Society for American Music
2003 Honorary Member

Mike Seeger

Visit Mike Seeger's web site

View the citation read at the annual meeting

As a tireless proponent and a brilliant performer of traditional American music, Mike Seeger has been an important force in our cultural lives for more than three decades.It is no wonder that Mike Seeger has maintained a lifelong fascination with the roots of American music: indeed, it has been in his blood from the day he was born. His father was the pioneering musicologist Charles Seeger; his mother, Ruth Crawford, was a respected composer and author of American Folk Songs for Children, long considered the definitive work in its field; his half-brother Pete, is, of course, one of the world's most beloved folksingers/songwriters; and sister Peggy has become widely known as an important figure in the renaissance of Anglo-American folk music. At a very early age, Mike began to absorb an extraordinary range of songs and styles. As Seeger himself recalled it, "I was raised on field recordings of Southern rural music and my parents' singing of these songs to me and their friends. We always sang around the house." By his late teens, he had developed a remarkable degree of virtuosity on a wide variety of instruments, including guitar, fiddle, autoharp, banjo, mandolin, dulcimer, mouth harp and dobro, and began a performing career with his sister Peggy. In the mid-fifties his interest began to shift from the prevalent urban folk music of the day to the country and bluegrass styles of the rural South. In 1958 he formed, with John Cohen and Tom Paley (replaced in 1963 by Tracy Schwartz), The New Lost City Ramblers, destined to become one of the most important and influential groups in the revival of American traditional music. During a remarkably prolific period in the 50s and 60s, the Ramblers produced a series of recordings that provided the source material for many a budding folkie's repertoire; a veritable encyclopedia of blues, ballads, and bluegrass breakdowns, songs of love and of labor.

As his own reputation as a performer began to grow, Mike also became a vital force in making available to a wider audience the work of many of the artists who first created the music he loved. At the behest of Folkways Records founder Moe Asch, he became a leading producer of field recordings. The first of these, Negro Folk Songs and Tunes, contained the first recorded work of the great songwriter/guitarist/singer Elizabeth Cotton. Subsequent Folkways recordings gathered by Seeger included work by the Stoneman Family, Dock Boggs, Don Stover, the Lilly Brothers and dozens of other American musical pioneers.

Over the decades, Mike Seeger has skillfully juggled multiple careers: he has gained universal renown and respect as a teacher and advocate of our most precious cultural treasures; and he has traveled the world, performing as an acclaimed solo artist, as a member of the New Lost City Ramblers, and in collaboration with his sister Peggy and other members of his illustrious family. His latest recording on the Rounder label, the Grammy-nominated Third Annual Farewell Reunion, (featuring a stellar line-up of folk, country, and bluegrass greats, including Bob Dylan, Maria Muldaur, David Grisman, Ralph Stanley, Pete and Peggy Seeger and many others), shows that Mike Seeger's passion for American roots music and his brilliance as a performer are undiminished. He remains one of our greatest musical and cultural resources.

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