Pete Seeger's death is end of an era for mid-Missouri folk musician

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Mid-Missouri musician Lee Ruth does not see the death of the great Pete Seeger as the death of folk music but as the end of an era.

Seeger, a singer-songwriter and activist who championed folk music since the 1940s, died Monday at age 94.

"I'm not going to miss him," Ruth said, "because he is still alive in my mind."

Before Seeger, Ruth said, the idea of being a professional folk singer was all but unheard of. But Seeger's group the Weavers made folk commercially successful with songs such as "Goodnight, Irene" by Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter.

Seeger toured around the world with the Weavers and later in life as a solo act, always bringing news songs back with him, Ruth said. 

Seeger's music "opened my ears to lots of musical possibilities," Ruth said. "I think the first folk music I ever heard were Weavers records."

Although he was never able to meet Seeger or see him perform, he greatly admired his work as a musician, particularly for singing uplifting songs. A few of his favorite Seeger songs are "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," "Turn, Turn, Turn," and "If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)." 

Ruth also admired Seeger's work as an activist. Seeger was outspoken in opposing the McCarthy era and the questioning of people based on their beliefs.

"Whatever he was doing," Ruth said, "it was heartfelt and had the best intentions in mind for the world and the human family."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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Mark Foecking January 29, 2014 | 9:20 a.m.

My favorite Pete Seeger tune is a Matt McGinn cover called "Manyura Manyah". When I'm getting fertilizer at Stephens College it's a particularly appropriate tune to sing.


(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 29, 2014 | 12:51 p.m.

Ah, it was good to hear Lee Ruth sing again. Back in the early '70s when I first came to Columbia, I was fresh off a stint with a bluegrass jug band from high school/early college and quickly paid attention to the local coffee house scene where Lee sometimes made an appearance. I relaxed at his mellow voice and guitar picking.

You had to sit close tho....his playing and singing were so soft, you had to be quiet and listen closely to appreciate the nuance.

I doubt he remembers me, but I bet he remembers one of my best friends and one helluva good 5-string banjo picker....Kevin Sanders.

In Lee, there is an authenticity, a respect for old and valued things........

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