Pete. It’s Pete. Strummin’ his banjo, stampin’ his feet. That lanky man comes down your street, and what do you know… you’re singing.”
Peggy and Pete Seeger
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: The Eighth Step at Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
Musical highlights: Pete’s “Turn, Turn, Turn” and “Quite Early Morning”; Peggy’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and “Everything Changes”
Length: Two 65-minute sets
The crowd: Sold out or quite nearly, spanning the generations




Review: Peggy Seeger@ Darwen Library Theatre

This is Lancashire
Monday 15th October 2012 in Leisure
By John Anson, Features editor

CAST your minds back to your schooldays, to those teachers you would occasionally get who on the outside appeared fearsome yet in reality everyone in the class loved.

This thought flashed through my mind as Peggy Seeger charmed and cajoled an audience at the library theatre.

At 77 Peggy remains a feisty character. She sat in the audience to listen to the excellent support act David Metcalfe and then jumped up at the end of his set to tell all those sitting at the back she expected them to move forward for the main event.

Then second song in we were being given a chorus to learn and urged to sing up.

But don’t get me wrong, it was all great fun.

Peggy retains a remarkable singing voice at times capable as she put it “of cutting cheese” and at others deep and resonant.

Then there is her considerable musical ability. Banjo, guitar, box banjo, piano and the wonderful sounding auto harp – she played them all with remarkable flair.

From her most famous song Gonna Be An Engineer to obscure 19th century folk songs we were given a glimpse into her remarkable musical catalogue.

There were protest songs, comedy songs, readings and even a communal poem. It was an interesting, unusual evening – and on reflection, a rather special one.



Dear Peggy

Thank you SO much for your concert in Pz and especially for singing Engineer.  To you it may be an albatross around your neck which you have sung over 7000 times, but hearing you singing it live moved me to tears.

I thought you were brilliant.  Everything I would like to be as I get older: alive, curious, feisty, sharp-witted, unapologetic, dissenting, interesting, truly myself...thank you for the modelling.  And yes at 58 I'm beginning to feel old in both body and brain - but then I've had everything early: menopause, breast cancer and now osteoarthritis (same initials as Old Age!)

I've been enjoying the CD and tape I bought too - singing along loudly and enthusiastically!  Never as good as a live performance but still inspiring and uplifting.  What a breath of fresh air you are!   I'm looking forward to teaching my new niece the animal songs too.

In gratitude and strength of sisterhood
Sheila Rose Bright



Dear Peggy - I just got home. I stayed till about 3.45 in your concert. What a beautiful set you did. Intelligent, funny and beautifully sung songs and spoken poems... I am not often totally absorbed by a performance but I certainly was in yours. I really hope this isn't sounding patronising... I mean it only with gratitude and respect. Fantastic!  Roy Bailey



portland, OR - April  2011

I'm recommending this to bluegrassers. Peggy, sister to Mike Seeger, is not a bluegrass performer but her music is closely connected to the traditions that bluegrass grew out of. She plays a truly beautiful style of clawhammer banjo, crystal clear, gorgeous. And her picking on that fine old Martin git tar will make your socks roll up and down in double time. I saw her in Portland last night at a sold out concert and it was just plain fantastic. That old lady is as agile and fresh as a 20-year-old. Her performance style and amazing rapport with the crowd have to be experienced to believe. There is a lot there that will please bluegrass musicians and fans, you can count on it.

