Friday, March 20, 2009

90th Birthday Celebration for Pete!

I'll be doing a radio program in Berkeley celebrating Pete's Birthday on May 3rd. I'm really sorry to miss this one.~DKD
NEW YORK, March 18, 2009 —The Clearwater Concert: Creating the Next Generation of Environmental Leaders, a star-studded, one night only concert event celebrating Pete Seeger’s 90th Birthday, will be held on Sunday, May 3, at 7PM, at Madison Square Garden. This once-in-a-lifetime concert event will benefit and raise awareness for Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, founded by Pete Seeger, which strives to preserve and protect the Hudson River. Seeger, a legendary folk singer, political activist and avid environmentalist, has long inspired social change through his extraordinary life and music. The Clearwater Concert: Creating the Next Generation of Environmental Leaders will feature over 40 artists representing a wide variety of musical genres and generations, including Joan Baez, Ben Harper, Ani DiFranco, Dave Matthews, Michael Franti, Emmylou Harris, Juanes, John Mellencamp, Tao Rodriguez–Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, Taj Mahal, Eddie Vedder, and Keller Williams. The evening, hosted by Clearwater, will focus on ensemble renditions of musical treasures inspired by Pete Seeger.

American Express pre-sale tickets will be available starting Monday, March 23 at 9AM. Public on-sale will begin Monday, March 30 at 9AM. Tickets are available via and range from $19.19-$250, with a majority priced at $90 to honor Pete’s birthday. Special Clearwater Legacy Tickets will also be available. For more information, please visit

“Pete Seeger’s historic contributions to the environmental movement and the fight for social justice have inspired millions of people. Approaching 90, his great deeds shine on and continue to remind us that nothing is beyond our reach. Clearwater thanks the many gracious musicians gathering to celebrate Pete’s life and help create a living legacy in his honor: the next generation of environmental leaders,” said Jeff Rumpf, Executive Director for Clearwater.

Confirmed artist lineup (subject to change):

Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet
Ani DiFranco
Arlo Guthrie
Bela Fleck
Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses)
Ben Harper
Bernice Johnson Reagon
Billy Bragg
Billy Nershi (String Cheese Incident)
Bruce Cockburn
Bruce Springsteen
Dar Williams
Dave Matthews
Eddie Vedder
Emmylou Harris
Guy Davis
Jay Ungar & Molly Mason
Joan Baez
John Mellencamp
Kate & Anna McGarrigle
Keller Williams
Kris Kristofferson
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Larry Long
Michael Franti
Mike & Ruthy Merenda
Native American Indian Cultural Alliance
NYC Labor Chorus
Patterson Hood (Drive-By Truckers)
Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Del McCoury
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
Richie Havens
Scarlet Moore
Silvio Rodriguez
Steve Earle
Taj Mahal
Tao Rodriguez-Seeger
Tom Chapin
Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine)
Tom Paxton
Tommy Sands
Tony Trischka
Toshi Reagon
Warren Haynes


Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc. is an environmental organization with the mission to preserve and protect the Hudson River through inspiration, education and action. Legendary folk musician and activist Pete Seeger founded the organization in 1966 when he decided to “build a boat to save the river” with the belief that a majestic replica of the sloops that sailed the Hudson in the 18th and 19th centuries would bring people to the river, where they could experience its beauty and be moved to preserve it. Thus inspired, the 106-feet-long tall ship Clearwater was launched three years later.

Since 1969 almost half a million people have experienced the Hudson River first-hand — its living organisms, water chemistry and ecological principals — aboard the sloop Clearwater. Named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004 for its role in the environmental movement, the Clearwater was among the first vessels in the U.S. to conduct science-based environmental education aboard a sailing ship, effectively creating a template by which such programs are conducted around the world today. Clearwater’s environmental education programs now serve more than 15,000 students and their teachers annually, and the organization’s members have helped push for passage of the landmark Clean Water Act and fight for removal of toxic PCBs from the Hudson.

