Jean Freedman is author of two books: Peggy Seeger: A Life of Music, Love and Politics and Whistling in the Dark: Memory and Culture in Wartime London

Peggy Seeger: A Life of Music, Love, and Politics

Peggy Seeger:
A Life of Music, Love, and Politics

a book by Jean R. Freedman

The first full-length biography of the music legend.

Born into folk music’s first family, Peggy Seeger has blazed her own trail artistically and personally. Jean R. Freedman draws on a wealth of research and conversations with Seeger to tell the life story of one of music’s most charismatic performers.

Jean’s biography of Peggy Seeger is now available for the visually impaired through Bookshare.

Or order the book directly from the publisher, University of Illinois Press.

“O, how I love this book! It gives me everything I wanted to know about my friend, the salty and sweet Peggy Seeger and her unique and prolific family. All the pain is there, but so are the achievements and the joys. This book goes on my shelf next to The Mayor of MacDougal Street, and I can offer no higher praise than that.” —TOM PAXTON

“The greatest challenge for a biographer is to go beyond a chronology of dates and events, however detailed, and to capture fully the subject’s warmth, wit, courage, character, soul, spirit. In the best biographies, those readers who know the subject will feel that she’s actually in the room with them, absolutely present and political, laughing and singing—and those who have not yet met her in person will hope fervently the day comes soon when they meet her face to face, voice to voice. Jean R. Freedman has wrought a true miracle, making Peggy almost as alive on the page as she is on the stage, with all of her wonderful complexity, passion and depth. Don’t just read this book—listen to it, with open ears and heart.”—SI KAHN, civil rights, union and community organizer and musician

“Peggy Seeger has lived her life at the sharp end of folk music. Jean Freedman tells the story of this free-spirited artist and agitator.”–BILLY BRAGG

“This comprehensive overview of Peggy Seeger’s life also serves as an absorbing history of the folk music revival.… Freedman manages enormous detail with a clarity and honesty that absorbs the reader.… Freedman succeeds through prose as approachable and entertaining as Seeger’s lyrics and informal, intimate performance style. The book is a page-turner.… Freedman skillfully connects and contrast Seeger’s development as an artist with the practices of her parents and siblings, and also with a wide array of political and cultural movements.” – JOURNAL OF FOLKLORE RESEARCH

“Peggy Seeger makes a fitting subject for this thorough, fact-filled biography. And though author Jean R. Freedman is careful to retain an objective stance, her book is also a tribute to Seeger’s long life and many accomplishments.… Freedman, who has a PhD in folklore from Indiana University, has been assiduous in recording the difficulties, detractions and occasional missteps in Seeger’s almost storybook life. Still, her account will be welcomed by Seeger’s perennial fan base while providing a fair, thoughtful introduction to new admirers. One could envision this biography emerging as a docudrama, complete with stirring music from Seeger’s multifaceted repertoire – from her younger days as a pretty girl with a banjo and plenty of nerve, to her mellow later years as a noted expert in several fields, fine-tuned by time.” – BOOK REPORTER

“The most effective biographies inevitably give way to broader social and cultural exchanges; Peggy Seeger: A Life of Music, Love, and Politics does this.… Freedman’s meticulous biography vividly animates Peggy Seeger… Her biography reveals the fallacies in the academic vs. pop culture dichotomy and establishes Peggy Seeger’s continuing relevance to American folklore.” – JOURNAL OF AMERICAN FOLKLORE

“Read this book; if you love folk music you will want to own it . You will learn everything you wanted to know about Peggy Seeger, but were afraid to ask. In the great tradition of the Life of Samuel Johnson, Jean R. Freedman’s thoroughly researched book is the definitive biography—a masterpiece.”— FOLKWORKS

“Drawing on personal interviews, letters, diaries, and archival sources, Freedman illuminates Seeger’s life and career, creating a powerful, in-depth portrait of the woman, artist, activist, and champion of the folk music genre..  This consummately researched and engagingly readable biography, with comprehensive material about the folk music revival and its historical framework skillfully woven in, deserves more than one reading and should be accompanied by listening to selections from the generous list of recordings cited.  A must.” —LIBRARY JOURNAL

“In this vastly detailed biography, Freedman not only examines Seeger’s personal metamorphosis from daughter to lover to wife to partner in a same-sex marriage but also presents an elaborately detailed investigation of Seeger’s enduring musical legacy.” —BOOKLIST

Few historical images are more powerful than those of wartime London. The city is remembered as an island of courage and defiance during the dark days of the Second World War. How well do descriptions of wartime London match the memories of those who experienced it? This is one of the key questions that Jean Freedman explores in Whistling in the Dark: Memory and Culture in Wartime London (University Press of Kentucky, 1999). Jean interviewed more than 50 people who remembered London during the war, focusing on under-represented groups, including women, Jews, and working-class citizens. In addition, she examined original propaganda, secret government documents, wartime diaries, radio broadcasts, and postwar memoirs. By exploring the differences between wartime documentation and postwar memory and between oral and written artifacts, she illuminates the complex interactions between history and memory.


“An excellent book… Shows that history and memory are essential.” – Journal of Indian Folkloristics

“One of the delights of the book is the combination of her precise, professional exposition with quotations from the interviewees that so perfectly catch their spoken turns of phrase.” – South Atlantic Review

“Written with zest and commitment and will stimulate discussion.” – Albion

“A valuable addition to our understanding of wartime Britain.… Freedman brings to life the experiences of frequently ignored groups.” – Southern Historian

“Builds up a colourful and eclectic picture of wartime life.” – Twentieth Century British History

“A finely balanced narrative that broadens and complicates but does not essentially change the long-time view that people, on the whole, behaved well during that testing time.” – Canadian Literature