On Monday, Connecticut's Avon Patch shared the news that Seeger, who graduated from Avon Old Farms School in 1936, the place where he started his lifelong music career by first picking up a ukelele, would be collecting the first ever Woody Guthrie Prize in February.
The award honors an artist "who best exemplifies the spirit and life's work of folk singer/songwriter Woody Guthrie by speaking for the less fortunate through music, film, literature, dance, or other art forms, and serving as a positive force for social change in America," a press release from the school stated.
His daughter Nora, reacted with her own wishes for the prize's purpose. "We hope that the Woody Guthrie Prize will shed an inspirational light on those who have decided to use their talents for the common good rather than for personal gain," she said in a statement. "With his dry wit, Woody always preferred to call himself a 'common-ist.' His quote from John Steinbeck's character, Tom Joad, says it pretty simply: 'Wherever children are hungry and cry, wherever people ain't free, wherever men are fightin' for their rights, that's where I'm gonna be.' There are so many people who are living this credo, and they're the ones we will be honoring."
On Monday, it was also announced that Seeger had passed away, from natural causes New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
Seeger, a lifelong activist, “champion of the Hudson River,” writes Tarrytown resident Jeanne Pedro on Facebook, and folk song legend, was 94 and lived in Beacon since he built a log cabin there on a $1,700 piece of 17 acres, writes the NYTimes, in the late 1940s. He had received innumerable honors in his lifetime from his 1996 induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to multiple Grammies.
Locals are remembering him in everyday ways as well: one resident writes on Facebook, “My dad used to help him get his guitar case off the train in Cold Spring. Polar opposites in politics though!”
In recent years, Croton Point Park became a buzzing folk music destination with the amazing Clearwater Festival, where Seeger's own Clearwater sloop, built by musicians in the late 1960s, would dock up as “a symbol and a rallying point for antipollution efforts and education,” writes the NYTimes. Seeger was also one of the founders of the Newport Folk Festival where he sang in August at their 50th anniversary.
His voice may have been “flagging” in later years, wrote the NY Times, but his spirit never was. He was predeceased by his wife Toshi in 2013 days before their 70th anniversary but he remained active.
In his hearty tenor, Mr. Seeger, a beanpole of a man who most often played 12-string guitar or five-string banjo, sang topical songs and children’s songs, humorous tunes and earnest anthems, always encouraging listeners to join in. His agenda paralleled the concerns of the American left: He sang for the labor movement in the 1940s and 1950s, for civil rights marches and anti-Vietnam War rallies in the 1960s, and for environmental and antiwar causes in the 1970s and beyond. “We Shall Overcome,” which Mr. Seeger adapted from old spirituals, became a civil rights anthem.
One local politician has proposed a tribute of much more monumental scale -- how about naming the New NY Bridge, a rebuilt Tappan Zee Bridge, in honor of the man who fought so hard for our river?
I am writing to the Governor and members of the NYS Legislature and will urge them to consider naming the new Tappan Zee bridge in honor and in memory of Pete Seeger, who passed away today.
Pete Seeger was a leader in environmental causes. When one thinks of the Hudson River and the environment one of the first names we think of is Pete Seeger. He was the founder of the Hudson River sloop Clearwater which helped encourage environmental activism and the waterway's rebirth. Clearwater continues to promote the river and environmental causes.
Pete Seeger pushed for a cleaner river in the 1960s (long before others took on the cause) and used music to push for an environment friendly river. He sang "Sailing up my dirty stream and kept pushing for a better river.
If the Tappan Zee bridge is named for Pete Seeger we will honor a man who led the fight for a cleaner river. And, we will be inspired whenever we cross the Hudson to think of ways to keep the river clean and beautiful.
A world class new bridge should be named for a world class environmentalist who made our region a better place.
What do you think about a Pete Seeger Bridge? Share your memories and tributes to Seeger here.