May 2015: Songs For Pete Seeger

PeteSeeger PhotoIt’s time again for PMN Song of the Month! Here on the 96th anniversary of his birth (May 3, 1919), we honor Pete Seeger. What a task!

We want to reflect Pete’s dedication to spreading music far and wide, in the spirit of Broadside.

Highlighted are six submitted songs that for us particularly evoke Pete’s spirit, his work and his love of a singable melody that pulls people to join in. Here they are, alphabetically as was Pete’s way:

  • High Over the Hudson (Reggie Harris)
  • I Call Them All Love Songs (Magpie)
  • It’s Pete (Peggy Seeger)
  • Let Me Sing You A Song (Joe Jencks)
  • The Lost Banjo (David Bernz)
  • Sing People Sing (Emma’s Revolution)

We also humbly present a large group of wonderful songs written for Pete, many as strong as those above. Collectively, they form an incredibly poignant tribute by members of his musical family.

May you find here a useful resource, a sweet reminder of our long, lucky years with Pete and Toshi. There are more tunes out there. We hope this collection grows and that you sing these songs on stage, around campfires, to your children and grandchildren and in community sings, carrying the essence of the man himself far and wide. Congratulations to all the songwriters on capturing in music a bit of Pete’s unique and extraordinary spirit.

Best,

The Guest Judges for PMN Song of the Month:
Margie Rosenkranz (The Eighth Step), Wanda Fischer (“Hudson River Sampler,” WAMC-fm), et al

 kim and reggie
1 of 6 Songs of the Month – “HIGH OVER THE HUDSON” by Reggie Harris

Verse 1:
The news came over the air tonight
Pete Seeger went sailing today
Set out on the Hudson …bout 9 o’clock
Searching for new songs to play.

Passed by Bear Mountain …making great time
As the water slapped hard on the bow
At Storm King he turned that boat into the wind
Put the old Woody G on the prow!

Chorus:
High over the Hudson / sails headed for home
Hard on the breeze that cuts through the trees
Pete you’re not sailing alone.
High over the Hudson/ you’ve got one hell of a view
Your battles are won / a new journey begun
Pete, we’re singing with you.

Verse 2:
The troubadour’s life has its ups and its downs
Of that, there’s so much that’s been said
Pete spoke out for justice, year after year
A leader who actually led.

He sang out for freedom …he sang out for peace
Taught through the power of song
Ahead of his time in all seasons of life
He kept us all singing along!

CHORUS

Verse 3:
Odetta and Mary say “Welcome good friend!”
And Woody and Faith both agree
That you lived your passion for 94 years
and you lived it with integrity.

Now we as your children and we as your friends
Must take up your mission of song
As Toshi yells out, with a smile on her lips…
“ Hey, Peter, what took you so long?”

CHORUS

Reggie Harris ASCAP  © 2014

Bio: Longtime friends of Pete and Toshi Seeger Kim & Reggie Harris are a mini festival of diversity. Combining African-American spirituals and freedom songs with original folk, they sing of life, love, the quest for freedom, environment and community. Their latest CD, “Resurrection Day,” binds these themes into a profoundly moving personal odyssey of inspiration and hope, adding Reggie’s experience as an organ donor recipient to the social justice palette. For over two decades, these consummate musicians and storytellers have been affiliated with the John F Kennedy Center’s Partners in Education program doing workshops and performances for students and educators.

2 of 6 Songs of the Month – “I Call Them all Love Songs” by Magpie, Greg Artzner & Terry Leonino
based on a comment by Pete SeegerMAGPIESmithsonian1.10.15 (01-16-15-03-01-26)

 

G                                                C                       Bm
I call them all love songs, ’cause that is what they are
Em                       D                           C
Love, though the road be smooth or rough
Em                 C                                       Bm
Love for this crazy world and all humanity
Em       (D)        C         G      D
Still we know love alone is not enough

G                                     C          G
It’s about the workers in solidarity
Em                     D                     C
And about their singing on the line
G                                         C                   Bm
A song about their dream to make a better world
Em                           C                      D
Like a beacon through the night, we let it shine
Em                               C                           G
A hope for the planet, the home that we all share
Em                    D                          C
That we may strive to heal the damage we have done
Em                                           C                   Bm
A lament about wrong of war, and standing to defy
Em     (D)         C              G            D
Or a song about the peace that we have won.

