How To Carry On Without Pete Seeger

That is, the Great Hudson River Revival lives on.

There’s Woody Guthrie. There’s Pete Seeger. And there’s everybody else. Okay, there’s Bob Dylan, too—and even he owes a debt of gratitude to Seeger, a Hudson Valley resident since 1949, who sort of nudged John Hammond to produce Dylan’s first album and who invited Dylan to play at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival (and the rest is history). 

When Seeger, the writer of such classic folk mainstays as “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “If I Had a Hammer,” died in January at the age of 94, just a few months after the death of his beloved wife of nearly 70 years, Toshi, it left a monumental void that many feared could never be filled. Lucky us: Having had the honor of having the beloved American icon, cherished folk legend, and renowned and sometimes controversial social activist and environmentalist as a longtime neighbor, we know better. We know that, although Pete Seeger is no longer part of the physical world, his spirit is everywhere—especially, perhaps, in the Great Hudson River Revival (aka the Clearwater Festival), the largest and oldest festival of its kind in the US, which he co-founded. The roots of the festival go back to 1966, when Seeger expressed his desire to clean up the heavily polluted Hudson River. The festival initially raised money to build the sloop Clearwater, and, today, funds raised by the festival are used to support Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc.’s many educational programs.

This year’s festival, which will be held on June 21 and 22 at Croton Point Park, will feature an eclectic lineup of genre- and globe-spanning artists including Norah Jones with Puss N Boots; Rufus Wainwright; David Bromberg Big Band; ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro; guitarist/singer Richard Thompson; country singer/songwriter Laura Cantrell; jam-band moe.; jazz/soul newcomers Lake Street Dive; and many more.  

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According to Festival Director Steve Lure, highlights will include “an opening set featuring Clearwater friends Tom Paxton, Tom Chapin, Guy Davis, David Amram, Dar Williams, Holly Near, Josh White Jr., and others. There will be a banjo tribute led by Tony Trischka featuring other great banjo players, and sets of both The Weavers’ music as well as the Almanac Singers, both of which Pete Seeger was a member.” There also will be a special set featuring songs written by Seeger in honor of Americans who volunteered to serve in the Spanish Civil War. Be sure to check out the many artists performing on the Dance Stage; the Discovery and Tideline tents featuring Clearwater’s environmental education programs and Hudson River research; the Handcrafters’ Village with crafts, demonstrations, and workshops by a variety of artists and crafters; and tons and tons of fun activities for family members of all ages. For tickets, visit www.clearwaterfestival.org or call (877) 435-9849; free admission for kids under 12.

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