Bill Martin


vancouver folk song society - April 2011

Dear Josh (Peggy's Agent),

I hope you'll hear confirmation from Peggy, but I wanted to let you know that we had a wonderful time at the concert last night. She arrived with her host carrying sushi for after the soundcheck, so the small organizing crew had a lovely relaxed meal with her. She was a delight to work with, clear in her needs, and professional -- yet warm and interested in folks around her. When she saw the handmade poster in the lobby from the visit that she and Ewan made here, organized by the Folk Song Society in 1959, she asked to have it moved on to the stage for her.
We had about 180 in the audience (Pat has final figures)  -- not bad with short notice, and I THINK she was happy with our sound system "volunteers" who set up the stage for her and the venue itself. They were certainly happy to work with her, chat tech needs, and meet them.
The audience ranged from one of our Club's founders, who remembered Peggy from the last visit, or concerts in England, or..., to young folks comprising a 2 or 3-generation outing. She was new to some, and wonderful nostalgia to others, and I think -- inspiration to all.
I hope she also enjoyed herself, too. We had a wild thunder and lightning storm about 2 hours after the concert finished, but the morning and afternoon was clear and bright for her travels south.
Thanks for a rare opportunity that I will remember for years, and we did our best to take good care of her.
Best wishes,
vancouver folk song society


Concert in Goole Yorkshire England
November 6, 2010

I would like to thank Peggy for an excellent concert here in my home town of Goole. This was a relaxed evening in the presence of a lady at ease with her songs and attitude to an audience.
The Junction is a brand new arts centre and for this town to attract someone of Peggy Seeger's talents is really good. The turn out from Gooles folk supporters was as good as ever.
Peggy sang songs that appealed and was well received. She took time before the concert to introduce herself and spent the interval talking to and selling her CDs. We bought two. But
her songs on the night were both easy listening and thought provoking. Interspaced between songs, she told stories and jokes. One about high diving was amusing, if slightly tongue in cheek.

Her song in remembrance of her brother Michael ( I Remember. A song for Mike)  was very moving and many in the audience must have felt that they too have had similar experiences, that Peggy has put into words. In all, a wonderful evening enjoyed by all.

Ian Blackburn
Goole Yorkshire England



From the February 27, 2010 Nelson, New Zealand Women’s Center brilliant benefit concert.


An early review follows:

As the list of still active veteran artists continues to dwindle through inevitable attrition, we become increasingly grateful for those who persevere. Invariably, that gratitude is compounded when the artist in question not only perseveres, but does so while continuing to expand as an artist and build upon their respective legacies in the process. . . .True to form, Peggy Seeger has to date carved out a most impressive track record for herself via her solo endeavors, as well as the aforementioned collaborations with Mike Seeger and her late husband, composer Ewan McColl. Happily, Peggy Seeger Live succinctly yet decidedly celebrates those numerous triumphs via her ability to bring to the table her respective strengths as vocalist, composer, arranger and instrumentalist on an “as needed” basis.

To that effect, Peggy Seeger Live begins with a fairly faithful excerpt from Ludwig von Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, which simultaneously showcases her capability as a pianist, as well as her not so paradoxically genial and acerbic wit, which is used therein to salute both her mother and late brother. That unlikely combination is nonetheless endearing primarily by virtue of her frequently self-depreciating asides, which she briefly defers to in that same passage with a somewhat subjective assessment of her proficiency on the instrument. It is that rapier-like wit, as well as her highly discerning turn of phrase and remarkable ability as an instrumentalist (particularly evidenced in her sublime guitar work on You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are) that serve her admirably throughout the proceedings. Whether it is the wry social commentary of I’m Gonna Be An Engineer, Call Me Black and Fatal Flower Garden or the timeless exuberance of Bought Me A Cat and the uptempo workout, Sally Goodin/Sourwood Mountain, Seeger is unerringly in command of the proceedings. She is aided throughout by Bob Bickerton, Nathan Torvik and project producer (and long time partner), Irene Pyper-Scott, who also provides superb vocal accompaniment on Fatal Flower Garden.While it might seem difficult to summarize so vast and impressive a legacy into a single album, Peggy Seeger Live nonetheless serves as both a representative sampling of her most enduring attributes as a musician, while in turn inspiring further investigation. In the words of one of her earlier triumphs, Peggy Seeger remains On The Edge. In turn, those of us who are the beneficiaries of her tireless endeavors do indeed realize how blessed we are.

