Archive for June, 2008

Seeger Interview to Air on WAMC on July 4th

Seeger interview to air on WAMC

Listeners can tune into WAMC at 10 a.m. on July 4 to hear a discussion between folk music legend and Clearwater co-founder Pete Seeger and WAMC/Northeast Public Radio President Alan Chartock.

For the 2008 Great Hudson River Revival, also dubbed the Clearwater Festival, Seeger and Chartock took the festival stage in front of an eager audience on the Hudson River’s edges in Croton.

They reminisced about the history and goals of the organization. Most notably Seeger talked about his loving relationship with the river and the sloop Clearwater. Willing viewers joined in when Chartock and Seeger played some tunes together.

Seeger is a legend known for being a folk singer, folk music revivalist and political activist. He also possesses the ability to encourage and motivate young artists like the five-string banjo player who sat right next to him, Alan Chartock.

A previous conversation raised hundreds and thousands of dollars for WAMC as a fund-drive premium.

The recorded conversation can also be received by making a $100 pledge to


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At a Roadside Vigil, an Iconic Voice of Protest

At a Roadside Vigil, an Iconic Voice of Protest



Published: June 22, 2008
WAPPINGERS FALLS, N.Y. — Pete Seeger pulled his black Toyota Highlander into the Staples parking lot here and plucked some signs from the back seat, including one with “Peace” spray-painted in large orange letters. With that, he slung his banjo over his shoulder like an old musket and marched toward the intersection of Route 9, a bustling six-lane thoroughfare, and 9D, the “Hudson Valley P.O.W.-M.I.A. Memorial Highway.”


Dennis Gaffney for The New York Times

Pete Seeger at his post at Routes 9 and 9D on June 7 in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., the site of weekly vigils against the war.

But before the 89-year-old folk singer flashed his antiwar signs to passing drivers from this no-man’s land — a patch of green about an hour north of New York City on the Hudson River — he bent over again and again, picking up litter.

“This is my religion now,” said Mr. Seeger. “Picking up trash. You do a little bit wherever you are.”

Mr. Seeger, the man behind the founding of the Clearwater Festival, being held this weekend at Croton Point Park, is scheduled to appear there on Sunday.

But for the last four years, most Saturdays he has been keeping his vigil in Wappingers Falls, usually not recognized by the hundreds of drivers who whiz by. It is a long road from 1969, when to protest the Vietnam War he sang John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” at the foot of the Washington Monument.

“After two minutes, thousands were singing,” he recalled. “After three minutes, four minutes, a hundred thousand were singing. At the end of eight minutes, all five hundred thousand were singing.”

These days, fewer than a dozen protesters usually participate, while nearly as many who support the war in Iraq hold a counterdemonstration across Route 9. Mr. Seeger, a political activist who has traveled the world, rarely ventures farther than the few miles from here to his home in Beacon, N.Y.

On this particular Saturday, Mr. Seeger chatted easily with Chris Miller of Poughkeepsie. “He’s an ex-Army member,” Mr. Seeger said, “and they’re trying to send him over again.”

Mr. Miller, 38, served as a therapist for four years before receiving an honorable discharge in January 2006. But on Dec. 22, 2007, he said, he received orders to return to Iraq, although he is appealing that decision.

Mr. Miller said he had spent countless hours listening to Mr. Seeger’s stories, like the one about how his car windows were shattered in Peekskill in 1949 as he and his family left a performance he had given with the singer Paul Robeson, who was thought to have Communist sympathies, as was Mr. Seeger. Or the one about the Vietnam veteran who said he had come to a concert in the Catskills to kill Mr. Seeger because of his antiwar stance, but was turned around by the performance and made his way backstage to tell of his transformation.

“I smiled and shook his hand,” Mr. Seeger said. “I had my banjo. We sat down and sang, ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone?’ ” Afterward, Mr. Seeger said, the man told him, “I feel clean now.”

Mr. Seeger said he wrote that song in the mid-1950s accompanied by the same banjo he totes around today.

As for Mr. Miller: “Seeing what Pete has gone through and always standing up for what he believed in, despite the consequences, made my decision easier to resist the war. It made me comfortable that in the long run I’ll be all right.”

At one point, Mr. Seeger looked across the highway to the knot of counterdemonstrators. “They always have more flags,” Mr. Seeger said. “But our signs are more fun.” He said he crossed the street once about a year ago and talked to a veteran.

“I shook his hand and said, ‘I’m glad we live in a country where we can disagree with each other without shooting at each other.’ He had to shake my hand. He didn’t know what to say. I even picked up a little litter over there.”

As he chatted, Mr. Seeger broke into “Take It From Dr. King,” which he wrote after the Sept. 11 attacks, in a voice as worn as an old phonograph record.

“Don’t say it can’t be done,” he sang, tapping out the rhythm on his thighs as his Adam’s apple bobbed to the music. “The battle’s just begun/Take it from Dr. King/You too can learn to sing/So drop the gun.”

With songs like that one and “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” an anti-Vietnam War anthem, it is easy to assume he is a pacifist. But that assumption would be wrong. His family tree is adorned with both Quakers and a Revolutionary War veteran.

“Hitler had to be done away with,” said Mr. Seeger, who served in World War II.

