Pete Seeger was folk music.
The famed singer, who died Monday at the age of 94, was the torchbearer for the genre for decades. He was a tireless champion of the downtrodden, embodying the genre's late-'50s/early-'60s activist spirit perhaps better than anyone since Woody Guthrie.
Here's a look at some of Seeger's most significant songs:
"If I Had a Hammer" -- Seeger co-wrote the song with Lee Hays in 1949 as an anthem for the Progressive Movement and efforts to improve conditions for the working class. It was originally released as "The Hammer Song" by Seeger's group, the Weavers, and was later recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary, among many others.
"Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There Is a Season)" -- Simply put, this is one of the most amazing — and lasting — tunes in popular music history. Seeger drew the verses straight from the Bible, added a chorus and a closing line, and the result was pure folk music gold. The best-known version of this song was delivered by the Byrds, who hit No. 1 with "Turn! Turn! Turn!" in 1965.
"Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" -- This mesmerizing number addresses a similar theme as "Turn! Turn! Turn!," yet in much more somber fashion. It's a chilling meditation on life and death, with a heavy emphasis on the latter. It's been covered by everyone from Joan Baez and Harry Belafonte to Olivia Newton-John and Dolly Parton.
"We Shall Overcome" -- Seeger greatly helped popularize this folk standard, which would become a key anthem for the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. The song's roots can reportedly be traced back to the old gospel song "I'll Overcome Someday." Bruce Springsteen delivers a great version on his Seeger tribute album, "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions."
Follow Jim Harrington at http://twitter.com/jimthecritic, www.facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.