Michael McDowell
Editor/Publisher Blitz Magazine
Since 1975 - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People
The Shape Of Things To Come column



RE: Pete Seeger's 90th birthday bash

Madison Square Gardens, May 3, 2009


From Bill Vanaver
Dear Peggy:

I'm just writing to let you know how touched & grateful I was by your poem/dedication to Pete on Sunday. It was definitely the high point of the whole concert for me! Not only was the writing superb, but your warmth & heartfelt, yet skillful delivery were worthy of a fine actress! You managed to evoke in the audience's "mind's eyes" a vivid experience of those days in Beacon, and at once humanized yet lent impetus for our further appreciation of the "Beacon Seegers". 

You know, we'll be together at Old Songs in a workshop called "innovative banjo styles." I've always thought of you as one of the great stylistic innovators on the banjo, especially as an accompanying instrument.

Hmmm, You're such a great song crafter, singer, instrumentalist, songwriter - looks like I'll have to add actress to the list!

All the best,

PS. Your "12 tone" piano playing was classy, too.


Re: "The Songs of Conscience" event

Glasgow, February 28th 2007

...But this wasn't the last of the exciting collaborations in which I was involved at the festival. On Sunday 28th January, myself and my friend Corrina Hewat, co-hosted "Songs of Conscience", a celebration of women singers and songwriters with something to say. Chief amongst these was the remarkable Peggy Seeger, who stepped in at two days notice, as a replacement for the equally majestic, but recovering from an illness, Odetta. I was fortunate to perform last year with Peggy's sons Calum and Neil McColl, as part of the Folk Britannia series at London's Barbican and I was well aware of her stature and repertoire and, most especially, with partner Ewan McColl and radio producer Charles Parker, as one of the creators of the original 1950s/60s Radio Ballads programmes. But I wasn't prepared for quite how radiant, gracious and gutsy she would appear both in person and as a performer. It was like watching a master class in folk performance to be frank: a truly positive force.

Karine Polwart


House Concert, Franklin, Massachusetts

October 2006

I have been looking forward to this show for YEARS. It took a long time to put it together and Peggy's moving to the Boston area made it possible (as well as the great favor Josh did for me). We were able to workout a deal for Peggy to do both a songwriting workshop in the morning and a concert in the afternoon. Her workshop is unique, her perspective on Folkmusic and songwriting is really helpful to people starting out as well as more experienced writers.

The concert was standing room only. Peggy has a way with an audience that gets everyone involved. We had people from 5 to 85 in the audience. The houseconcert setting was a great way for Peggy to get close to the audience, and she was great in this kind of intimate setting.

She is the REAL THING. I was just amazed to hear the stories from her time in England, it was wonderful. Peggy is a very strong personality and she lets you know here positions thru her music.

I don't know Josh, I wish I could be better at 1 or 2 liners.

It was a surreal experience to have PEGGY SEEGER in MY livingroom. I think she had a good time, and I really enjoyed talking to her and getting to know her a little better. As I said to her when she left, I have to go find another dream to come true.

-Barry (Excellent Host and Manager of Everything, says Peggy)


Common Thread

It was such a great pleasure to sing with you and meet you Wed. at Common Thread. I really mean that! I'd wondered who that woman I recognized was when I came into rehearsal, but just couldn't place her! I had never seen you live but always a great admirer of your work and person. You are a woman to emulate in so many ways. There are very few feminist role models I could relate to in the over 60 crowd, for one thing, and you have such a way with phrasing. Besides your voice just gets better and better in my estimation. I couldn't get a ticket for your house concert which I heard was fantastic, but I bought most of the CDs. .... I hope you'll come to Toronto again before too long, maybe for Eve's launch in September... Thanks again, LDP


Peggy Seeger At the Market House, Monaghan

October 20, 2004

Francis Devine, Irish Times 2005

Working in Monaghan recently, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Peggy Seeger was playing at the tastefully refurbished Market House. Is there not something slightly surreal about Peggy Seeger playing Monaghan! Well, maybe, maybe not - but she did cause consternation when introducing a song called Swallow & Trout. She said it was written by a Devon pig farmer and then innocently rambled into a number of jokes about pig farmers and the likelihood of them writing songs - and us only a few hops, as the pig flies, from Iniskeane and Patrick Kavanagh himself!

