Never The Woman Behind the Man…R.I.P. Toshi Seeger

“Without my grandmother, there would be no Pete Seeger the way people understand it,” Tao Rodriguez-Seeger (Pete and Toshi’s Grandson) told the Associated Press

Toshi may not have liked a spotlight on her, but without her, Pete would readily admit, life as he knew it, would’ve been a lot different. Pete called Toshi, “…the brains of the family.”-Martin Douglas, NY Times Toshi Seeger played an integral role in the career of her activist/folksinging troubadour husband, Pete Seeger, whom I’ve admired since my mom bought me his first album for children when I was around 4 years old, that’s 56 years ago, folks. I would sometimes see Toshi at the South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan, right after Pete bought the Clearwater Sloop, many years before the seaport was renovated. That was a time…saw a very young Don McLean tell us that he was going to sing a song that wasn’t finished yet…”American Pie.”

 Toshi created the annual Clearwater Festival that is still going strong, just one of her many accomplishments and there are many.                             

If you haven’t seen the PBS documentary: Pete Seeger: The Power of Song, please do so. Toshi was the Executive Producer and it is great. You really get an inside look at their life together.

Though Toshi was left home a lot while Pete was on the road, she was always active and, like Pete, was a true activist who worked hard for Civic and Equal Rights. Toshi had a very interesting upbringing which was the foundation for her social awareness and consciousness. She attended “progressive” schools such as The Little Red Schoolhouse in Greenwich Village and The High School for Music and Art, my husband’s beloved alum as well as that of Janis Ian and many other very talented people!

“Toshi Seeger, wife of folk music legend Pete Seeger and by his own account his most cherished and valuable muse, died Tuesday at their long-time home in Beacon. She was 91. She was also a filmmaker, lifelong activist and music manager. The couple married on July 18, 1943, just before he shipped overseas in the Army. When he launched his long, eventful and sometimes stormy music career after the war, she was by his side, often literally. Toshi Seeger did his bookings, produced his concerts and executive-produced the 2007 PBS documentary “Pete Seeger: The Power of Song,” which won an Emmy.

She also directed his 1965-66 TV series “Rainbow Quest,” which had limited distribution through outlets like channels 47 and 13, but has since been recognized as an invaluable archive of folk music. Her official credit on that low-budget show was ‘Chief Cook and Bottle Washer.’ She brought their three children to the congressional hearings where Seeger refused to testify about his political beliefs. He was sentenced to a year in jail for contempt, though he never served any time.”David Hinckley, NY Daily News,7-12-13

Without a doubt, I am 100% sure that Toshi must’ve been so proud when she saw her grandson, Tao, perform with his grandfather. When you would see both Pete and Tao together, you could see the mutual love and respect emanating!

Here they are with Guy Davis singing Guantanamera:

I cannot imagine the grief bestowed on Pete, his family and close friends. I do know what it is like to lose a dad and a brother, there is no closure, there is always grief and there is always that wanting to share with them what is going on in one’s life. My condolences go out to the family for the passing of Toshi Seeger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Never The Woman Behind the Man…R.I.P. Toshi Seeger

  1. A beautiful tribute, Ilene. She was a remarkable woman.
    I think we had similar Seeger childhoods. Froggy Went A Courtin’ and Go tell Aunt Rhody were staples in my house, and my very first live concert was seeing Pete at the U of Minnesota when I was 7.

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