American folk singer Peggy Seeger, the inspiration behind the number-one hit “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” will visit Rider as an artist-in-residence for a lecture and concert on Friday, March 30, through a partnership between the University and the Princeton Folk Music Society.
Sean Ramsden

Famed folk singer Peggy Seeger will present a lecture, as well as a concert, at Rider on March 30.

American folk singer Peggy Seeger, a member of the genre’s first family, will visit Rider as an artist-in-residence on Friday, March 30, through a partnership between the University and the Princeton Folk Music Society. Hailed as funny, smart, warm and wise, Seeger will present a lecture at 3:30 p.m. that day in Sweigart Auditorium, followed by an 8 p.m. concert in Gill Chapel. Both events are free and open to the public.

Born in 1935 to Charles Seeger, a famed folklorist and musicologist, and Ruth Crawford Seeger, the first woman to be awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship for music, Peggy Seeger is also the sister of acclaimed folk singer Mike Seeger, as well as the half-sister of the renowned Pete Seeger. Pete is considered to be the father of the post-World War II folk revival.

Peggy Seeger’s best-known compositions are Gonna Be an Engineer and The Ballad of Springhill, but she has also earned a place in the lore of American music as the inspiration for the song, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, written in 1957 by British folk singer Ewan McColl. The song, written for Seeger to use in a theatrical performance, would subsequently be covered by numerous folk artists before it became a number-one hit for Roberta Flack in 1972. That version earned McColl a Grammy award for Song of the Year. Longtime professional collaborators and partners, McColl and Seeger were married from 1977 until his death in 1989.

Seeger’s introduction to music came though her family’s interest in traditional songs, and between the ages of 12 and 35, she learned how to play the guitar, five-string banjo, autoharp, Appalachian dulcimer, and the English concertina. She attended Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Mass., for two years, and embarked on a life of songmaking in 1958, with her first successful song, The Ballad of Springhill.

Like many folk singers, Seeger has also lived a life of activism, though she says her message is typically best executed through song.

“My battlefield is the concert stage, the lecture hall,” Seeger explained. “My job, like so many songwriters, is to place – in a memorable and enticing form – a message that, were it in non-hummable form, might not be so easily remembered.”

The Princeton Folk Music Society has encouraged the growth of folk music in central New Jersey for 40 years. The organization sponsors a monthly house sing for members on the first Friday of each month and a monthly concert by visiting folk singers and songwriters, usually on the third Friday of each month.