Mike Seeger: Articles at The Monochord
"Minglewood Blues" Sweetly Sings of Anthology

Mike Seeger's Legacy: To Be Continued

I've been out of town the last few days — at a funeral, coincidentally — so you presumably knew before I did that Mike Seeger has died. 

I don't see a heck of a lot on the web that seems to capture Seeger's significance, and it may take a long time before his true importance is widely and well understood.  Maybe Bill C. Malone's rumored biography will advance that project.

I like quoting what Bob Dylan's autobiography, Chronicles, says about Mike — not only to borrow Dylan's clout, but because nobody else has expressed it so vividly, before or since.  Buy Chronicles and read it. 

Only in Dylan's writing about Mike do I really recognize the guy I encountered — maybe only Bob and I saw it, but I bet a lot of people have the same feeling.

Here's a small sample of the thirteen-page ode dramatizing the impact Mike Seeger had on the young Dylan's sense of himself as an artist:

Sometimes you know things have to change, are going to change, but you can only feel it ... But then something immediate happens and you're in another world, you jump into the unknown, have an instinctive understanding of it — you're set free ... Somebody holds the mirror up, unlocks the door — something jerks it open and you're shoved in and your head has to go into a different place. Sometimes it takes a certain somebody to make you realize it. Mike Seeger had that affect on me.

He was extraordinary, gave me an eerie feeling. Mike was unprecedented. He was like a duke, the knight errant. As for being a folk musician, he was the supreme archetype. He could push a stake through Dracula's black heart ... It's not as if he just played everything well, he played these songs as good as it was possible to play them ... it dawned on me that I might have to change my inner thought patterns ... the thought occurred to me that maybe I'd have to write my own songs, ones that Mike didn't know. That was a startling thought.

The main thing I want to add tonight (because it might otherwise go unsaid) is how much I admired Mike's ethics as an intellect. 

He understood that trying to understand and explain things is difficult, and carries an ethical burden.  You OUGHT to be careful and humble in drawing conclusions, and you SHOULD get your facts right.  Be mindful of what you know to be the case, and what you don't. 

When he spoke, and when he wrote his liner notes, you could hear his great care in selecting words that said exactly what he knew, nothing less and nothing more.  I respected that in him.

Here's a round-up of selected previous writings about Mike Seeger.



Al Haug

He just quietly went about doing what he was driven to do and in that he became the best. What an amazing guy. Totally unpretentious, but yet had the air of a duke about him, like Dylan said. A prince in a homespun shirt.

I remember him telling us about one of the major folk music rediscoveries he was able to find, and it was something like "I was talking to some people at the gas station, and they said to look up this guy who played pretty good..."


2 best things that I've seen on the web about the late great Mike Seeger:

an appreciation of his life, by Paul Brown -- www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=111693752

terrific set of photographs by Mike Melnyk -- www.mikemelnyk.com/MikeSeeger8_7_09

Jerome Clark

I bought my first New Lost City Ramblers album in the spring of 1967, in a record shop in Fargo. As the album began to spin on the cheap little record player in my dorm room, I heard the sounds I had been waiting for, not knowing it, all of my young life. I was 20 at the time.

On a trip to the Twin Cities a few months later, I purchased a Mike Seeger solo LP on Vanguard (never reissued in CD, sadly). On it I heard -- for the first time -- "Fair and Tender Ladies," "Hello, Stranger," "I've Been All Around This World," and other songs that to this day enrich my time on this earth.

Mike Seeger introduced me to a way of living in this world. I will carry his memory and his music until the end of my own days. I am, I know, far from alone.

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