‘Legend’ is a term often bandied about a little too loosely, but in the case of Peggy Seeger, it is a justified and well-earned description. Seeger has been a pivotal figure in the UK and US folk movements, in her own right, and with her late husband Ewan MacColl, and comes from a musical family steeped in the traditions of folk and blues. Her siblings Mike and Pete Seeger also went on to be successful musicians and songwriters.
Seeger has a long and colourful history in political activism through song, being blacklisted by the CIA in the 1950s at the height of the McCarthy communist paranoia in the US, which prevented her travelling to Russia and China. She has continued her activism, channelled through writing, recording and touring over the past seven decades.
However; at the age of 85, she has announced ‘First Farewell’ which is (probably, apparently, maybe) going to be her final album. It is released on April 9th via Red Grape Music. It is Seeger’s first to be written and recorded entirely with her immediate family members – sons Calum and Neill MacColl and daughter-in-law Kate St John. The album release will also be accompanied by a 26 date UK tour during May and June.
As you would expect, the album contains songs in which Seeger uses her empathy and insight to address some of the key political and social concerns of today such as social media addiction, fossil fuels, modern slavery and young male suicide. Her desire for change seems as urgent now as it did at the start of her career; her uncompromising focus has not waned over the decades, not a bit.
Ahead of the album release, Seeger has issued a new single – ‘The Invisible Woman’ – (co-written with son Neill) which explores how the older generation, but particularly older women have become marginalised, forgotten and invisible in today’s society. It may not be like the 1950s anymore and progress has been made but, sadly, the patriarchy is still in charge. Seeger, though, is not letting up and is doing her bit to change that and at the end of the video she wryly says: “Very visible at the moment” in contrast to the theme of the song.
Speaking about the track, Seeger says:
My older son Neill MacColl was hesitant for ages about co-writing with me. He turned up at my home one day, laid his 6’1” self along my two-seater sofa and laconically offered a possible subject for a song. ‘The Invisible Woman’ strolled in gradually, wearing clown shoes and lace underwear. We ended up with a song that expressed an uncomfortable new feeling that was creeping up on us both but that echoed the folk songs that I’d sung to him since birth.
Seeger’s continued joy in creating and performing (look at her face on the album cover!) and her patient, determined activism, is as strong as ever and it is wonderful to behold in the video she has released to accompany the track. Recorded with Neill and Calum, Seeger’s eyes dazzle with a wry knowing and lust for life that feels like this might be solo album number 1, rather than number 24.