Saving the Planet, One Song at a Time

It was perfect synergy to be sitting in the historic Music Room at Caramoor on the day that Pete Seeger passed away.

Yes, I am old enough to remember the Weavers, the group that brought Pete Seeger to lasting fame. For those of you who have ever had a Kumbaya moment, you can thank and remember the legendary folk singer, whose music inspired millions of campers around camp fires across the nation, including me.  The Weaver’s recording of Kumbaya wasn’t the very first, but probably is one of the most memorable, as Pete Seeger, along with Woody Gutherie and later Arlo Gutherie,  was one of the prime movers of the folk music genre.  As a member of the Weavers,  he popularized “Goodnight, Irene” , “If I Had a Hammer,” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,” all of which I know by heart, but you wouldn’t want to hear me sing them.

Growing up with Pete Seeger, and then coming of age during the McCarthy era, my friends and I were painfully aware of his refusal to “name names,” which made him more revered than ever as a cult hero. Post Weavers, Pete Seeger’s reemergence in the fifties, once again blending politics and song, gave our generation an indelible perspective of the nation’s trauma, as we witnessed the children of friends either leaving for Canada or Vietnam.  In Westchester, Pete Seeger is perhaps best known for his love of the Hudson River, his work on behalf of the environment, his role as the founder of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and its annual festival, and his advocacy of the federal Clean Water Act.  Folk music was certainly not a staple during the early years at Caramoor.  However, Pete Seeger would be so pleased with Caramoor’s American Roots Festival opening on June 28 with Roseanne Cash, a doyenne of the folk tradition. And BTW, I just love this quote attributed to Seeger in 2009: “My job is to show folks there’s a lot of good music in this world, and if used right, it may help to save the planet.”

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