Born in the United States in 1935, daughter of Charles and Ruth Crawford Seeger - both musicians, musicologists and composers in their own right - Peggy Seeger was surrounded by music from birth. She is sister of Pete Seeger - Grand Old Man of American Folk - and Mike Seeger, a multi-instrumentalist. In 1956, she met Ewan MacColl in London and began a wonderful, creative partnership. Together they had three children - Neill, Calum and Kitty. Ewan died in 1989 and Peggy has since migrated back to the United States. so, the chances of seeing her in Ireland are limited.

The Monaghan gig was small, intimate, involving and encouraging. Peggy sang unaccompanied and to her own accompaniment, variously, on 5-string banjo, autoharp, concertina and grand piano. Much of the material came from a recent recording Heading For Home, material she describes as 'all but one, Anglo-American traditional pieces. The selection is classic, the accompaniments simple. These are songs with which I feel completely at home. songs which have lasted for generations and which I hope will last for generations more'.

Now, I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of this tradition or of its singing style. but I was won over on the night by a superb delivery. American material included the Mississippi song John Gilbert, a peanut and cotton boat, and another sing-along 'song about these hard times, When will the good times roll'. Not at all typically American, Seeger's views of the imminent Presidential election and on the Iraq invasion were interesting, if, for some of the audience, controversial. She prefaced a song inspired by the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon by reading a list of all the countries the US had bombed since the Second World War. Well, she selected from the list as time constraints were pressing. Her anti-GW song, Go Easy On Him, was vintage - angry but insightful oppositional but constructive. By now, the audience were with her and against him.

She did a few requests including her 'albatross', the classic, feminist anthem, I'm Gonna Be an Engineer. She sang songs by Aunt Molly Jackson - Peacock Street or Cross Bone Scully - and a Carolina version of Little Musgrave, having guided us through the roots of the song from Barnard Castle on Teeside in County Durham. The People are Scratching was a satirical song about resources, man's continuing stupidity, globalisation and bleak winters advancing - and it all started with killing rabbits! Old classics Love Is Pleasing and, with great echoes of Pete Seeger, the 1960s, hope and times when we really could change the world, Where Have All The Flowers Gone. It echoed the courage and persistence of radical America, the beleaguered Left. In acknowledgement of the wisdom of the Smoking Ban, she sang of a woman's revenge against an unreformed smoker in a restaurant that involved eating many beans, artichokes, leeks and cabbage - you can guess the rest!

For a woman heading for seventy, Peggy Seeger looks terrific, always striking, she engaged and encouraged her small, shy audience until we were sitting in our parlor, singing along. She is a vintage and unique performer, carrying a rare but still developing tradition. This was evidenced by her final song, Heading for Home.

Always on the move

With banner unfurled

Yet gathering moss on my stone

I sing for the children

And cry for the world

And I'm thinking of heading for home

And I'm thinking of heading for home

The song looks over the horizon - all our horizons. It induced a reflective melancholy - for ourselves, for each other, for the peoples of Iraq and Palestine, for the helpless of Darfur and shanty towns across the Third World, for the victims of AIDS, the disadvantaged, the downtrodden, the dispossessed. We thought of Joe Hill and Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly and Bessie Smith, Seeger and MacColl. Her penultimate verse brought echoes of Monaghan and our own Troubles.


The memory of love will burn in my hart,

Till the ember and the ashes are gone,

The light in your window

Will be my northern star,

And I'm thinking of heading for home.

We hummed the last verse together before she rejoined

And it's time I was heading for home

And it's time I was heading for home.

Undervalued as a songwriter - especially in the shadow of MacColl, Heading for Home is but one of scores of valuable songs that Seeger has written, many grafted onto or from the living tradition. Her themes are love and betrayal, human solitude and need for affection, as well as the broad sweeps of socialist, feminist values and ideas. I looked across the amber light of the stone, timber and whitewash Market House, heard the incessant, sleety rain on the roof an witnessed an audience enthralled, left to sing on their own and all heading for home with thoughts and emotions drawn from deep, deep wills. Great gig, Peggy!



Unitarian Universalist Church Concert

GLORIA HOLLOWAY (Tampa, Florida)

On May 12, 2004, Peggy Seeger was featured at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tampa's Concerts in the UU Dome series. As chair of the concert committee, I want to thank you for helping make this happen.

Peggy is a delight. Not only is she a wonderful artist, she's personable, down-to-earth, and very easy to work with. She's also caring and considerate. Our sound man that night was an old-time banjo player and a big fan of Peggy's. I mentioned this to her prior to the concert. She didn't forget it. After the concert was over, she more than made his day by inviting him to join her in some jamming. She had him play her banjo as she accompanied him on guitar. The two of them seemed to have a grand ole time. And for those of us who were cleaning up, we got treated to a post-concert jam as we worked.

As for the concert itself, after it was over, I got lots of hugs and verbal thank yous from folks as they were leaving. I also got written feedback which I'd like to share with you.

Jan Milner: I was absolutely captivated by Peggy Seeger. Her performance at the UU Dome was more than just a concert. It was an experience that involved and touched me. Her music is a wonderful blend of traditional and original songs.

Marbeth Bingman: ..... All week I have had on my mind to thank you for having Peggy Seegar at the dome. I'm so glad that I was able to attend her concert. What a woman! Her music spoke to my soul. I bought one CD and have listened to it every day since.

Mil Pelrine: We enjoyed Peggy Seeger VERY much. She is very talented, down-to-earth and friendly -- a truly class act. Loved the variety of her presentation and her relaxed way of delivering it.

Gerald Strain: She made me realize my importance as an individual, and my contribution to others.

Lucy V. Parker:
For me, the Peggy Seeger concert was a trip to the past -- so many coffee houses, hootenannies, and sing-alongs in the '50's and '60's, so much outrage, so much hope, so many dreams. It was a reminder of our heritage of ballads and story songs -- of our country and its roots in the Old World. At the same time, it was the present laughing at us (and with us) as we all grow older, asking where our "get-up and go has got up and went." It was the present staring us unflinchingly in the face with a song about 9-11 that mourns our dead while mourning those killed by our many bombings in the name of democracy and freedom over the past half century.

No, no one walked out of that enlightened Unitarian Universalist gathering, as Peggy told us some audiences have done. We were there to hear Peggy, whatever she had to say -- Peggy switching instruments as she battles carpel's tunnel, her voice still clear, as timeless as her music, her concert an homage to the past, an insightful look into male-female and other current struggles, her demands.for peace and justice urgent and ever-relevant. "My grandson smiles at me," she recalled in her final song, "growing wiser, growing older. He swears he'll never smoke or drink or go to be a soldier. Oh, how I long for peace!






When chance and genetics collide, anything can happen. Peggy Seeger's gene pool may have predicted a solid folk career (sister of Pete and Mike, daughter of avant garde composer, Ruth Crawford Seeger), but it was probably her electrifying encounter with Ewan MacColl that really marked her cards for greatness. Their combined passion and political zeal were the spur for an entire generation of music fans who liked their politics and politicians well-roasted - on both sides.

The chance to catch the divine Ms. Seeger in a cosy venue is one that only the foolhardy would miss. For much of her performance in Whelan's this week, the rewards more than measured up to the reputation. Her multi instrumentalism (guitar, autoharp, banjo, keyboards, concertina), her unashamed fealty to the politics of folk music (where gender wars, labour laws, ecology and Napoleon jostle for space), and her magnificent voice conspired to still a surprisingly small crowd who hung on her every note and syllable.

Armed with a scrapbook of unlikely, sobering and downright surreal press cuttings which she interspersed between the music, Seeger's repertoire was a timely reminder of just how searingly real folk music can be. This is music by, of and about folks, and when their lives are touched by war, by discrimination, by greed and by love, their stories are most definitely worth telling - and telling again.

For A Job straddled the past and present with its references to silicon and lint, asbestos and coal, a labour song stripped of the usual jingoistic elevation of work to pedestals unreachable by most of us ornery folk. It's A Free World was a wry peep at the dubious pleasures of personal freedom (ever tried discouraging an insistent smoker with a fart? Ms. Seeger swears by it), and The Caveman reflected the reaction of one woman's response to 9/11, where rhetoric was supplanted by bald fact, and the unassailable parallels in Dubya's world of terrorism and patriotism were well and truly lambasted.