It’s the struggle of poor people just fighting to get by
And the greedy who take more than their share
A song about the ones who help to feed body and mind
Of their brothers and their sisters anywhere
A song about walkin’ not just talkin’ as we go
Remembering the good things that we do
A song about standing with and for each other now
For we know love is not enough to see us through

A song about searching, searching for the truth
And about the things that are unknown
It’s about freedom and the struggle that goes on
A story of the country you call home
A song about the river ever flowing to the sea
From the mountains in the north, forever tall
A dream of Clearwater and the wind that fills her sails
It’s a song about a song about us all

January 28, 2014
for Pete Seeger, May 3, 1919-January 27, 2014

Bio: For more than forty years, Magpie, the duo of Terry Leonino and Greg Artzner have brought their unique sound and remarkable versatility to audiences everywhere. From traditional vintage Americana to contemporary and stirring original compositions, they cover a lot of musical ground. With two strong voices in harmony and superb instrumental arrangements, their sound is powerful and moving. Award-winning recording artists, singers, songwriters, instrumentalists, musical historians, playwrights, actors and social activists, Terry and Greg are proud to be, as Pete Seeger said of them, “…more links in the chain,” dedicating their lives and music to leaving this world a better place.

3 of 6 Songs of the Month – “IT’S PETE” by Peggy Seeger
(music, Peggy Seeger;  text: Peggy Seeger & Irene Pyper-Scott;
©2013 peggy seeger, Leased to Harmony Music Inc)

010617ToshiPetePeggyB14a (12-31-14-12-41-35)

A bunch of rocks (sitting) on a hill
Doing what rocks do – sitting still
On a stone nearby there’s a lanky man
With a long-neck banjo in his hand
Now normally, rocks don’t do a thing
But one by one they begin to sing

CHORUS
It’s PETE ………  it’s PETE
Strumming his banjo, stamping his feet
That lanky man comes down your street
And whaddaya know   ….    you’re singing.

Down in the cemetery folks don’t move
They just lie there in their groove
Sittin’ under a tree there’s a lanky man
With a long-neck banjo in his hand
Now normally dead folks don’t say a thing
Then ghostly voices begin to sing  (CHORUS)

There’s a place nearby, not far from here
Where folks can’t talk and folks can’t hear
Here he comes, that lanky man
With a long-neck banjo in his hand
Like an angel choir …  like birds on the wing
All a’ these folks begin to sing (CHORUS)

Raise your voice loud and sweet,
Feel that rhythm and tap your feet
Turn, turn, hear the banjo ring
The whole wide world begins to sing
St. Peter will smile when Pete comes along
And God himself’ll be singing those songs (CHORUS)

Bio: Peggy Seeger was born in 1935 in New York; married Ewan MacColl 1978 (I think); three children- Neill Calum and Kitty; after Ewan’s death entered civil union with Irene Pyper-Scott; recorded 22 solo albums; am one of Pete’s younger sisters.

4 of 6 Songs of the Month – “Let Me Sing You A Song” by Joe Jencks
(For Pete Seeger) © 1/28/14 – Joe Jencks, Turtle Bear Music, ASCAP

Joe Jencks PR 2 (01-20-15-07-32-17)

You’ve asked me here to tell you
About my neighbors and my friends
To talk about the who and what
The where and how and when
Well I won’t give you anything
You don’t already know
But if you’d like
I’ll sing that list of songs before I go

Chorus:
Let me sing you a song
About the people that I love
The poets and philosophers
The workers and the wanderers
The ones who walk the picket lines
Who dare to stand and fight
And the ones who hold their babies close
And rock them through the night

Verse 2
Now you say it’s un-American
To do the things I do
Well I sing for justice, liberty
And Civil Rights it’s true
But I say it’s un-American
To ask me how I vote
How I pray or what I believe
But here’s a song I wrote

CHORUS

Verse 3
If you want to send me to prison
I guess that’s the way it’ll be
‘Cause I won’t feed you fodder
For your paranoid machine
If the price of my silence is shackles
Well then fellas, take me away

For I will live to sing again

And rise with a brand new day

CHORUS& TAG

Bio: Joe Jencks is an international touring performer, songwriter, and entertainer based in Chicago. From venues like Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center to coffee houses and festivals, he has spent the last 16 years touring full time throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Caribbean. Jencks is noted for his unique merging of literate musical beauty and social consciousness, and spiritual exploration. Weaving a diverse web of stories with brilliant musical skill, he ensnares even the most rigid of hearts, inviting them to open. His songs invite us to live inside of our passions and our beliefs. Joe Jencks is also co-founder of the harmony trio Brother Sun.

