Justifiably celebrated as a statesman, civil rights warrior and all-around American hero, Pete Seeger was also an incredible musician. Beyond the civil rights anthems for which he is known, Seeger produced a huge body of work encompassing both traditional songs from around the globe and contemporary songs, many of which he authored himself. His songs can be pointed, serious, political, irreverent, hilarious and sometimes all of these. Many of his best recordings are live, with a healthy dose of audience participation (witness his 1964 solo version of “Wimoweh” (Mbube) in which he organizes the audience into three separate parts, before adding the falsetto part himself). His back catalog is a treasure of music, and well worth exploring. In the week since Seeger's passing, I have compiled eight of my favorite Seeger tracks, which I hope are a good jumping off point to his music. Whenever possible (and often it wasn't), I have tried to give the original release dates and albums for these songs, because in an 80 year career chronology matters. Seeger was so incredibly prolific, however, that running down all of his recordings would be an impossible task. Fortunately, most of these songs can be found in excellent compilation albums like 1996's “A Link in the Chain,” 1999's “Headlines and Footnotes” and 1971's “The Weavers Greatest Hits.” “The Bells of Rhymney” -- Pete Seeger and Sonny Terry (1957). Later covered by the Byrds, this song put to music Welsh poet Idris Davies' poem about a coalmine disaster, which was itself based on the nursery rhyme "Oranges and Lemons." The song plays out a conversation about the disaster between the church bells of towns in Wales. "And what will you give me / Say the sad bells of Rhymney." Majestic, dark and unsettling. “Viva La Quince Brigada” -- The Almanac Singers, “Songs of the Lincoln Brigade” (1942). A Loyalist song from the Spanish Civil War, the great tragedy of the early 20th Century. The song tells the story of the 5th Brigade as they fight against Franco and Nazi Germany, ending with the defeated brigade leaving Spain intending to fight on other fronts. Musically, Seeger uses his banjo to approximate a Spanish guitar, a sound he called "hillbilly flamenco." A solo version appears on 1999's “Headlines and Footnotes” in which Seeger explains the meaning of the lyrics, but this is a song that really benefits from the near-choral backup vocals of the Almanacs. “Around the World” -- “The Weavers Greatest Hits” (1986). A live tour de force by the Weavers containing three songs in one: a song from a traditional polka dance, one from an Israeli circle dance and the West Indies folk tune “Hey Lolly Lolly.” The song changes between intimate and massive, a fine display by a group at the top of their powers. “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” -- “Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” (1968). CBS refused to allow Seeger to play this song, an allegory about troop escalation in Vietnam, on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” in 1967. CBS subsequently relented and allowed the performance in 1968. By the final chorus, Seeger is visibly agitated and angry. There is a recorded version appearing on “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy and other Love Songs” (1967), as well as “Headlines and Footnotes,” but it is best seen on YouTube. “Living in the Country” -- “The Complete Bowdoin College Concert” (1960). A gorgeous little instrumental – just banjo and whistling. If it doesn't make you happy, I can’t imagine what would. “The Bourgeois Blues” -- “If I had a Hammer: Songs of Hope and Struggle” (1998). Hudie Ledbetter (or Lead Belly) wrote this song when, after being refused lodging in Washington D.C., folklorist Alan Lomax told him not to worry about it because Washington was "just a bourgeois town anyway." Upon Ledbetter's death, Seeger, who had almost exclusively played banjo up to this point, took up the 12 string guitar and learned to play Ledbetter's style so that it would not be lost. There is another version on the “Bowdoin College Concert,” but the guitar work on this one is better. "The home of the Brave / The land of the Free / I don't wanna be mistreated by no bourgeoisie!" “East Virginia” -- “Folk Songs and Minstrelsy” (1962). One of many folk songs which Seeger helped to preserve, I dig this tune because it sort of rocks. “Goodnight Irene” -- “The Weavers Greatest Hits” (1986). A number one U.S. single in 1950, right before the Weavers were blacklisted, Irene is a folk tune brought to the Weavers' attention by Lead Belly. Although some of the harsher lyrics from the Lead Belly version of the song were left out (which I think in context was a good thing), the saddest verse remains: "Sometimes I live in the country / Sometimes I live in the town / Sometimes I take a great notion / To jump into the river and drown."