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Clearwater Turns To The Public To Help Create An Environmental Song

Courtesy of Clearwater

“Imagine.” “We Shall Overcome.” “We Are The World.” Could a new tune join the ranks of our most iconic message songs? Hudson Valley non-profit Clearwater is asking the global community to help write a song about a topic the environmental organization says is the all-encompassing issue of the day. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne has more on the Build-a-Song project.

Clearwater Music Director Linda Richards says the environmental group is looking for a climate change anthem.

“This is a very, very, very, very critical issue, and Clearwater is talking about it,” says Richards. “We are talking about it at every staff meeting. We are working it into our education programs on the boat. We’re working it into our Green Cities program through environmental justice.”

And soon, Clearwater and a collaborator will talk about it through song.

“It is kind of a contest because what if we have 300 people contributing verses to this. It can’t be a 300-verse song. I’m sorry, that’s just not going to work,” Richards says. “So we’re going to do… we’ll be juried and we’ll take the input that we get and we will cull it down to about 20 and then those 20 will go up on the web site and then everybody can vote. And then we’ll pick four from there. Well, actually, you’ll pick four from there. We already have the chorus and we have the instrumental part of the verse.”

And that’s available on the Clearwater website, where there is a SoundCloud link to the song. Submissions will be accepted through March 20. Richards and Clearwater’s Power of Song youth musicians recorded the chorus at Artfarm Recording Studio in Accord, in Ulster County.

Don’t walk away/’Cause that’s the problem/It’ll be too late/When we hit rock bottom/It’s a long, long, road, (road, road!)/And a heavy load. And that’s the chorus. And then there are verses that will be up to you. And we don’t even have specific notes for what you can do in the verses. That’s up to everybody,” says Richards. “And we ask that you submit a bridge as well. And that’s totally… that can be anything. It should probably fit within the chord structure and the framework of the song. It can’t be way out there, but maybe it can be.”

Richards says there’s a reason to express the need to address climate change through song.

“If there’s a unifying agent out there, it’s a song. And how wonderful to take a real, a terrible problem and make it a song, and make it hopeful. What can we do?” Richards says. “But let’s not forget that there are some things, as you’re thinking about this song, let’s address some of the things, too. We all contribute to this. So let’s address them and then let’s come up with some hopeful things, too, because that’s what we really want, ultimately.”

Richards, who had founded the Power of Song apprentice program with late legendary folk musician and Clearwater founder Pete Seeger, believes Seeger would have supported the Build-a-Song project.

“I will not be presumptuous about what I think Pete would like or not like,” says Richards. “I’d like to think, I’d really, really like to think, that he would say, ‘wow, what an interesting project that is.’ And then he would probably come up with about 10 or 20 ways to do it better. He would have because he was an idea guy.”

She says all the environmental issues Beacon-based Clearwater has been active on fall under the umbrella of climate change.

“You can’t separate things. Our dependence on fossil fuels is… that’s the problem,” says Richards. “You want to know, so what’s the problem, don’t walk away because that’s the problem.”

Richards says she hopes the song serves as a call to action.

“And we could all do things. We could all do little things,” Richards says. “And that was something that Pete that talked about through his whole life. If all of us did one teeny-weeny thing, holy cow. Then that makes a big wave.”

Power of Song will perform the final version of “Don’t Walk Away” at Clearwater’s Annual Great Hudson River Revival festival in Croton-on-Hudson in June, and for various audiences throughout the Clearwater music programs.

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