To help raise awareness for its mission, Clearwater presents the Great Hudson River Revival each June at Croton Point Park, located in Westchester County, an hour north of New York City. This two-day music festival will take place June 20-21, 2009. Tickets go on sale on March 17, 2009. Year after year, Clearwater’s unique approach to public outreach has made the Clearwater a symbol of grassroots action through hands-on learning, music and celebration.

Please visit the for more information on Clearwater and its programs.
(Source: Sing Out News Service)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Seeger receives 2009 Freemuse Award

The American singer, songwriter, activist, environmentalist, and peace advocate Pete Seeger is The Freemuse Award Winner 2009. He is awarded on Music Freedom Day, 3 March 2009, for his commitment to musicians' freedom of expression in an illustrious career which spans over sixty years.

“Pete Seeger's voice has been one which has constantly been on the side of the oppressed and which has refused to remain silent in even the darkest hours. He remains an inspiration to those musicians who seek to use their work for the greater benefit of mankind,’ wrote the nominating committee.

Although Pete Seeger does not believe in awards, he accepted the Freemuse Award. In a statement Pete Seeger quotes an old Arab proverb:

‘When the king puts a poet on his payroll, he cuts off the tongue of the poet!’

Pete Seeger adds: “But throughout history, songwriters have found ways to get around this problem by putting together songs that people like to sing and teach to their friends.”

Blacklisted in 1955
Pete Seeger faced censorship for decades in his music career for promoting peace, justice, and equality in his music. In 1955 Seeger was blacklisted from work when he was subpoenaed to testify before the US House of Un-American Activities Committee, and he refused to testify citing his guarantee to freedom of expression.

Boycotted by commercial venues and media, Pete Seeger continued performing for young people at universities and rallies and created a boom of folk music. His songs played an essential role in the civil rights movement. It was his variation of an old spiritual, which Seeger called ‘We Shall Overcome’, that has become an anthem of the crusade for equality in America.

TV performance cut by censors
The Vietnam War deeply and personally offended Pete Seeger, who used his network television return on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour to air a scathing attack on Lyndon Johnson's war policies, "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy." The song was cut by network censors, but Seeger made a second appearance on the programme and sang the song without interruption. When folk-rock band The Byrds recorded his legendary song ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’, Pete Seeger’s music reached millions of young people all over the world.

Seeger has never stopped. He recently joined his grandson Tao Rodriquez-Seeger and old friend Bruce Springsteen at the American president Obama’s inauguration, performing for hundred of thousands.

In 2006, Bruce Springsteen recorded `We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions´, reinterpreting 13 songs from Seeger's songbook.

Grandson Tao attends award ceremony
The Award Ceremony will take place at Stockholm’s Concert Hall, marking the Music Freedom Day on 3 March.

Pete Seeger does not like to travel far these days, so he has requested grandson Tao Rodriquez-Seeger, an established artist on his own, to travel to Stockholm and receive the Freemuse Award on his behalf.

World-renowned Swedish glass designer Göran Wärff has created the Freemuse Award statuette. The Award is sponsored by BAIK — the Björn Afzelius International Culture Foundation, which was initiated in memory of Swedish rock singer Björn Afzelius who died 1999. Afzelius was a political activist and a strong spokesman for suppressed people.

To inspire
“At Freemuse we deal daily with the horrors of music censorship. We document how artists are being harassed, jailed and even killed. Pete Seeger continues to inspire artists and human rights activists all over the world,” says Marie Korpe, Freemuse's executive director.

Last year, the exiled Ivorian reggae artist Tiken Jah Fakoly received the Freemuse Award. Tiken Jah Fakoly has been forced into exile being a strong critic of political corruption in his home country.


Back in the Land of Enchantment

I'm flying back to New Mexico for a few days. It will be nice to get back. I hear they've had some warmer weather (in the upper 70's!).

Of course, the dreaded Spring Winds have also sprung up.