Seeger's greatest asset is her uncanny ability to dissolve the gap between artist and audience. She belongs to a long line of musicians who sunder the meat from the bone effortlessly, rendering the unpalatable visible. Listening and watching her trawl through past and present, it was easy to see where Ani di Franco, Utah Philips and Bruce Springsteen drew from the well.

And like all the best conscientious objectors, Seeger defied the curfew and played on, even treating us to a bareboned delivery of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. Now if only the venue could've silenced the till and muzzled the DJ next door, it would have been a night to file high on the list of most memorable gigs.

Siobhán Long



Neil Johnston's Festival Notebook

Belfast Telegraph, Friday, November 8, 2002

Peggy Seeger: She must be one of the most complete artists around today. Peggy Seeger's tongue-in-cheek look at life comes accompanied by music from all sorts of sources. Alongside the piano, the guitar, the Appalachian dulcimer, the concertina and the banjo, she set the lot aside for a moment or two last night and just simply created rhythm and music by taping the side of her guitar. For her it spelt out a sort of rhythm of life.

Peggy Seeger is obviously proud of her family connections with Ewan MacColl and Pete Seeger, and she brings them, and her mother, into most of her very engaging narratives. She did sing the love song "The First Time Ever I Saw Her Face" and a lot of others, but it was mainly her other off-the-cuff comments or asides that seemed to appeal most to the audience.

Clever stuff, it was necessary to pay careful attention to what she said to "catch her drift". Obviously a fair old advocate of human rights, she is clever and caring, and gave fine treatment to disability with the song 'Roll On, I'm a Woman on Wheels'. Peggy Seeger will be asked back.

Epithets such as ‘veteran’ or ‘legendary’ trip all too easily from the pen when describing performers such as Peggy Seeger. With some fifty years’ experience and at least the same number of albums to her name, the New York born musician has nothing left to prove; that did not prevent her from putting on a show that was a model for any aspiring folk singers and a joy from start to finish.

With both her parents steeped in music (father, Charles Seeger, was a noted ethnomusicologist and her mother a composer and pianist), Peggy grew up surrounded by music and folklore. When she moved to England in 1959 and married Ewan MacColl, she entered the exciting world of the British folk revival and with MacColl she helped to shape it.

At the Folk Club, she said that she had no prepared program yet the evening took on a shape as she shared her lifetime's experience in a series of traditional and contemporary songs from Britain and America. The late Ewan MacColl’s torch burned brightly throughout with the inclusion of his classic The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (written for her) and several others songs written by or learned from him. Her own songs were in turn humorous and caustic. Moving with ease from guitar to banjo and more, she ended, after two and a half hours, at the piano for a look at old age before returning for an encore, Heading For Home.

By Geoff Harden
BBC Radio Ulster reviews
November, 2002



Concert Review in the Village Voice

Peggy Seeger, First Woman of Folk, Returns to New York Anchored by Ballads

by Lara Pellegrinelli April 24 - 30, 2002

The motorcades belonging to musical celebrities look conspicuous navigating Manhattan's asphalt straits: lumbering 18-wheelers hauling heavy sound equipment; state-of-the-art tour buses decorated with tacky, airbrushed murals; and, for tooling around locally, everything from anonymous black limos to stretch hummers.

More unusual, if less pretentious, is the chariot preferred by singer-songwriter Peggy Seeger: a well-appointed motor home named "Maggie," soon to cruise our thoroughfares. "It's seven feet wide, nine feet high, and 19 feet long," she says, "but I can get into an ordinary parking space if I'm in good form and no men are trying to help me." Seeger, one quickly deduces, has a healthy aversion to the passenger seat.

