Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Seeger Bridge

Pete Seeger, the famous folk singer and environmental activist, died this week.

Not many people know that Pete was also famous because of a bridge. Here is a picture of his banjo bridge…

The Seeger bridge

The "bridge" of Pete's banjo is somewhat unusual.

(For those unfamiliar with instruments like the banjo, the bridge is a piece of wood that sits on top of the head and transmits the vibrations from the strings that rest on top if it to the head and the rest of the banjo.)

The bridge on a banjo is usually a straight piece of wood, with 3 contact points, like this…

But the Seeger bridge has "outriggers" like this…

As I understand it, the point about the Seeger bridge is to excite a larger area near the center of the head than is possible with conventional style banjo bridges.

Now there is a proposal to name another bridge after Pete Seeger.

There is an old bridge called the Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson River north of New York City.

But the current Tappan Zee Bridge was built in the Korean War and was only designed to last 50 years. It carries much more traffic than it was designed for and it is crumbling. It has been called "one of the most decrepit and potentially dangerous bridges" in the US. Anything from further corrosion to a minor earthquake or a maritime accident could bring it tumbling down.

So the good people in New York State are building a brand new bridge across the Tappan Zee.

As you probably know, for almost the last 50 years of his life Pete was active in promoting action to clean up the Hudson River through the the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater organization, dealing with everything from PCB contamination of the river caused by industrial manufacturing, to pesticide runoff, to harbor dredge spoil disposal.

Everyone who enjoys water sports on the Hudson owes Pete Seeger a huge debt of thanks.

And now we can thank him, posthumously, in a very special way.

Let's name the new Tappan Zee Bridge after Peter Seeger. What could be more appropriate?

The current Tappan Zee Bridge is really called the Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge.

Do you really want the new bridge to be called the Governor Andrew Cuomo Tappan Zee Bridge? Or would you prefer the Governor Elliot Spitzer Tappan Zee Bridge?

It should be the Seeger Bridge.

The Seeger Bridge?

If you agree, then please go and sign the online petition at

Peter Seeger deserves to be commemorated by something more significant than a banjo bridge.


Baydog said...

Screw Andrew Cuomo. Call it the Seeger Banjo Bridge. And it should be toll-free

Baydog said...

I usually only cross this bridge twice a year, to and from Mojo's house on OFD (THXG). I swerve back and forth while trying to spy sails on the river,

Tillerman said...

I did sail just north of the Tappan Zee Bridge a couple of times when I did Laser regattas at Nyack. I also drove across it many times when traveling from NJ to New England, even more frequently after son #1 went to college in Boston and eventually settled in MA.

I also drove across it on Sep 11 2001. Will never forget the view of the city with huge smoke plumes rising from it.

bonnie said...

My longest paddle ever was from 23rd street in Manhattan to the Tappan Zee Bridge and then home again. That was a VERY long day on the river, but I enjoyed it.

I love the musical tie here. I was actually thinking vague thoughts about how bridge is also a musical term as I was leaving work and heading for the sailing season planning meeting, but I never would have been able to make that into something like this. Wonderful.

O Docker said...

Sixty years ago, Seeger was found in contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions posed by the House Unamerican Activities Committee, charges that almost ended his career.

I was thinking how nice the irony that he died one of the most loved and respected public figures of his time while his antagonists in Congress faded into obscurity as the public eventually saw their mean-spirited and narrow-minded pursuits for what they were.

As it says on his banjo, his quiet determination 'surrounded hate, forcing it to surrender'.

Joe said...

Great idea. I grew up watching Pete play his banjo and sing his songs on the Captain Kangaroo show.

O Docker said...

Hokey smokes, Joe, no wonder Pete refused to answer any of the committee's questions.

He would have had to admit to singing with Mr. Green Jeans.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you find a quicksand bog to name after Seeger? Much more appropriate than a bridge, no? Seemingly benign on the surface, but masking a brutal, suffocating end.

I don't think "peace" meant the same thing for Seeger and his kind, as it did and does for genuinely good people.

In fact, in the spirit of Petey, you SHOULD have a toll on the Tappan Zee. Everyone should have to stop at a toll booth and declare whether they take personal responsibility for their own prosperity, or aspire to mooch off the accomplishments of others. Charge a fee to the former, free pass the latter, of course.

"Peace & love through superior firepower." -Ted Nugent

O Docker said...

Wow, Tillerman, I had no idea Rush Limbaugh reads your blog.

He didn't have the courage to sign his name to a well thought-out proposal, so I can only assume Anonymous 9:13 AM is Rush.

I agree with him when he says that 'peace' didn't mean the same to Pete and his kind as it did to most of us.

It was easy to sign a petition or two or say what a neat guy you thought Pete was, but Pete was willing to risk his career for what peace and equality and freedom from political oppression meant to him at a time when it wasn't very popular to do so. I think he even signed his name to what he wrote.

I often wondered why Pete soldiered on into his nineties when he could have easily mooched off of others by enjoying what eventually became a very successful life, and by leaving his work for others to do.

But Pete must have felt that while many of his battles had been won and that most of his 'radical' ideas had been adopted as mainstream policy that there was still some hate out there that needed surrounding.

He knew what that hate could do if allowed to go unchallenged.

Tillerman said...

Well said O Docker. It seems that there will always be haters. I think this guy would even disagree with the lyrics of Wimoweh.

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