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  • Smithsonian Folkways remembers traditional music preserver, performer, and teacher Mike Seeger (1933-2009)

    "Old-time rural music remains at the center of my life. It's a tactile, emotional, aural pleasure — the words are my Shakespeare and my mysteries, the music is my Bach, my pastime, and it makes me want to dance...Classic, timeless qualities in this music endure. For me, there ain't no way out but nature, and I'll make the most of it."
    — Mike Seeger
    (from the liner notes to the 1997 album There Ain't No Way Out by The New Lost City Ramblers)

    Mike Seeger, who devoted his life to documenting, teaching, keeping alive, and carrying forth the sounds of traditional music of the American South, died from cancer August 7th at the age of 75. A self-taught multi-instrumentalist and singer, Seeger's 50-plus-year career included recordings as a solo performer, as a founding member of the influential group The New Lost City Ramblers, and as a documenter of many of the finest 20th-century performers of the genre including Dock Boggs, Elizabeth Cotten, and Kilby Snow.

    We invite all fans of Mike to share thoughts, memories, and stories on the Smithsonian Folkways official Facebook page or email them to Selected submissions will be posted on

    Seeger's career highlights include producing the first long-playing bluegrass album, American Banjo: Three-Finger and Scruggs Style, earning six GRAMMY nominations (including nominations for Smithsonian Folkways albums Southern Banjo Sounds and 1997's There Ain't No Way Out with The New Lost City Ramblers), and earning the 2009 Bess Lomax Hawes Award from the National Endowment for the Arts among many other awards and grants. In all, Mike Seeger contributed to 75 Smithsonian Folkways albums, most recently a box set available August 25th, 2009 celebrating the 50th anniversary of The New Lost City Ramblers, and numerous Smithsonian Folklife Festivals as a researcher, presenter, and performer, including the first-ever festival in 1967. Mike Seeger will be remembered as tireless preserver, performer, and teacher of traditional music.

    Please click here for a profile of Mike Seeger, including video and audio samples.

    Smithsonian Folkways remembers traditional music preserver, performer, and teacher Mike Seeger (1933-2009) | Smithsonian Folkways Recordings