Pete Seeger, Helga Sandburg at Knox College

Folk singer, poet's daughter helped celebrate Carl Sandburg Centenary in 1978

January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger at Knox College in 1978; photo Galesburg Register-Mail

Folk singer Pete Seeger, who died January 27, 2014, and Helga Sandburg Crile, Carl Sandburg's daughter, who died on Jan. 28, both helped Knox College celebrate the 100th anniversary in 1978 of Sandburg's birth. The college magazine, Knox Now/Knox Alumnus, reported on Seeger's concert in Memorial Gymnasium:

A fitting climax to the Sandburg Centenary took place [on January 28, 1978] when some 3,000 people of all ages and from all walks of life filled the Knox gym to hear Pete Seeger sing his tribute to Sandburg.

America's current patriarch of folksong held that whole audience in his hand for almost three hours of humor and song. Accompanying himself on guitar, banjo and recorder, encouraging the audience to join in (and they did, a good part of the time), he sang lullabys, protest songs from five decades, spirituals, an African Zulu song, a Hebrew chant, old and new folk ballads, and yes, many from Carl Sandburg's "American Song Bag" collection.

He received three standing ovations. His warmth, his gentleness, his humor, his expertise-all make him a true balladeer in the Carl Sandburg tradition.

David Amor, retired instructor in sociology and journalism at Knox, recalls: "Perhaps the most moving experience during all my years at Knox was being part of the crowd in Memorial Gym in 1978 with Pete Seeger leading us all in 'Wimoweh.' The place was rocking! Pete exemplified as well as anyone I know how to live a good, full life... humanity lost a friend and champion today."

Helga Sandburg CrileHelga Sandburg Crile, Sandburg's youngest daughter, participated in the Centenary, along with her sisters Margaret and Janet. A published author and performer in her own right, Crile gave a concert of family songs ranging from folk ballads to political satire.

The Carl Sandburg Centenary [complete program PDF] brought to campus notable figures including journalists Howard K. Smith and Herbert Mitgang, poet Gwendolyn Brook, writer Studs Terkel, and Congressman Paul Simon. Knox College faculty and other distinguished scholars led events that examined Sandburg as a Lincoln biographer, historian, poet, social reformer and journalist.

Knox faculty participants included Douglas Wilson, who chaired the Centenary, and Rodney Davis, now co-directors of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College; Hermann Muelder in history; Robert Whitlatch, Ivan Davidson and Donald Torrence in theatre and speech; and Sam Moon and Howard Wilson in English. Also during the Centenary, singer Burl Ives performed a Sandburg tribute at Carl Sandburg College.

The Centenary was covered in an extensive article by Joan Neumiller (PDF).

More photos with Pete Seeger at Knox College. Full-screen images available in a set at the Knox College Flickr channel