Folksinger and Scholar Mike Seeger Dead at 75

Neo-traditional folksinger and music scholar Mike Seeger died Friday (Aug. 7) at his home in Lexington, Va., of multiple myeloma. He was 75. The son of musicologist Charles Seeger and composer Ruth Crawford, Seeger extended the folksong footprints of his older and more famous half-brother, Pete Seeger, by becoming a systematic collector of traditional Southern rural music and by championing, recording and presenting to the public those who played it as a part of their everyday existence. He began playing banjo and guitar when he was 18 and started collecting and performing folk music in his early 20s. In 1958, he joined John Cohen and Tom Paley to form the New Lost City Ramblers, a group that modeled itself and built its repertoire on the rural string bands of the 1920s and 1930s. Unlike the smooth-singing and ironic Kingston Trio (which started a year earlier) or the politically-driven Weavers (of which Pete Seeger was a member), the New Lost City Ramblers opted for stylistic and thematic authenticity. Both in and out of this group, which disbanded in the mid-1960s, Seeger continued to perform, make and produce records and create instructional media. By the time he was presented the Bess Lomax Hawes NEA National Heritage Fellowship earlier this year, he had more than 30 documentary recordings to his credit and had starred or performed on an additional 40 albums. He played autoharp on Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ Grammy-winning album, Raising Sand.