Coronavirus

Arlo Guthrie Urges Support for Pete Seeger’s Hudson River Sloop Clearwater: Watch

Arlo Guthrie
Katie Darby/Invision/AP

Arlo Guthrie performs during the Arlo Guthrie: Alice's Restaurant 50th Anniversary Tour at the Ferst Center For The Arts on Jan. 31, 2015 in Atlanta.

Arlo Guthrie has called for donations to save the Hudson River sloop Clearwater, which was launched 50 years ago by the late folk icon Pete Seeger, “because I love that old guy Pete.”

With the coronavirus pandemic halting the Clearwater’s educational sails and threatening its solvency, the organization which runs the sloop has told supporters it may be forced to close down.

Guthrie -- a lifelong friend and touring companion of Seeger’s, whose father Woody was Seeger’s early mentor and collaborator -- made his appeal for help in a newly recorded introduction to a 2018 video in which he and family members perform Seeger’s song “Sailing Down My Golden River.”

“Years ago,” says Guthrie in the video, “I attended the festivals that Pete Seeger put on to help raise money for this sloop. This year, because everybody's home, like me, [almost] the entire staff at the Clearwater has been laid off. So we're trying to raise some money to help them maintain the foundation, to get us through this time when nobody's doing anything... we've put together a video clip [from a] few years ago, when my daughter Sarah Lee and my son Abe and our friend Terry [Hall] and I did a show in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We hope that you'll enjoy it.

“We'll be trying to raise money for other [organizations] also,” Guthrie continues. “But this one is especially important to me because I love that old guy Pete. And I love the work that the sloop Clearwater has been doing over the years and decades. So if you can, help out.”

In the mid 1960s, Seeger conceived of the Clearwater, a 106-foot-long replica of a 19th century Dutch sailing vessel, as a tangible act of environmentalism and grass-roots activism. The sloop is one of the singer’s greatest legacies and the flagship of one of the nation’s oldest music-rooted activist organizations.

The Clearwater is widely recognized for its role in the decades-long cleanup of the Hudson River, for its advocacy of environmental and social justice campaigns and for its environmental education, which has inspired other sailing-based programs nationwide. Its history of female captains has given it a unique role within the women’s movement. And from its mast flies a rainbow flag, a symbol of its trips dedicated to empowering LGBTQ young people.

But “the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has shaken Clearwater’s fragile financial situation beyond our means, and with no classroom programs, events, or sailing season, Clearwater may be faced with closure,” the organization told supporters in a March 27 email. “To try and fend off that scenario, we are drastically reducing our operations immediately. This includes letting go of more than half of our staff, including several office staff and much of the sloop’s crew.”

Guthrie was among some 40 artists -- including Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Joan Baez, Dave Matthews, Ani Difranco and more -- who joined Seeger onstage at Madison Square Garden on May 3, 2009 for a 90th birthday to benefit the Clearwater.

Without the help of additional musicians and others during this crisis, the Clearwater may never sail again.

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