5 of 6 Songs of the Month – “The Lost Banjo” by David Bernz © 1990s

 Verse 1
G            A                D
I went out walking with my friend Peter
G                A                D
And he told me ‘bout the trouble on his mind
G        A          B min
How he was getting old and forgetful
G                A
And a banjo he was trying hard to find
G                 A            D
He said “I remember traveling with those union singers
G            A         D
For the shouting stomping, singin’ C.I.O.
G        A                D              D/C#   B min
And rambling with Woody through the cold Montana hills
G        A               D
But I’ve forgotten where I put my old banjo

Verse 2
A                         D
I remember singing out for peace and justice
A              D
Until ’41 when we all had to go
G            A                 B min
And fight that war against those fascist bastards (or “armies”)
G                            A
We should’ve stopped them back in Spain when we fought Franco
G                 A              D
And I remember meeting Toshi at the fair (or “dance”)
G                  A             D
And laughing when she didn’t tell me ‘no’
G              A    D       D/C#   B min
And I can picture our fine wedding, just like yesterday
G                  A                    D
But I’ve forgotten where I put my old banjo

Verse 3
I still smell the musty isle of Saipan
How the whole darn barracks sang in the latrineDavid on wall (01-01-15-03-20-28)
I remember coming home and starting over
And writing that fine “Hammer Song” with Lee

Then I crisscrossed this whole country with the Weavers
They put our songs up on the hit parade
Until that gang in Congress called us “un-American”
But wasn’t that sweet music that we made

And my feet still feel the long march to Montgomery
Singing “We Shall Overcome” with Dr. King
At every turn those bigots tried to stop us
The louder and the stronger we did sing

Then we marched to end that war in Indo-China
We all shouted “Hell No! We Won’t go!”
And I remember Nixon leaving, in a very dark hour
But I’ve forgotten where I out my old banjo

Verse 4
Then I stood on the decks of the Clearwater
To make the Hudson cleaner for us all
I made my maple syrup in the springtime
And sailed down through the crimson in the fall

I recall the love of all my friends and family
And my grandson “Tao” he helps me with the show
But I’m gonna need just one of you to tell me
Where this old folksinger left his old banjo

Yes I’m gonna need just one of you to tell me
Where this old folksinger left his old banjo”

Verse 5
But a few days later someone found the banjo
Lying by the roadside in the shade
And it was back in Peter’s hands, and his fingers touched the strings
And once again we heard the music play…

Bio: David Bernz is a Hudson Valley folk singer, former member of the Hudson River Sloop Singers, Grammy-winning producer for Pete Seeger, and current member of “Work o’ the Weavers.

6 of 6 Songs of the Month – “Sing People Sing” by Emma’s Revolution
© 2014 Pat Humphries and Sandy O
Moving Forward Music/ BMI

pete with sandy & pat 2 (12-30-14-03-32-32)

When I was 4 I had a toy
made of plastic and of joy
a magic, musical machine
from a drum, a stick and strings

I couldn’t know as I would play
I’d live to meet the man one day
playing songs that shaped my life
and taught the world to sing

Chorus:
Oh, hear the banjo ring
Hear the people sing
Hope changes everything
Sing people sing

The summer of my 18th year
In San Francisco he’d appear
I jumped onto a trolley car
alone and wondering

The “grove” was full when I got there
People came from everywhere
I climbed a redwood by the stage
and watched the reveling

CHORUS

Years went by I got a call
A festival in early fall
Along the Hudson River shore
A harvest gathering

Asking me to volunteer
to keep the river clean and clear
to celebrate the river’s life
and all the gifts she brings

CHORUS

You stood up to McCarthy’s rage
Rallied for a living wage
Rode with Woody marched with Dr. King
You patiently brought us along
taught us each and every song
with Toshi by your side
you could do most anything

You showed us how the world could be
Living with integrity
Together we create a force
beyond imagining

As I observed your dimming light
I felt a spark in me ignite
But I would trade it all today
To hear your banjo ring

CHORUS

Bio: Emma’s Revolution is the duo of award-winning activist songwriters and musicians, Pat Humphries & Sandy O. A motivating force in concerts and demonstrations, their songs have been sung for the Dalai Lama, praised by Pete Seeger and recorded by Holly Near. Pete Seeger was a friend and mentor to the duo, and especially to Pat. Pete was interviewed for an NPR “All Things Considered” feature on Pat’s song, Swimming to the Other Side, during which he said, “The powers that be can control the media, but it’s hard to stop a good song . . . Pat’s songs will be sung well into the 22nd century.” Pat was with the Seeger family and a small group of friends when Pete passed, singing him home to Toshi. The duo later wrote Sing People Sing in tribute to Pete.

2 thoughts on “May 2015: Songs For Pete Seeger

  1. Simply wonderful! So uplifting! What a treasure Pete was, and so are these songwriters, and all the singers who keep Pete alive by singing his songs!

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