It serves her well. The North Carolina resident, a rosy-cheeked 66-year-old with an accent difficult to place, takes to the road an average of five months per year—just the right amount for a "tempered workaholic." After a pit stop at the New Jersey Folk Festival at Rutgers this Saturday afternoon, she will forge ahead to the Advent Lutheran Church on West 93rd Street. A solo concert that evening presented by the Pinewoods Folk Music Club—her first in the city in some four years—will be followed by a Sunday-afternoon workshop on songwriting, a topic she handles deftly in The Peggy Seeger Songbook: Warts and All.

She knows whereof she speaks. Since 1959, Seeger has written hundreds of songs. Those who regard Joni Mitchell, Carole King, and Laura Nyro as the first generation of singer-songwriters to craft material from women's experiences should think again. Seeger is a missing link between the 1950s American folk-song revival and women's liberation; the guitar-toting chanteuses of the 1970s could not have existed without either of those movements.

A member of "the first family of American folk music," Seeger appears to have been destined to her calling from birth. Her mother, Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901-53), was the first woman ever awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship for composition. Her father, Charles (1886-1979), worked alongside Ruth and folk-song collector Alan Lomax at the Smithsonian and became a leading scholar in the emerging discipline of ethnomusicology. Half-brother Pete, her senior by 16 years, was a driving force behind the folk-song revival with his group the Weavers. And brother Mike, a brilliant multi-instrumentalist, would garner high praise as a member of the old-timey New Lost City Ramblers.

Peggy began learning the piano at six, guitar at 10, and banjo at 15. There was so much music in the suburban Maryland home, she says, that she only listened to her radio for The Lone Ranger, Inner Sanctum, and Backstage Wife. Frequent visitors included Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and Elizabeth Cotton. The diminutive Guthrie, her equal in height when she was nine years old, carried his guitar without a case, dragging it by its strap like a dog on a leash. Elliott also happened to be on the S.S. Maasdam when Seeger left Radcliffe College to kick around Europe; they had hootenannies in every corner of the ship.

She would find the other major influence in her life across the puddle: British playwright and songwriter Ewan MacColl (1915-89), her life partner for over 30 years. "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," his best-known song, can be tied to a precise moment: "March 25, 1956, at 10:30 in the morning," Seeger remembers—the moment they met.

She settled in England—one reason why she is less recognized here than her siblings—and only returned to the States permanently in 1994. Together, she and MacColl produced two volumes of traditional British songs, collaborated on the annual "Festival of Fools" by the Critic's Group in London, and, with BBC producer Charles Parker, created Radio Ballads, a groundbreaking series of documentaries woven from interview material, sound effects, and original music. She compiled the Essential Ewan MacColl Songbook in 2001.

Her original material, as one might gather, draws heavily on the Anglo-American folk tradition. "The ballads are your anchor," she explains. "They're your heart songs. They're your history." Her writing certainly owes a debt to their formal structures, as well as their stark and plainspoken texts. Her first verse in "The Ballad of Springhill" (1958) eerily concludes, "There's blood on the coal and the miners lie/In the roads that never saw sun nor sky."

Like other folksingers, Seeger tackles love, war, pregnancy, politics, nature, and nuclear arms, from what has increasingly become an eco-feminist perspective. But perhaps her greatest gift lies in personalizing these issues as seen through the eyes of others. For example, Seeger joined demonstrators at Greenham Common in Berkshire, England, to protest the presence of cruise missiles throughout the 1980s; "Woman on Wheels" tells the story of Jennifer Jones, a woman she met plying the base's chain-link fence with bolt cutters from her wheelchair. "Missing," a plea for "disappeared" Chilean activist Murielita Navarrete, resulted from a six-hour conversation with Navarrete's mother and sister.

She never minces words, a quality that also begets particularly pointed, salt-of-the-earth humor. The sights—and smells—she so vividly captures might make you squeamish. In "It's a Free World" (1993), a determined restaurant patron combats smoking by harnessing a powerful force of nature: flatulence (bringing new meaning to the question "Filtered or unfiltered?"). "I'm Gonna Be an Engineer" (1971), her most popular song and one adopted as an anthem of the women's movement, provides a whiff of a lady's less savory domestic duties: "Well, every time I turn around there's something else to do/It's cook a meal, mend a sock, or sweep a floor or two/Holding out the potty when the baby wants to poo/I was gonna be an engineer!"