His 1966 antiwar anthem, “Bring ’Em Home,” resurrected by Bruce Springsteen in recent years, includes the words: “There’s one thing I must confess/I’m not really a pacifist/If an army invaded this land of mine/You’d find me out on the firing line.”

Asked whether he thought that protesting by the side of the road would help end the war, he said: “I don’t think that big things are as effective as people think they are. The last time there was an antiwar demonstration in New York City I said, ‘Why not have a hundred little ones?’ ”

He said that working for peace was like adding sand to a basket on one side of a large scale, trying to tip it one way despite enormous weight on the opposite side.

“Some of us try to add more sand by teaspoons,” he explained. “It’s leaking out as fast as it goes in and they’re all laughing at us. But we’re still getting people with teaspoons. I get letters from people saying, ‘I’m still on the teaspoon brigade.’ ”

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Pete Seeger to perform at Ottawa Folk Festival

Pete Seeger to perform at Ottawa Folk Festival

Patrick Langston , The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Wednesday, June 18, 2008

OTTAWA – The Ottawa Folk Festival has confirmed that folk music legend Pete Seeger will play Library and Archives Canada on Wednesday, July 9.


The 89-year-old Seeger will be joined by his grandson Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, a folk musician and founder of the Mammals.

Born in New York City in 1919, Mr. Seeger has been a magnet on the folk scene since the 1930s.


He was blacklisted by the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in the 1950s for his socialist leanings, played an active role in the antiwar and civil rights movements of the 1960s and ’70s, and helped spearhead the cleanup of the Hudson River.

A much-loved performer and storyteller and a respected music historian, Seeger has also written or co-written such folk standards as Where Have All the Flowers Gone? and If I Had a Hammer.

Mr. Seeger’s surprise concert takes place in the middle of Bluesfest.


Tickets go on sale early next week: call the Ottawa Folk Festival office at 613-230-8234 or visit


Legendary folks singer Pete Seeger wrote or co-wrote such standards as Seeger has also written or co-written such folk standards as Where Have All the Flowers Gone? and If I Had a Hammer. 

Legendary folks singer Pete Seeger wrote or co-wrote such standards as Seeger has also written or co-written such folk standards as Where Have All the Flowers Gone? and If I Had a Hammer.

Peter Morgan, Reuters
© The Ottawa Citizen 2008

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All Aboard the Annual Clearwater Festival

June 19, 2008

All aboard the annual Clearwater Festival
By John W. Barry
Poughkeepsie Journal

Sweeping views of the Hudson River, warm breezes, environmental awareness and the opportunity to see a folk music legend will all be on tap this weekend at the Clearwater Festival.

The annual two-day event, also known as the Great Hudson River Revival, is set for Croton Point Park in Westchester County.

Croton Point Park juts into the Hudson River, the environmental well-being of which inspired Fishkill resident and folk singing legend Pete Seeger to launch Clearwater, the Poughkeepsie-based environmental organization, decades ago.

Live music is an anchor of the festival. But so is environmental awareness and community spirit.

The festival will feature hands-on workshops and exhibits. The Green Living Expo will be composed of companies, firms and organizations showcasing “green” products and services. The activist area will offer visitors information about Hudson Valley environmental groups.

A press release from Clearwater pointed out this festival was “one of the country’s first ‘green festivals.’ ” Clearwater espoused environmental sensitivity and awareness decades before both became trendy or a pitch to attract customers.

Building on its legacy, Clearwater is aiming to generate “zero waste” by collecting all food waste for composting, using recyclable products and asking attendees to bring their own water. Also, the festival’s five performance stages will be powered entirely by sustainable energy that includes solar and biodiesel.

“You are coming to experience a virtual ‘world’s fair’ of environmental issues from global warming to Indian Point to zero-waste management,” festival Director Ron Aja said. “And you are supporting a cause that will continue to work for the environment.”

Musicians scheduled to perform are David Amram, a flute player who has performed with Willie Nelson and Jack Kerouac; The Felice Brothers; Gandalf Murphy & The Slambovian Circus of Dreams; Skatalites; The Sleepy Hollow String Band; Kevin So & Midnight Snack; family performers Hayes Greenfield and Uncle Rock, who will play separately; Cheryl Wheeler and others.

New to the festival is the “Circle of Gospel,” conceived by Seeger. Three gospel groups will take center stage simultaneously under a large tent, with three audience groups facing them. Each choir will take a turn singing, with the other choirs and audience members responding to their refrains.

This portion of the Clearwater Festival will have a decidedly Dutchess County flavor.

Among the groups performing will be The Six of Us, an a cappella group of six women from Poughkeepsie; Just Voices, an a cappella group of four men from Wappingers Falls; and The Higher Ground Band, a seven-member group from Wappingers Falls that performs gospel with a Caribbean flavor.

In 1966, Seeger “had the vision that the public would come to care for all of our threatened waterways by learning to care for one boat and one river,” according to

The Sloop Clearwater was launched in 1969, and today serves as a movable classroom, laboratory, stage and forum.

Each year, nearly 13,000 children and adults board it for education sails that teach history, biology, environmental science and navigation along the Hudson River, New York Harbor and Long Island Sound.

For those interested in connecting with Seeger, this year he is scheduled to take part in a river blessing; an interview with Alan Chartock, president and CEO of Albany-based Northeast Public Radio/WAMC; and performance with Magpie and Pamela Means.

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