Chris Felver tells us the story behind the photo of Pete Seeger on the cover of his new book ‘American Jukebox’.
I took the MTA train North from Grand Central Station to Beacon on the Hudson for Pete and Toshi Seeger’s annual Corn Festival. On the ride up, I kept thinking about how Pete’s Clearwater projects had helped restore the river. The “Beacon Sloop Club,” where Pete hung out, was right next to the station. I caught up with him just as he was about to perform another civic duty—taking the waste from the port-o-lets to the dump before everyone arrived. His first words were, “Wanna help?” I wouldn’t have missed this opportunity for anything.
As we headed out I flashed on the film Alice’s Restaurant which starts with the infamous dump run on Thanksgiving. Driving in his pickup we talk about everything—Woody, the Clearwater sloop, politics, and music in that order. He was completely down to earth—just as I’d expected. I felt like I was getting a lesson in Buddhist practice.
By the time we got back to Beacon, the afternoon glow of the Hudson River was starting to work its magic. There were craft tents, farmers markets, corn was being shucked and cooked – all while local musicians were performing, including David Amram with his whole family. At the end of the afternoon Pete took the stage and joined all the performers, singing 'Where Have All The Flowers Gone.'
It was getting late when I asked Pete if we could make a portrait. “We sure can, let’s get to it.” I thought it would be authentic if he played at the shore of his beloved Hudson. He walked onto a rock, smiled and began singing Woody Guthrie’s 'Goodbye [Chris] It’s Been Good To Know You.'
It was pure “Americana!”
Editor’s Note: Chris’ portrait of Pete Seeger appears on the cover of his new book ‘American Jukebox which “profiles the spirit and heartbeat of our American musical heritage” including pictures of Doc Watson, John Cage, Sonny Rollins and Patti Smith. Read more here.