Late Folk Music Legend Pete Seeger, 94, Earns First Woody Guthrie Prize

Seeger is an Avon Old Farms School Class of 1936 alumnus.

Legendary folk singer and political activist Pete Seeger, a Class of 1936 alumnus at Avon Old Farms School, will receive the Woody Guthrie Prize in February. Credit: Avon Old Farms School
Legendary folk singer and political activist Pete Seeger, a Class of 1936 alumnus at Avon Old Farms School, will receive the Woody Guthrie Prize in February. Credit: Avon Old Farms School
An Avon Old Farms School alumnus who recently was a nominee at The GRAMMYS and who passed away Monday will be honored with another prestigious award. 

Pete Seeger '36, 94, a "folk singer and political activist," was slated to accept the "inaugural Woody Guthrie Prize" on Sat., Feb. 22, according to a press release from Avon Old Farms, before he died. 

The award honors an artist "who best exemplifies the spirit and life's work of folk singer/songwriter Woody Guthrie by speaking for the less fortunate through music, film, literature, dance, or other art forms, and serving as a positive force for social change in America," the press release states.

"We hope that the Woody Guthrie Prize will shed an inspirational light on those who have decided to use their talents for the common good rather than for personal gain," Nora Guthrie, daughter of Woody Guthrie, said in a statement. "With his dry wit, Woody always preferred to call himself a 'common-ist.'  His quote from John Steinbeck's character, Tom Joad, says it pretty simply: 'Wherever children are hungry and cry, wherever people ain't free, wherever men are fightin' for their rights, that's where I'm gonna be.' There are so many people who are living this credo, and they're the ones we will be honoring."

There originally was going to be question and answer session with Seeger and GRAMMY Museum Executive Director Bob Santelli and Seeger was scheduled to perform with Woody's son, Arlo Guthrie before the news of his death. Tony Trischka is also scheduled to play at the event. 

Representatives of The Woody Guthrie Center, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, will present Seeger with the award at the Peter Norton Symphony Space in New York City, according to the press release. 

"We are honored to present the first Woody Guthrie Prize to Pete Seeger, whose incredible career pushes the boundaries of how music can make us think, feel and act," said Woody Guthrie Center Executive Director Deana McCloud. "We can think of no better recipient than a colleague, friend and confidant of Woody himself. Pete and Woody are arguably two of the most prolific folk musicians of their lifetimes."

Seeger has captured "social commentary and historical preservation" in over 70 years of making folk music, according to a press release. 

"Seeger's political activism on behalf of both social justice and the environment have encouraged generations of American citizens and musicians to stand up for change, and to do so through song," according to a press release from Avon Old Farms. 

Seeger has previously earned a "GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award, a Harvard Arts Medal, the Kennedy Center Award, the Presidential Medal of the Arts, and membership in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame," the press release states.

Avon Old Farms also honored Seeger in 2009 as the first recipient of the school's Distinguished Alumnus Award.  

"An American icon in the areas of music, political activism, and righteous causes, Seeger is the living embodiment of America's traditions in folk music and as such has made a distinguished contribution to 20th century American history," the school stated in the press release. 

There's no word at this time what the news of Seeger's passing means for the award ceremony. 


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