Photo credit: Elizabeth Daza | Pete Seeger performed during the 35th annual Clearwater Festival at Croton Point Park in Croton-on-Hudson. (June 16, 2013)
Late last night, just as I was switching off my laptop, I learned that Pete Seeger had passed away. He was 94, and had lived a remarkable life filled with music and social activism. The news filled me with such sadness, for his was a spirit the likes of which we don’t see much of these days.
The news made me think back to a beautiful June day last year,when my husband and I made our annual trek to the Clear water Music Festival in Croton Point, New York. Like everything associated with Seeger, this wonderful music festival, held on the banks of the Hudson River, has a mission:
Inspired by Pete Seeger’s desire to clean up the river over forty years ago, Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival in its earlier incarnations helped raise the funds to build the sloop Clearwater, which has since become a world-renowned sailing classroom and a symbol of effective grassroots action. Today, revenue raised by the Revival goes to support Clearwater’s numerous educational programs and its work toward environmental and social justice—as well as keeping the sloop Clearwater afloat.
The Great Hudson River Revival has helped raise funds and served as a beacon toward raising awareness in support of America’s First River — and it all started more than 35 years ago, as the dream of a banjo-picking folksinger.
That summer day, we found our friends among the happy crowd of festival loving folk of all ages (many of whom had been attending Clearwater from it’s very beginning), and set up our festival spot. We would come and go all day, moving from one sound stage to another, but this was the main venue – the Rainbow Stage, and one of the first to sing would be that banjo picking folksinger. When Pete made his way to the stage, we rose as one to welcome him. We couldn’t imagine Clearwater without him, and yet… He looked frail, but he was as forceful as ever, leading us in song and calling on our spirits of goodwill, humanism, activism. There was so much affection and reverence as we watched him sing and as we sang along.
It was a beautiful, beautiful June day. It was a gift to be there. And it was a gift to hear this great man sing.
This was Pete with Arlo Guthrie , at Clearwater in 2012:
And this is Pete singing with Bruce Springsteen at President Obama’s first Inaugural celebration: