Pete Seeger died last night at the age of 94. Seeger was a folk singer and song writer, as well as an activist who thought that song just might change the world. It is hard to believe that he has died. In his latter years, he developed a sort of craggy but cheerful, timelessness, not unlike the Palisades along the Hudson River that he so loved. Arlo Guthrie, who was with Seeger shortly before he died, commented that Pete has “passed away but he hasn’t gone.”
Seeger will long be remembered for his music but he will also be known for his love of the Hudson River. In the 1960s, Pete and his wife Toshi started an organization whose goal was to bring people back down to the Hudson River, which had become heavily polluted with industrial waste. They decided to “build a boat to save the river.” In 1969 the organization launched a replica of a Hudson River sloop, the once ubiquitous sailing cargo vessels that had plied the river a century before. They named the sloop, Clearwater, and began sailing up and down the river giving concerts and talking about the environment. Forty five years later, the Clearwater is still sailing the Hudson, introducing adults and school children to the river and the importance of conservation and the environment. Every year, the Clearwater organization also hosts the The Great Hudson River Revival, often referred to as the the Clearwater Festival, a music and environmental summer festival and America’s oldest and largest annual festival of its kind.
A video of Pete Seeger and friends on the Clearwater in 2010, singing about their beloved Hudson River — “it may be dirty now but its getting cleaner every day…” Arlo got it right. Pete has “passed away but he hasn’t gone.”