Some of Seeger's more recent offerings challenge the bombings in Afghanistan—one song is prefaced with the sizable list of U.S. targets since 1945. Seeger's a good eavesdropper, or so she says. Her time spent on planes, trains, in roadside diners, and otherwise in the company of the folk still inspires her. "In my life these days, I travel," she says. "I stay in people's houses. I listen to their stories and I'm astounded by their survival tactics and all that they know. I learn, I learn, I learn."

Tell us what you think. E-mail this story to a friend. Original article accessible at:


Anchorage Daily News

March 15, 2000

"The tall and slender folk singer gracefully managed the stage all evening, moving back and forth from banjo to guitar to dulcimer to piano to autoharp to concertina.

"Woven throughout her concert were stories from her life . . . Real life is funnier than fiction, and from real life this woman is inspired.

"Seeger is a spiritual person, although not in the traditional sense, as she will tell you. She finds sanctuary in large churches because they are usually in the middle of noisy cities. Inside she can hear the pure white page of silence, and then her own thoughts can be heard. On these pure white pages her music is often written."

Marilyn Blumer


Winnipeg Free Press

"She is very much committed to the establishment of a sane world (a goal that she feels may not be reached for hundreds of years) and focuses her creative talents on issues that affect us all . . . she espouses her beliefs through her music in a people-oriented, non-dogmatic way, leaving plenty of room for songs that mirror the joys of life as well."

Coral McKendrick


The Tribune, Oakland CA

"She is an irreplaceable repository of significant songs . . . direct, humanized music for real-life situations."

Larry Kelp


 Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

"After the three traditional songs that opened the show, Seeger sang a fast and funny contemporary song about a woman who wants wages for her housework. Showcasing her perfect diction and constantly amazing sense of timing, she rattled off the seemingly never-ending chores, responsibilities and worries of the 'mere housewife.' "

M. Scot Skinner


New York Times

"Her success lies largely with her ability to work and write within traditional modes. Many of these songs sound as though they have been around over the centuries . ."

Ira Mayer


The National Guardian

"In one of the most moving songs of the program, 'Song of Myself,' Peggy made her own stand clear, not the least remarkable aspect of which was that without once using the teminology of womens' liberation, she defined herself as her own person in her own terms."

Irwin Silber


Salt Lake Tribune

"Miss Seeger is a charming entertainer. She was entirely at ease, yet in complete command of her varied, enjoyable program. Her casual manner disarmed her more than 400 listeners and created that relaxed intimacy that facilitates communication between performer and audience."

Lowell Durham


The Rise and Fall of Popular Music

"In October 1990 on a BBC TV programme about MacColl, a year after his death, Peggy Seeger, accompanied by her own autoharp and a discrete background guitar, sang 'Thoughts of Time': it was one of the most frankly and directly beautiful musical moments I have ever seen on television."

Donald Clarke


The Daily Telegraph

6-part radio documentary on Peggy Seeger, produced by Jim Lloyd of the BBC, June-July 1994 

"There is a new radio documentary series which will send shivers of recognition down the spine of anyone who likes songs and singing, who believes that words and music combined tell a story greater than their separate parts. Peggy Seeger is on Radio 2 on Wednesday nights for the next four weeks. Last week, for impact and significance, it outshone most competition from Radios 3 and 4 . . . Peggy's turn of phrase are like sun and shadow. Lloyd's quiet interviewing style probes while seeming only to prompt. When you're listening to it, the world seems to open out."

Gillian Reynolds



“For decades, Seeger has been one of the most authoritative voices in American and English folk...While she is acknowledged as an esteemed interpreter of traditional material and a gifted instrumentalist, she is perhaps best known for her observant and caustic original songs about women.”

Chris Morris


East Stroudsburg University

“Peggy Seeger does an outstanding job of exploring and singing songs that help illuminate the condition of women through the difficulties we face.”

Mollie Whalen
Coordinator of Women’s Studies


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