Singing Out: An Oral History of America's Folk Music Revivals

It's been an extremely busy few months here as I teach a course here isn San Francisco and put final editing touches on the book Molly Beer and I have been working on, Singing Out: An Oral History of America's Folk Music Revivals.

And I'm happy to say that it's finally gotten out the door to our editors at Oxford University Press.

The book is a multi-voiced telling of the story of folk music from the early collectors through to today's online music communities and demonstrates the diversity of opinion behind the complex evolution of folk music in North America through contextualized oral history interview segments. There are many great interviews that show a mosaic, layering anecdotes and often-contradictory opinions, to tell not only what happened during the folk revivals, but what it meant to those who were personally and passionately involved. Here the interviews themselves -— the voices of musicians, musicologists, writers, activists, and aficionados —- open an accessible, primary source introduction to folk music and its history.

More updates as we get them from Oxford.

Piedmont Blues Guitarist And Vocalist John Cephas, 1930 - 2009

“Wonderfully rich vocals and jaunty acoustic guitar. Plenty of spirit and soul, humor and sorrow.”--The Washington Post

"Blues music is truth.”--John Cephas
Master blues guitarist and vocalist John Cephas died of natural causes on Wednesday, March 4, 2009. He was 78. Well known as one half of the award-winning Piedmont blues duo Cephas & Wiggins, John’s remarkable and delicate finger picking and rich, baritone vocals placed him firmly at the forefront of acoustic blues artists. John received a National Heritage Fellowship Award (often called the “Living Treasure Award”) in 1989. This is the highest honor the U.S. Government offers a traditional artist. Two weeks ago, John was honored as one of eight black trailblazers as designated by the Library of Virginia's African American History Month.

John Cephas, along with his harmonica playing partner Phil Wiggins, performed thousands of concerts and festivals all over the world. Often under the auspices of the U.S. State Department, the two spent much of the 1980s abroad, playing Europe, Africa, Central and South America, China, Australia and New Zealand. In 1988, they were among the first Americans to perform at the Russian Folk Festival in Moscow. In 1997 Cephas & Wiggins performed for President Bill Clinton. In addition, John appeared on stage portraying a blind bluesman in the Kennedy Center production of Blind Man Blues. He also appeared in a production of Zora Neal Hurston’s play, Polk County, in Washington, D.C.

Among his many endeavors, John served on the Executive Committee of the National Council for the Traditional Arts, and has testified before Congressional committees. He is also a founder of the Washington, D.C. Blues Society. “More than anything else,” said John, “I would like to see a revival of country blues by more young people…more people going to concerts, learning to play the music. That’s why I stay in the field of traditional music. I don’t want it to die.”

John Cephas was born in Washington, D.C. in 1930 into a deeply religious family and raised in Bowling Green, Virginia. His first taste of music was gospel, but blues soon became his calling. After learning to play the alternating thumb and fingerpicking guitar style that defines Piedmont blues, John began emulating the records he heard by Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Blake, Rev. Gary Davis and other early blues artists. Aside from playing blues, John worked early on as a professional gospel singer, carpenter and Atlantic fisherman. By the 1960s, he was starting to make a living from his music.

John first met his future partner Phil Wiggins in 1976 at the Smithsonian National Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. and the two quickly formed a duo. By the early 1980s, the international blues community recognized this marvelous acoustic twosome as the leading exponents of traditional Tidewater blues. While overseas in 1981, they recorded two albums, Living Country Blues and Sweet Bitter Blues, for the German L&R label. Cephas & Wiggins recorded their first domestic album, Dog Days Of August (Flying Fish Records), in 1987 in John’s living room, and it quickly won a Blues Music Award for Best Traditional Blues Album of the Year.

In 1996, Cephas & Wiggins made their Alligator Records debut with Cool Down. They followed up with Homemade, Somebody Told The Truth and Shoulder To Shoulder. Their most recent CD, 2009’s Richmond Blues, was released on the Smithsonian Folkways label.

SOURCE:Alligator Records
PHOTO: Tom Radcliffe